There was no fairytale finish to Aberdeen Under-20s’ great run in the Scottish Youth Cup.
The young Dons were beaten 3-1 by Hibs at Hampden in an exciting game.
This was the first time a youth team from Pittodrie had reached the final of the Youth Cup since 2003 and Paul Sheerin’s men were hoping to win the competition for the first time since 2001.
There was little to separate the teams overall, but the men from Leith were clinical when chances came their way.
Although there was no dream ending the young Dons can still be extremely proud of what they achieved.
Considering it’s been 15 years since an Aberdeen team had reached the final, just being at Hampden was an achievement in itself.
With the display they put in, these youngsters showed they have the talent to make the grade at Pittodrie.
The near 1,000-strong Red Army that travelled to Hampden to roar them on will believe the future is bright with 17-year-old captain Dean Campbell and centre-back Sam Roscoe among those showing their potential at the national stadium.
It was the men from Edinburgh who settled better early on.
In the sixth minute Sean Mackie’s low cross from the left picked out fellow wing-back Callum Donaldson, who stabbed wide from eight yards at the back post when he should have scored.
After that scare though the young Reds grew into the match.
On 14 minutes Bruce Anderson spun away from Kevin Waugh in the box and forced a good save out of keeper Maciej Dabrowski from 16 yards.
Just two minutes later Aberdeen took the lead to the delight of the noisy Dons support who were in attendance.
Roscoe pinged a superb 60-yard pass out to Connor McLennan wide on the right.
He was down by the corner flag and had so much to do but McLENNAN skipped past Mackie and Waugh before rounding Dabrowski and knocking the ball into the net.
It was an open and exciting game with both sides looking to attack.
Midway through the half Fraser Murray rattled the Aberdeen crossbar with a fine strike from 20 yards.
The Reds operated with five in midfield and Anderson upfront on his own.
Hibs were playing 3-5-2 and the lively Anderson kept their backline busy and when the Dons had the ball McLennan, Ethan Ross and Frank Ross were quick to get up and support the striker.
Innes Murray clipped the bar with a cross from the right shortly before the half hour as the Leith men looked to equalise.
And on 33 minutes Hibs did level and it was an unfortunate moment for Dons defender Joe MacPHERSON who turned Fraser Murray’s cross from the right flank past keeper David Craddock and into the net.
At half-time goalscorer McLennan was replaced by Miko Virtanen.
Hibs were first to threaten when Mackie’s long range shot went just wide.
Just before the hour Daniel Harvie brought a good save out of Dabrowski with a powerful low free-kick from 20 yards.
On the hour Porteous made a brilliant block to stop Anderson firing the Reds back in front.
Some fine footwork by Ethan Ross set up the chance and Anderson would have scored but for the slide of Porteous.
Midway through the second half Craddock made an important save to keep the score level.
Jamie Gullan got some space in the area and his shot from 12 yards was deflected – but Craddock made an instinctive diving save.
With 18 minutes to play Hibs took the lead. A free-kick was recycled out to the right side and Ben Stirling delivered a fine cross which was powerfully headed home by PORTEOUS from six yards. It was cruel on the Dons who had put so much into the game.
Aberdeen’s hopes of recovering the situation ended with 11 minutes to play.
The Reds were pushing forward which meant more space was left at the back.
Oli Shaw stretched the Dons backline and when he tried to shoot from the right side of the box Roscoe’s block ricocheted across goal for GULLAN to tap in at the back post.
While it wasn’t the dream ending to their run in the cup this has been a fine season for the U20s.
They have performed consistently well in the Development League and this was their first Youth Cup final in 15 years.
Let’s hope we see some of them go on to make it into the first-team because on what they have shown during this cup run there is plenty of talent in the Aberdeen youth ranks.
If more players of this quality come through the Pittodrie academy there’s no way it will be another 15 years before an Aberdeen side reach the final of the Scottish Youth Cup.
Aberdeen: David Craddock, Ryan Harrington, Joe MacPherson, Sam Roscoe, Daniel Harvie (Toby Wells 89); Frank Ross, Dean Campbell, Seb Ross, Ethan Ross (David Dangana 73); Bruce Anderson, Connor McLennan (Miko Virtanen 46).
Subs not used: Archie Mair, Chris Antoniazzi, Jack MacKenzie, Connor Barron.
Hibs: Maciej Dabrowski, Callum Donaldson, Sean Mackie, Ryan Porteous, Kevin Waugh, Josh Campbell, Fraser Murray, Ben Stirling, Oli Shaw, Innes Murray (Adam Watson 85), Jamie Gullan.
Subs not used: Patrick Martin, Kane O’Connor, Gregor Woods, Ruari Paton, Ryan Shanley, Yrik Gallantes.
Referee: Iain Snedden.