A big summer of change at The Thorn Athletic Sports Academy commenced in the best possible fashion: A change to the trophy cabinet with the addition of the Presidents Cup. Thorn Athletic’s latest honour was their reward for what was a physically exerting end of season schedule and their Presidents Cup heroics only added to their already chaotic calendar. Score draws were the Johnstone outfit’s major undoing in their league campaign, with the Thorn finishing in third place in the Caledonian Premier League – level on fifty-one points with second place Glasgow Harp and four points behind champions Dumbarton FP.
However, despite their league campaign fizzling out slightly in the closing few matches of the season, Thorn Athletic would ensure that the 2021/22 season would be defined by their first Presidents Cup win. After safely negotiating a potentially difficult opening group phase involving Westerlands, St. Mungos and Milton, Dean Scott inspired the Thorn into the Presidents Cup final after his semi-final brace against Cambria proved to be the difference in a 4-2 victory.
The final was finely poised and the margin for error was slim as Thorn Athletic made the short trip to Renfrew to take on familiar opponents East Kilbride YM in front of a healthy support. The two sides could only be separated by one place and two points in the Caledonian Premier League and a tightly contested, cagey Presidents Cup final only further illustrated just how closely matched these two sides are. After the final full-time whistle of the season, it was Thorn Athletic who were celebrating however, as they edged the match 1-0 thanks to an early goal from defender Joe Rae after a deep delivery from a wide free-kick caused chaos in the East Kilbride YM six yard box. After some brief pinball in the box the club’s Players’ player of the year, Joe Rae, prodded the ball into the back of the net for what proved to be the decisive goal of the game.
East Kilbride YM started the game on the front foot and could’ve easily been ahead in the opening minutes when Thorn Athletic goalkeeper Ryan Ward was forced to make a terrific 1v1 save as the East Kilbride YM striker burst through on goal. The early pressure continued from the resulting corner when the South Lanarkshire side had a header cleared off the line. That defensive resilience became a recurring theme after the Thorn took the lead as they dug in deep and limited their opponents to mainly half chances in the second half. Thorn Athletic posed a constant threat on the counterattack and could’ve made things easier for themselves going into the final stages of the game with some better decision making in the final third as East Kilbride YM desperately chased an equaliser.
It was an equaliser that never really looked like coming and, in the end, a combination of outstanding goalkeeping, committed defending, timely finishing and determination was enough to secure silverware for the Thorn. It was always going to be a chaotic season with Scottish Amateur football trying to stabilise itself in a post-covid landscape, but for Thorn Athletic the summer offseason doesn’t look like it will be any quieter. The club will now begin to enter the next phase of its evolution and thanks to their 2021/22 Presidents Cup victory they’ll be doing it on a high.