Ally Ally Ally oohhh… MacKinnon’s late strike secures Scottish Cup replay

Posted on Saturday, February 7th, 2015

A 93rd minute equaliser from Ally MacKinnon saw Spartans keep their William Hill Scottish Cup dream alive after securing a replay against Berwick Rangers in front of 2500 fans at Ainslie Park.

With the Wee Rangers looking set for a place in Monday’s Quarter Final draw in their own right, up popped the defender to slam the ball into the net, sending the Spartans fans packed in around the ground wild and continued to keep the Cup dream alive.

The atmosphere inside the North Edinburgh arena was electric as the Underdogs of Spartans v the Border Terriers of Berwick, came out of the tunnel for this 5th Round clash, in what were fantastic conditions for football.

Berwick, the English side who ply their trade in SPFL League 2, were first out the blocks with a goal inside four minutes.

A corner kick was only half cleared and when it fell to Paul Willis on the edge of the box, the Berwick striker unleashed an unstoppable strike that flew past Kevin Swain to give his side an early advantage.

Spartans weathered the storm as the Borders men looked to deliver a quick one-two blow to the cup hopes of Samuel’s men and it took until the 37th minute before Paul Jon Sludden forced William Bald in the Berwick goals into a save.

Half Time: Spartans 0-1 Berwick Rangers

Alan Brown replaced Iain Thomson at the interval as Spartans looked to get back on level terms from the restart.

The substitute enjoyed a trademark weaving, mazy run through the Berwick in the 52nd minute that saw the Steven Notman booked for the visitors for a clip at Brown’s ankles.

Blair Henderson and Paul Jon Sludden exchanged attempts on goal before Errol Douglas replaced Kevin Motion in the 62nd minute.

It was almost the perfect substitution for the home side when, just two minutes later, Douglas collected the ball before racing in on goal, only to be foiled by Bald who saved the strikers shot from 12 yards out.

Play was held up for two full minutes to allow treatment to Ally MacKinnon who came off second best with an accidental head knock following an aerial challenge with Blair Henderson.

How important those extra two minutes were to play in shaping the outcome of this tie.

With 15 minutes to go, Brown cut in to the tourist’s box on the angle however his rasping shot cleared the crossbar and to safety.

A final throw of the dice for Samuel saw Jack Beacher replace Paul Jon Sludden with 10 minutes left on the clock.

With the game heading towards the end of the ninety minutes, it was off to the corner flags and possession play for the side from Shielfield as they looked to shut Spartans down.

A rousing roar rung around the arena when the 4th Official indicated a minimum of 5 additional minutes left to play.  Could Spartans defy the odds and grab a dramatic equaliser at the death?

That question was answered in the 3rd minute of injury time courtesy of Ally MacKinnon.

A long throw in was flicked on by Errol Douglas into the path of MacKinnon who swung his right boot at the ball from just inside the Berwick box.  The scenes of euphoria on and off the pitch after his shot nestled into the bottom corner were palpable.

It was almost the ultimate comeback for the Lowland League side less than 60 seconds later when Jack Beacher had an opportunity to pull off one of the greatest comebacks since Lazarus however his shot across the face of goal went over – and with it – so was the game.

Final Score: Spartans 1-1 Berwick Rangers

MacKinnon said of the result after the game, “We knew that if Berwick brought their A-game then it shouldn’t be a contest.  We were lucky in the first half as they could’ve got two of three – it was similar to our tie v Morton however we stayed in the game and in the second half we came good in the end.

Did MacKinnon fancy his side’s chances in the replay?

“Yeah, 100%! We know what they are about. We’ve played against them, we’ve felt it, they are a good team – but then again, so are we. We can go into the replay very confident.  We’ll give them the same respect again, but I think we’ve got it in the locker to do the job.”

A proud Manager Dougie Samuel, “I felt the guys had an early bout of stage fright, which is understandable when you lose a goal early on. Berwick got on the front foot very early however towards half time we started to get into the game and I think the break came at a good time for us.

“We mentioned to the players at half time that they have the ability to play and to back themselves a little bit more and as the second half wore on, we started to pick up more second phase ball, or as we used to say in the old days, we just got in their faces more!”

Speaking of the goal scorer MacKinnon, Samuel noted, “How Alistair isn’t playing league football is beyond me.  I thought he was great against Clyde, Man of the Match against Morton and I thought he was fantastic today and deserved his goal.”

The Spartans gaffer was also full of praise for the support on the terraces, “The response today demonstrates that when the proposition is right, the Spartans Family will turn out in numbers – it was absolutely fantastic.  I think there’s real momentum in our community.”

The replay will take place at Sheilfield on Tuesday 17th February. KO TBC

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Next Fixture

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Date: Saturday 15th December
Opponent: Dalbeattie Star
Venue: Islecroft Stadium
Competition: GeoSonic Lowland League
Kick off: 3.00pm

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