Auchinleck Talbot 7 Gillies 19, Boyle 22, 52, McIlroy pen 29, 60, McKelvie 62, Mallon 70 Fort William 0
A HECK of a lot happened in Auchinleck yesterday. A Scottish Cup debut for the town team, seven goals for the home fans to celebrate and three sendings off, the first controversial.
Fort William faced a long journey up the road, but then it had been a long morning getting there. The outcome might have been worse for the Highland League side had their keeper John Campbell not pulled off some tremendous saves.
"We're delighted to be in the hat for the next round," said Auchinleck boss Tommy Sloan. "But it was a good effort from Fort William. I think they take a lot of credit."
Beechwood Park proved a wonderful setting for this Scottish Cup first round tie. A smooth pitch, a tidy main stand, the obligatory shed behind the goals and a fine view of the hills beyond. Plus the pie shop – or 'bistro' if you don't mind. Mixed with the humour, it was a genuinely warm welcome as generous club officials tried to ply the reporters with whisky before kick-off. This correspondent politely declined.
What a time for Auchinleck Talbot though. Their first-ever Scottish Cup tie in their centenary year. They begin the defence of their Scottish Junior Cup up in New Elgin next weekend. There was talk of a tanking here with Fort William cast in the role of Highland League whipping boys. Far from being an impregnable Fort, they'd crashed 8-0 to Buckie in their last match. They were on the wrong end of a 10-0 drubbing in the first round of this competition last year.
Auchinleck, on the other hand, top the West Region Superleague. With five wins on the trot, the juniors had every right to be confident.
The Fort William players had been up at the crack of dawn to make Ayrshire in good time for The Bot versus The Fort. An expectant crowd witnessed an unexpected start, Fort William's Drew Ferguson cracking the crossbar after ten seconds and scaring the locals.
The Ayrshiremen then laid siege to the Highlanders' goal, John Boyle the chief tormentor, though he tormented himself too. Three times he was unlucky – and Campbell the Fort William goalie was good. But then, a serious setback for the visitors, perceived last man Graeme Bamber sent off by referee Iain Craig for a tackle on Craig Pettigrew. It was harsh on Fort William. "It was never a sending off. It spoiled the whole tone of the game," said Fort William manager Calum MacLean.
Auchinleck went ahead soon enough through David Gillies, a super volley off the underside of the bar. Three minutes later, Boyle's fortunes changed as he doubled his team's lead on the half- volley. Then, on the half-hour, a needless handball from Fort William's Martin Kerr. Sean McIlroy stroked in the penalty, calm as you like.
An Auchinleck goal kick was delayed while a dog crossed the six-yard box. And after a half-time coffee – whisky again offered – the match turned uglier for Fort William.
Boyle netted the fourth, drilling the ball into the corner. "Gie's a hat-trick now John boy!" cried a John-boy fan. McIlroy made it five from close range and substitute Danny McKelvie pounced for number six.
Auchinleck sub Stevie Mallon had a short but eventful spell on the pitch. The veteran came on, scored his side's seventh, then got sent off for taking a swipe at an opponent.
Fort William were soon down to nine men with Andy Martin given his marching orders.