AUCHINLECK Talbot extended their dominance of the Dyslexia Scotland Scottish Junior Cup with this, their 11th win, at Rugby Park yesterday.
An exciting and entertaining game was embellished by two of the finest goals you will see in any final, at any level. Gallant outsiders, Musselburgh, gave the winners a stiff examination – indeed it could be argued that, on the day, they played the better, more attractive football. However, Talbot’s experience and legendary cup-winning ability carried them home.
The Ayrshire side had dominated the early exchanges before taking the lead just on the half hour. The goal was an absolute screamer, midfielder Dwayne Hislop collecting Dave Gormley’s knock on to volley an unstoppable shot beyond Alasdair Adams from 25 yards. This goal, as much as his general play, took Hislop to the Man-of-the-Match award.
This setback, however, seemed to lift Musselburgh, and, with Darren Smith pulling the strings in midfield, they pushed Talbot back, levelling matters in the 41st minute. Jackie Myles, who covered miles before going off with cramp, ran a long way before finding an unmarked Jordyn Sheerin and the big striker turned sharply before firing his 42nd goal of the season, and 11th of the cup campaign into the postage stamp corner past a flailing Andy Leishman.
However, this was as close as the East Lothian team could come. Talbot safely played out the first half, then regained control in the second before making the game safe on the hour mark.
A long ball was played up to Gormley on the edge of the box. He cut inside, tried to go between two defenders and was sent flying. Penalty, no doubts and, after the usual Musselburgh protests had been waved away by referee Kirkland, Gordon Pope stepped up to fire home the cup-clinching goal.
With Smith fading and Sheerin forced back to become a midfielder, Athletic never looked like getting back on level terms as Talbot dictated play and cruised home. Indeed they might have increased their lead. Keir Milliken rattled the post with a 25-yard free kick, and he and co-striker Gormley had seemingly net-bound shots blocked by team-mates.
Afterwards Talbot boss Tommy Sloan, for whom this fifth triumph as manager equalled legendary predecessor Willie Knox’s record, said: “Musselburgh played some good football, they were a dangerous side, but, overall I think we deserved to edge the result.
“Dwayne Hislop’s opener was a wonder goal, but, we knew the boy Sheerin was a danger, as he showed with the equaliser. We knew we had to tighten things up after the break, and did, but, once we got in front again, I thought we saw the game out well.
“We still have a couple of cups to go for this season, but this is the one we always want to win.”
Opposite number Stephen McLeish of Musselburgh had one regret. “We didn’t create enough chances from the possession we had, but I was proud of the way the boys played,” he said.
“The penalty was soft but big teams get these breaks, that’s football.
“We maybe had most of the ball, played some good stuff and I couldn’t ask more of the boys. I was proud of our young defenders, but in the end we weren’t good enough on the day.”
Man of the Match Hislop played down his wonder strike, which set Talbot on the road to victory.
“I saw the space opening up ahead of me, and I knew Gorms [Dave Gormley], would give me the ball, so when it came I simply hit it and was so pleased to see it go in.
“I was injured and had to watch our last win [against Linlithgow in 2013] from the stand so I was just happy to be part of the show this time. It was a good goal to keep for the final, so the goal and the medal makes up for missing out two years ago.
“Musselburgh were a hard team to play against, they made us work for it, but once we went in front after the penalty, I felt confident.
“We are always a hard team to catch once we are ahead.”
So, 11 wins for Talbot, five for manager Tommy Sloan and two-thirds of a Scottish Cup, Ayrshire Cup and West Superleague treble confirmed. Who can stop this Talbot juggernaut?
At the end of their lap of honour, the Talbot team posed for a special picture with 85-year-old former club treasurer Davie Loy, the only man alive who has seen all 11 Scottish Junior Cup wins. Now wheel-chair bound, Davie said: “I am in no mood to call it a day after 11 wins.”
Neither, one suspects, are Talbot.
Auchinleck: Leishman, Lyle, Pope, McGoldrick, Campbell, Boyd (Latta), Young, Hislop, Milliken, Gormley, G Wilson (White). Subs not used: Cochrane, Shankland, Spence. Goals: Hislop 30’; Pope 60’ (pen).
Musselburgh: Adams, Christie, Martin, Myles (Davie), R Wilson, Munro, Turner, Smith, Beveridge (Hunter), Thomson, Sheerin. Subs not used: Hamilton, Jackson, Ralton. Goals: Sheerin 41’.
Ref: S Kirkland