With victories over Hibernian and Rangers to their name in knockout competitions already this season, Queen of the South could be rightly regarded as emerging cup specialists.
Queen of the South: Clark 42; Reilly 66
Yesterday they progressed to the fourth round of another, the grand daddy of them all, the Scottish Cup, but in truth there was nothing particularly special about the manner in which they prevailed over East of Scotland League side Edinburgh City. Indeed it was the vanquished who took the plaudits with a tenacious and disciplined performance that kept the current Second Division leaders in check for long spells.
City, whose origins can be traced back to 1928, may have the unwelcome distinction of having one of the worst playing records of any club to have ever held Scottish League membership, finishing bottom of the heap in eight out of the 11 seasons that they participated, but at least the Scottish Cup holds some kinder memories for them.
In 1938 they were trundling along in the league basement as usual and drawn to face Hibernian at Easter Road. Astonishingly the whipping boys triumphed by three goals to two to prove that it’s not just the maroon half of Edinburgh that have the capacity to inflict humiliation on the Hibs support in the famous old competition.
This season had seen City once again make their mark in the cup, albeit on a more modest scale, negotiating the potentially tricky obstacle of Junior Cup winners Shotts Bon Accord in Round 1 before going on to notch an impressive 3-1 victory over Montrose. As their manager Gary Jardine highlighted in his programme notes for yesterday’s tie, their “reward” was to host Queens, runners-up in the cup just four years ago, at their adopted home at Meadowbank.
The old Commonwealth Stadium, which with each passing year looks more and more like a relic in miniature of some austere Soviet-era east European sports bowl, saw the Queens fans turn up in good numbers. “You’re only here to see the Castle” was the ironic taunt from the gaggle of City supporters.
However, any notions that the Doonhamers might have had that this would be a jolly afternoon out in the capital started to dissipate as City’s packed and resolute defence did a pretty effective job of snuffing out what has been one of the most prolific forward lines in the SFL this season.
Memories of how the Terry Christie-inspired Meadowbank Thistle regularly used to ambush more fancied opponents in a similar fashion on this patch stirred like Halloween ghosts but for the folks from Dumfries it was pretty dire fare in comparison to what they have become accustomed to recently.
Increasingly audible grumblings were only stifled on the cusp of half time when, following a corner, Chris Higgins directed a header across the face of the City goal and leading scorer Nicky Clark stooped to send the ball into the roof of the net. Despite being under the cosh the hosts had earlier come closest to making the breakthrough when Shaun Harrison’s 30-yard effort glided just over the crossbar.
The EoSL side were then desperately unlucky not to get themselves back on level terms just after the interval as Ross Guthrie smashed a shot off the post. The tie was quickly put to bed thereafter when Gavin Reilly was sent clear in the City box and drilled the ball low into the net to confirm Queens’ latest advance in cup competitions.