CUP games so often boil down to which team wants it more on the day and, for Stenhousemuir, they hardly had to look too far for motivation.
Dundee 1 - 1 Stenhousemuir (4-5 pens AET)
Scorers: Dundee - MacDonald 52 (pen); Stenhousemuir - Higgins 63
Stenhousemuir win 5–4 on penalties
Barely being given a hope on such occasions inevitably inspires the underdog, which was aptly illustrated in this Ramsdens Cup quarter-final tie at Dens Park.
Championship side Dundee had been expected to comfortably proceed. Lower league Stenhousemuir, however, had other ideas and ultimately triumphed courtesy of a sudden-death penalty shoot-out.
John Gemmell, one of Stenhousemuir’s many heroes, said talk of Dundee already being assured of a place in the final had spurred the League One side on to seal their place in last four.
“It wasn’t a shock result,” maintained the big striker. “We saw things on the internet where people were asking where the final will be played if Dundee are playing Rangers and things like that.
“That kind of stuff being written is brilliant for us as nobody expected us to come to Dundee and get a result.
“I had seen a few things written on the Friday night and mentioned it to a few of the boys when we were in the dressing-room before the game. But I have no doubt we were the better team and deserved our win.”
Substitute Sean Lynch converted the decisive spot-kick in their 5-4 win on penalties. Peter MacDonald had given the hosts an early second-half lead from the penalty spot before Sean Higgins struck a wonder goal to level in the 63rd minute.
Neither side could find a winner in extra time, and it was the visitors who showed their mettle from the spot with keeper Chris Smith, David Rowson, Brown Ferguson, Errol Douglas and Lynch all netting after Kevin McBride, Gavin Rae, and Willie Dyer had missed for Dundee.
“There’s not much of a gulf any more between League One and the higher levels as we have plenty of boys who are capable of stepping up to the next level or playing in the Premier League,” said Gemmell.
“It’s all about the training. We may be part-time but are still one of the fittest teams in the country.
“There were no concerns on that score when the game moved into extra time and, if anything, we had the more chances in the entire game.”
Stenhousemuir are earning a reputation for being cup specialists after eliminating Kilmarnock in the League Cup last year, and are now eagerly awaiting whoever they land in the draw for the last four.
“I’ve been in the game for 13 years and I’ve only won one promotion,” said Gemmell.
“This semi-final will be the biggest game of a lot of our careers and I don’t care who it’s against.”
It was a bad day all round for Dundee who lost striker Carlo Monti early on through injury, although fellow striker MacDonald dismissed the notion they were guilty of underestimating their opponents.
“We didn’t take Stenny lightly,” he said. “The gaffer would never allow us to do that and neither would we as players.
“I know a lot of their players and some of them are better than League One players.”