PROUD Preston Athletic came close to causing a William Hill Scottish Cup shock at Hampden, with Queen’s Park required to come from behind to earn a replay at the Pennypit on Saturday.
The Lowland League side will have their name in today’s draw for the third round, but Preston’s Jamie Brown is not dreaming about who they could face, as he is still reliving his first touch of the ball at the National Stadium.
Brown, who is making his way back from an ankle injury that has kept him out for nearly two months, came on 13 minutes into the second half with his side a goal behind. He was immediately presented with a shooting opportunity some 20 yards out when home goalkeeper Blair Lochhead dropped a lofted Mark Cherrie free kick.
Without a moment’s hesitation Brown sent the ball as straight as an arrow over the heads in a packed penalty box and high into the net at what is traditionally called the Celtic end of Hampden. That sparked bedlam on the touchline as manager David Bingham and his coaching team celebrated, with the couple of hundred fans who travelled from the east revelling in the moment as well.
Brown said: “It was a brilliant feeling and the best thing I have ever done in football. When the ball broke out to me I was just concentrating on keeping it down. There were a lot of players in front of me but in it went. Everyone dreams of scoring at Hampden, but I have done it now and with my first touch. I ran to our fans at the other end but I had not realised how big a pitch it was.
“My last goal was in a pre-season friendly at Peffermill against Dalkeith so this was very different.”
The excitement in the Prestonpans outfit grew shortly afterwards as substitute Paul Devlin benefited from a poor pass by Spiders skipper Michael Keenan and released Gary McCormack, who swept the ball under Lochhead.
To their credit, Queen’s Park ,who had led at half-time through a fine Blair Spittal strike, refused to panic and they lived to fight another day when Ricki Lamie headed home a Conor McVey corner.
Preston were forced to defend deep in their own penalty box as the home side pushed for a winner and they achieved that thanks to a late save by goalkeeper John Gilbertson, who turned over a deflected shot.
As for potential next round opponents, Brown said: “I will put the draw out of my mind until we get the replay played. I am just glad to be playing again after that injury.”
Boss Bingham praised his players, saying: “I had some great times in my career but this tops them. I am immensely proud of the players. It is different when you are in charge of a team and have to look after everyone and not just yourself.
“We did the Lowland League proud. We could have folded at half-time, but I told the players we had 45 minutes to turn things around and they did. The finish for Jamie’s goal was sublime.”
Bingham added: “We would have taken a draw before the game and whilst a lot has been made of Queen’s Park being on a poor run, they are playing at a level above us. The job is only half done but I am sure they will be nervous about coming to our place.”
Queen’s Park’s head coach Gardner Speirs said: “When you are 2-1 down you will accept a replay. We went ahead with a good goal. However, we needed another one to settle us, but we never got it. We are a young side but we played our way back into things. We are still in the cup but we know it will be difficult at their place.”