ANNAN Athletic progressed to the semi-finals of the Ramsdens Cup for the second time in three seasons on Saturday, thanks largely to an inspirational performance by striker Kenny MacKay, who made the brave decision to play despite hearing the harrowing news on Friday night that his teenage stepbrother had been killed.
Annan Athletic 4 - 0 Formartine United
Scorers: Love 53 (pen), Brannan 73, MacKay 79, Hopkirk 86
MacKay stunned the gathered press corps when, in a routine after-match chat about his man-of-the-match performance, he revealed that he was dedicating his goal to 17-year-old Jamal, who was shot on Thursday in North Carolina, America, where he lived with MacKay’s father. “I found out last night so I’m absolutely distraught,” said the 22-year-old. “I don’t even know properly what’s happened. It was really hard to play but it was good to get out on the pitch and forget about it for 90 minutes.”
MacKay had only told manager Jim Chapman in the build-up to Saturday’s quarter-final. Even the other Annan players didn’t know their team-mate was carrying such a burden as he produced a superb display in which he won the 50th-minute penalty that led to Formartine being reduced to ten men and Annan subsequently seizing command of a hitherto finely-balanced tie.
Winger Ally Love, who scored the penalty, was stunned when informed afterwards of MacKay’s plight. “I didn’t know that at all,” he said. “If that’s the case, then that’s different class from Kenny. Maybe he just didn’t want us all to know what had happened before the game. I’m surprised that he still came, dug deep, got a goal and played such a big part in getting us to the semi-finals. That says a lot about Kenny and his character. There’s no way his mind could have been totally on that game.
“The fact he went out there all quiet and didn’t tell anyone what had happened speaks volumes for him. I’d have been different – I’d have probably had to tell the boys if I was in Kenny’s position, and that’s if I’d even come to the game.”
Until Formartine goalkeeper Andy Shearer was dismissed for a last-man foul on MacKay early in the second half, the tie was in the melting pot.
The double-edged blow of losing a player and a goal had a deflating effect on Steve Paterson’s ambitious Highland League side as they lost further goals in the last quarter of the game, with substitute Kieran Brannan, MacKay and David Hopkirk doing the damage. “We were right in the game until my sending-off,” said Shearer, who added he’d love another crack at Annan in the Scottish Cup.
As Formartine turn their attention to the Highland League and their forthcoming Scottish Cup campaign, buoyant Annan have now augmented their League Two title bid with a cup semi-final. “After we beat Rangers last year, I’ve got a feeling we’ll either get them in the semi-final or the final,” said Love. “We’d fancy ourselves against anybody at Galabank.”