t’s fair to say Wigtownshire derbies have hardly been a regular feature in the Scottish Cup in recent years and after this fearsome trouncing from their neighbours along the A75, the hardy band of supporters who follow Wigtown & Bladnoch might be hoping things stay that way.
Stranraer were cast in the unfamiliar role of Goliath for this League v Non-league encounter and you have to say they took it entirely comfortably in their stride, mercilessly putting nine past a Wigtown side that were all about decent endeavour but could not live with the pace and cohesion of their SFL opponents.
“I had a lot of respect for them before the game, but they were even better than I thought.” admitted Wigtown manager Mike Dougan when asked for his thoughts on their county rivals afterwards. “My boys never gave up and didn’t give away a bad goal in the game, but their movement was unbelievable”.
In all fairness, and with the derby intrigue set to one side, the record books always suggested that this tie was unlikely provide a headline-grabbing upset. Wigtown play in the South of Scotland League, whose members rarely muster the sort of giant-killing feats that are sometimes provided by Highland of East of Scotland League clubs. Indeed, simply by managing to overcome Preston Athletic in the first round a month ago to set up this neighbourly joust, Wigtown had already managed to put one over more fancied opposition.
An estimated crowd of just over 400, about ten times Wigtown’s normal gate, came out to witness the county head-to-head. Their Trammondford Park ground is a genuine delight, set in pastoral surrounds just outside the county town, which to most folks has become better known in recent years as Scotland’s National Book town. Only a few weeks back such luminaries as Tam Dalyell, Janice Galloway and Chris Brookmyre were entertaining visitors to Wigtown’s annual literary jamboree.
Yesterday Stranraer turned up with some big hitters of their own – the battle-hardened Chris Aitken and Michael Moore – but it’s doubtful if the locals will be inspired to take up some creative writing by the tale of woe that was inflicted upon them in this encounter.
The neatly-presented match programme provided a sense of just how significant an occasion this was for the hosts, recalling that the last SFL club ever to visit Trammondford Park for a Scottish Cup tie was none other than Third Lanark in 1953. In the time-honoured player profile feature, Wigtown youngster Ian Miller made no bones about his ambition – “beat Stranraer” – while by contrast goalkeeper James Parlane declared his wish to “emigrate to Australia”.
It quickly became clear that Parlane’s dream might be the easier to fulfil as Stranraer brought their superior fitness, technique and organisation to bear on the proceedings. But despite the somewhat inevitable outcome, at least Parlane could take one cherished memory with him if he ever makes it to Oz – an eighth-minute penalty save from Aitken after Sean Winter had been upended in the box.
The respite was cruelly brief however. Just over five minutes later the visitors were two to the good through well-taken goals from Winter and Craig Malcolm. Wigtown dug in and tried to give it a bit of a go but they just couldn’t get either the numbers or quality of ball into the box to trouble a solid looking Stranraer rearguard.
By half-time the divide in stature had become an unbridgeable chasm. Stranraer kept motoring forward and went in for their dressing room cuppa five up with Aitken atoning for his earlier miss, Martin Grehan getting a fourth and the tenacious Malcolm helping himself to a second.
Curiously, and to the confusion of all reporting on the game, Malcolm and Grehan changed shirt numbers at the interval, but the visitors otherwise had everything completely under control. Winter got a couple more to notch up his hat-trick and Grehan another for his brace. By the end perhaps Parlane was wishing he was already making his way to the Southern Hemisphere as substitute Stuart McColm made it nine.
“We were a wee bit better in the second half,” insisted Dougan, “but we just have to take this one on the chin. It’s back to the bread and butter next week”.
Just a short distance from Trammondford Park lies the Bladnoch Distillery, which has the distinction of being the most southerly in Scotland and brands itself as the “Spirit of the Lowlands”. Wigtown were certainly not lacking spirit of their own yesterday, but Stranraer’s visit will have left them feeling more than a bit hungover this morning