SHOTTS Bon Accord produced one of the biggest shocks in a season of sensations, with this hard-earned Scottish Junior Cup final victory over Talbot, the hottest of favourites, played on a scorching day which sponsors Emirates had seemingly imported direct from the Gulf.
Shotts tore-up the script with a scintillating start. They forced the game’s opening corner in the second minute, before, taking the lead after ten. A long free kick found Mark Sideserf wide on the left, his low cross was only partially cleared by ‘Bot skipper Gavin Collins and Stefan McCluskey took control just outside the area, glided round two defenders and then placed the ball into the Talbot net for a shock opener.
For the next few minutes the “this isn’t happening” feeling among the big Talbot following got worse as the underdogs scored again. Sideserf was again the provider, firing over a knee-high corner from the right which Shotts’ skipper John Boyack met at the front angle of the six-yard box to turn delicately past the helpless Andy Leishman.
But, after forcing their first corner in the 20th minute, Talbot began to force the pace. They perhaps over-relied on long balls up to Bryan Young and Keir Milliken, but the Shotts defence was being thoroughly tested. Shotts goalkeeper John Murdoch produced one text-book tackle outside his box, to win a one-on-one with Young in 45 minutes while two minutes earlier, in more-orthodox fashion, he had saved at full-stretch from Milliken, while, in first half injury time, James Latta shot across and beyond a gaping Shotts goal.
Shotts had one hand on the cup, but they knew Talbot would throw everything at them in the second half. However, everything they threw at Shotts was caught and returned with interest. For all Talbot’s pressure, between a lack of penetration and over-hitting passes, they failed to test Murdoch, while Shotts’ game management was superior as they set the tempo.
Shotts used all three substitutes during the third quarter, in the same period picking-up the game’s first booking, when goal scorer McCluskey was yellow-carded for “simulation”, but they frustrated Talbot and as the match went into its final 15 minutes, the feeling was growing that the big shock was “on”.
That feeling subsided slightly two minutes from time, when Talbot finally broke through. Kyle Faulds knocking in the loose ball after Murdoch could only parry a Young shot. Then, as the game moved into the first of its four added minutes, Young fired over with only Murdoch to beat. These additional minutes promised to be fraught ones for everyone from Shotts.
But, while almost all the additional action took place around the Shotts penalty area – the men in maroon refused to yield and as they celebrated their second Junior Cup win, 54 years after the first, Talbot had to reflect that they must wait at least another year for cup win number ten.
The happiest man in Livingston at the finish was Shotts skipper John Boyack, whose cup-winning goal, which he revealed came from a pre-planned training ground move, now adds the perfect bonus to his testimonial year.
“I sensed the belief in the dressing room pre-match, we made the perfect start and although I knew I wouldn’t last the whole game, I’m just so happy to have played my part.
“The work-rate and determination of the boys was immense, I am so proud of them”.
That feeling was echoed by manager Tony McInally, who praised his side’s “phenomenal performance”.
“We flew out of the traps and got the lead we needed. I knew Talbot would come back at us, they are a top, top side, but our game plan to nullify their threat worked and I am so proud of all the lads.
“This is definitely the highlight of my career, I think we’ve given the town of Shotts its pride back, but we still have promotion to win, and another cup final to play.
The Shotts boss, who saw full back Paul Finnigan win the Man of the Match award, felt that it was his defence that had won the day.
Meanwhile, Talbot boss Tommy Sloan said: “All credit to Shotts for winning, but, we didn’t get the goal early enough and we’re naturally down. Chasing a two-goal deficit is always hard.”
Auchinleck Talbot: Leishman, McGoldrick, Pope, Pettigrew, Collins (McCann 80), Spence (Slavin 70), Young, White, Milliken, Faulds, Latta (Park 87): Subs not used: McVey, Robb, Gillies, McGarrity.
Shotts Bon Accord: Murdoch, Finnigan, Burns, Fleming (Wharton 55), Ferguson, Boyack (McStay 69), Scott, Williamson, Mackenzie (Kerr 62), McCluskey, Sideserf. Sub not used: Sullivan, Miles, Jack, Brown.