No cup shock for former Rangers hero as Hearts loanee bags treble in Alloa's beating of Bonnyrigg Rose
It might have been a day for slipping and sliding in some parts of the country, but Alloa Athletic were impressively surefooted in negotiating their way past the potential banana skin presented by Lowland League leaders Bonnyrigg Rose in this third-round Scottish Cup tie on Saturday.
As befits a side with many seasoned pros in their ranks Barry Ferguson’s men had just too much nous with early first half goals from Mouhamed Niang and Euan Henderson putting them in a comfort zone from which they were never in danger of being displaced as they ended up 5-0 victors.
It will be all part of the learning curve for Bonnyrigg, whose aspirations of climbing the league pyramid into League 2 have been impressively asserted this season. They never really got going in this one and as the minds and legs began to tire they leaked goals late on as Henderson went on to claim a hat trick and Niang a double. Ultimately winning the Lowland League will remain their priority where they will hope to follow in the footsteps of fellow former Juniors Kelty Hearts.
It was of course none other than Ferguson who led the Fife club into the SPFL set-up last season and that he opted to leave them following their success to take over the managerial reins at Alloa did raise a few eyebrows at time. But while the Wasps start to the league campaign has been distinctly middling to date, the way his side took command of this tie suggested that his judgement was sound in thinking he would be making an elevation in quality levels.
Aside from a scare in the opening minute when the visitors’ Ross Gray scorned a great chance to put his side in front through hesitancy with his shot, the Wasps out-passed and ultimately outclassed their Lowland League opponents. Taking an early lead also helped tame the underdogs challenge with the towering Niang sending an equally towering header looping into the far corner of the net from a Stefan Scougall corner after 13 minutes. Shortly afterwards Hearts loanee Henderson doubled Alloa’s lead with a calm, precise finish.
Only an equaliser in the fourth minute of added time prevented Bonnyrigg from claiming the scalp of Dundee in last year’s Scottish Cup and an impressive number of supporters had made the journey from Midlothian in the hope of witnessing them go one better yesterday. The rapid fire strikes left them deflated but a more composed performance immediately after the break at least offered some succour on a bitterly cold afternoon, with the snow-topped Ochil Hills providing atmospheric if chilly backdrop. A scramble in the Alloa six-yard which required an ungainly hoof to clear the danger was about as close as the visiting fans got to warming their hands in acclaim however.
With no breakthrough forthcoming, the outcome was then put beyond doubt when Henderson helped himself to a second after 70 minutes with a simple finish. He then earned himself the match ball with another in the closing stages and Niang completed the rout with almost the last kick of the game.
“We did a professional job”, reflected the happy Ferguson. “I thought in stages we were excellent – and we showed a real patience today. Bonnyrigg are a tough team and we’re just delighted to get into the next round.”