The romance of the cup eh? For poor old Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale this blast of harsh reality was akin to being unceremoniously dumped after a dream date. The East of Scotland League side were ruthlessly disposed of by St Mirren in an opening 45-minute salvo which saw them rack up seven goals, with four of them coming from the clinical finishing of Gavin Reilly. Mercifully the Paisley men took the foot off the gas after the break and there was the tiniest crumb of comfort for the hosts as they scored the only goal of the second half.
Prior to this match some connected with St Mirren had expressed reservations at this tie being held at Thistle’s home at Saughton Enclosure, just up the road from Murrayfield and Tynecastle. With basic changing facilities and earth embankments for spectator viewings it is certainly a long way removed from the type of venue the Buddies encounter every week in the Championship. However, they didn’t take long to settle into their surroundings – the place also boasts an athletics track and during that first half demolition they quite simply ran amok.
Bizarrely, considering what was to come, the hosts should have been ahead with barely a minute on the clock with Grant Munro missing a great opening off a Louis Swanson corner. St Mirren simply brushed aside this scare however, taking the lead moments later as Lewis Morgan stroked the ball home from ten yards. From there on right up to the interval it was a procession, with Reilly getting the first of his quartet of goals after eight minutes and completing a whirlwind hat-trick with just over half an hour gone. Jack Baird and Cammy Smith also joined in the demolition, the latter’s goal probably being the most painful of the afternoon for Thistle goalkeeper Kevin Swain as he hit a clearance straight to the St Mirren striker who then proceeded to beat him from all of 30 yards.
Going into this game the Edinburgh side’s record in competitive fixtures had been played 18, won 18 and that included winning through four rounds of the Scottish Cup just to get to this stage of the competition. An eye-opening 5-3 win over League Two Stirling Albion in the previous round showed they are no mugs, but after this game manager Raymond Carr conceded that his players had simply frozen on the big occasion.
“We had a horrendous first 20 minutes which killed the game,” he said. “The thing that we needed to do was get in at half-time, talk and calm them down – and they went out there and put in a much better performance in the second half.”
Sean Wringe drilled in an impressive strike just after the restart for Thistle and although a fightback in terms of a significant reduction in the deficit was never on the cards it set the tone for a much more composed and compact performance from the hosts that at least soothed some of the earlier pain.