Thistle return with festive bang to shock fancied Kilsyth in Cup

A LONG-AWAITED return to action for grassroots Edinburgh football saw Tollcross Thistle, in the weekend's solitary fixture, claim a notable victory over North Lanarkshire side Kilsyth in the Scottish (Saturday) Amateur Cup, Fourth Round.

The Foster's Central Scottish Amateur side, the visitors at Spartans' Ainslie Park, were installed as favourites to progress, hailing from a league that has produced the national tournament winners six times in the past decade. However, a heroic Tollcross, inspired by Steven Moncur's glorious second half strike, struck a sizeable blow for the Lothians by conquering their illustrious opponents. The Capital side are now within 90 minutes of a place in the last 32 of the competition.

Kilsyth arrived in north Edinburgh bearing only eleven fit players and a stand-in management team after the rest of the squad and regular coaches fell victim to a cold and flu epidemic that swept through the club.

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The visitors, however, proved more astute in the first half, retaining possession for longer and looking more comfortable on the ball. While it took Tollcross a while to find their rhythm, they created many more chances in the first half.

With the goal at his mercy, Moncur narrowly failed to apply a touch with his stretching leg at a cross, then midfielder Stewart O'Neill struck a speculative effort that fizzed just over the crossbar.

On 23 minutes, Moncur's strike partner Lee Heinemeir turned his marker but blazed his close-range effort over the bar, then home defender Rees Allan headed a left-wing corner just wide of the post.

Shortly before half-time, both teams passed up gilt-edged opportunities to open the scoring. Moncur was first to find himself blacklisted after heading Robbie Menzies' cross from the left inches over the bar. Then, Thistle goalkeeper John Nisbet pulled off a blinding save - his only enforced stop of the game - when Kilsyth's instrumental midfielder Marc Paterson looked far more likely to score.

Nisbet had to watch intently as Kilsyth tried their luck from longer range soon after the restart, Gary Meechan's 25-yard piledriver soaring just over the target.

Tollcross, who sit in second place in the Lothian West Division, have in recent cup competitions often belied their status as a third tier of the Lothian and Edinburgh Amateur FA, and watching association secretary David Ramage would have been delighted at Thistle going toe-to-toe with one of the country's top teams at this level.

Ramage's smile, and that of Tollcross manager Alan McKay, widened considerably midway through the second half when the hosts deservedly assumed the lead. Thistle strikers Moncur and Heinemeir performed considerably short of their own high standards, but it was to their credit that they managed to pester Kilsyth's defence and continue to provide a goal threat. Moncur's long, loping stride took him beyond the visitors' defence on 65 minutes, the striking latching onto Adam Robertson's tantalising over-the-top ball before bringing the ball down on the corner of the six yard box and rifling a shot past goalkeeper Scott Stevenson for his eleventh goal in six games.

Heinemeir might have slipped the ball past Stevenson at a one-on-one from the edge of the box minutes later, but the Kilsyth No.?1 blocked with his legs.

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In keeping with the game's earlier stages, Kilsyth managed to retain the ball for considerable periods as they chased an equaliser, but were unable to trouble the Tollcross defence.

Home coach McKay revealed he is "over the moon" at his side's feat. "We can only take each game as it comes, but in the Scottish we feel no pressure - we can just play our own game. It was cold out there and took us a wee while to get going. We made a couple of sloppy passes that we wouldn't have normally made?.?.?. but I'm over the moon with the result."

Having not played for over three weeks prior to the match, Tollcross and manager McKay are raring to get going again and will await the fifth round draw with baited breath.

"We hope to get one of the big teams at home. If I had the choice, I'd want to play Pollok, Eddlewood or Drumchapel (all from Kilsyth's league and among the favourites to win the Scottish Cup].

"When you play the best teams, that's motivation in itself. I think the boys look at it as a chance to show they're good players and can challenge the best."

Tollcross Thistle: John Nisbet, Gary Fox, Robbie Menzies, Rees Allan, Alan Budge, Callum Roberts, Robbie Simpson, Stewart O'Neill, Steven Moncur, Lee Heinemeir, Adam Robertson, Sean Meechan, Davie Bird, Sean Mossman, Glenn Waddle, Lewis Glasgow.

Kilsyth AFC: Scott Stevenson, Thomas Mulholland, Graeme McCahill, Nairn Robertson, Kevin Meechan, Marc Paterson, Kevin Hamill, Gary Meechan, Stephen Buchanan, Paul Christie, Scott Cochrane, Martin Higney, Gary Kerr, Raymond O'Connor, Alan Harty, Mark Fitzsimmons.