Heroic Bonnyrigg Rose pulled off the greatest result in their history as they stunned Championship side Dumbarton to set up a Scottish Cup fourth-round tie at home to holders Hibs next month.
Adam Nelson was the hero with a strike four minutes from the end of a replay in which the Super League champions more than held their own on a drizzly winter’s evening on the banks of the River Clyde.
The full-time whistle was greeted by a pitch invasion and chants of “Bring on the Hibees” from the jubilant travelling support. Early indications are that the Midlothian minnows will seek to move the glamour tie with Neil Lennon’s men away from their compact 3,000-capacity New Dundas Park.
This famous victory over a side they arguably should have beaten in the goalless first match ten days earlier maintains a superb Scottish Cup surge in which they have also eliminated Glasgow University, Burntisland Shipyard, Turriff United and Highland League champions Cove Rangers.
After resting several of their key men for Saturday’s Junior Cup tie at Thorniewood United, manager Robbie Horn reverted to his strongest side, meaning top scorer Wayne McIntosh returned after taking a pain-killing injection to numb the pain of a fractured foot bone sustained in the first game against the Sons.
The hosts included three former Hearts players in their starting line-up – David Smith, Ryan Stevenson and Darren Barr. Ex-Hibs goalkeeper Mark Brown was on the substitutes’ bench, while Sam Stanton, the midfielder on loan from the Easter Road club, again missed out through injury.
The Midlothian side started in bright fashion and after winning a free kick wide on the left in the third minute, Dean Hoskins sent in a dangerous inswinging delivery which was well clutched by home goalkeeper Alan Martin underneath his crossbar.
Three minutes later Bonnyrigg carved out the first clear chance of the match when Ruaridh Donaldson’s pass up the left channel put Keiran McGachie in behind the home defence, but, with Martin advancing to close him down, the striker curled his effort beyond the far post from the edge of the box.
Hoskins then tried his luck with a firmly-struck free kick from a central position 25 yards out, but Martin was equal to it. With their side looking fairly comfortable in the opening minutes, “Bring on the Hibees” was the chant from the Rose fans. The sense that the visitors might be able to pull off an upset was lent further weight in the 15th minute when winger Lewis Turner burst into the box and smacked an angled shot against the crossbar from 15 yards out.
This seemed to act as a wake-up call to Dumbarton, who gradually started to make their presence felt. The hosts’ first chance of the game came in the 22nd minute when Robert Thomson headed a Stevenson free-kick straight into the arms of Michael Andrews. Bonnyrigg’s keeper had to work far harder two minutes later, however, as he threw himself to his left to claw out a Gregor Buchanan header from another Stevenson free-kick.
Although the Championship side had seized the upper hand, they were generally being kept at arm’s length by the well-organised visitors. In the 33rd minute, Barr, who scored the opener for Hearts against Hibs in the 2012 final, headed over after connecting with a Mark Docherty free-kick from the right.
The theme of the hosts threatening with headers from set-pieces continued five minutes before the break when Josh Todd nodded over a Stevenson corner. Dumbarton created their first real chance from open play in the 41st minute when Thomson managed to sidestep Rose left-back Donaldson inside the box, but the striker’s angled shot was tipped over by Andrews.
Two minutes before the break Sons midfielder Joe Thomson fired a half volley over the bar from just inside the box after Andrew Stirling had nodded a Smith cross down into his path.
The Rose players were warmly applauded off at the interval after a spirited first-half showing in which they could be deemed to have held their own.
Dumbarton started the second half on the front foot, and went close in the 50th minute when Joe Thomson fizzed a low shot inches past from just outside the box.
Bonnyrigg, who had fallen out of the game as an attacking force since the opening 20 minutes, reminded the hosts of their threat in the 54th minute when McIntosh’s shot from a Turner cross was deflected behind for a corner.
There was a moment of controversy on the hour when McGachie latched on to a pass from Kerr Young just outside the box and spun away from Buchanan before running on to slot into the net, but referee Greg Aitken had already ruled that the Rose striker had used foul means to get clear of the Sons defender. The Bonnyrigg players and supporters and were livid at this perceived injustice.
At the other end, Stevenson drilled a low free-kick just wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Bonnyrigg had generally looked the likelier side for most of the second half up to this point and they hit woodwork for a second time in the match when Nelson’s inswinging corner kick dropped on to the crossbar in the 73rd minute.
Nelson wasn’t to be denied, however, with the midfielder sparking jubilant scenes when he smacked an effort in off the inside of the post from the edge of the box.
Dumbarton: Martin, Docherty, J Thomson, Buchanan, Stevenson (Pettigrew 68), Todd, Fleming, R Thomson (McCallum 68), Barr, Smith, Stirling. Subs: Brown, Crawford.
Bonnyrigg Rose: Andrews, Horne, Donaldson, Stewart, Young, Hoskins, Turner, Kidd (Gray 80), McGachie, Nelson, McIntosh (McLaren 80). Subs: Rooney, Moyes, Archibald.
Ref: Greg Aitken