In this the tie that neither side wanted, both teams live to battle it out in a couple of weeks’ time after a cracking Scottish Junior Cup contest packed with action, sending-offs and a last-minute goal to earn Bo’ness, who finished the game with nine men, a draw.
In front of a bumper crowd Bonnyrigg kicked off, with four key players out through suspension and injury, against a Bo’ness side brimming with confidence after a good run of games. But Bo’ness soon had Bonnyrigg on the back foot and had several chances to open their account in the opening 15 minutes.
However, on the half hour, very much against the run of play, Bonnyrigg took the lead with a well-worked set piece. Kevin McDonald took a corner from the left and sent over an inviting cross to David White who knocked the ball over the line through a ruck of players.
Again Bo’ness pressed but were guilty of missed chances again and they were made to pay for their misses in the 40th minute when Bonnyrigg grabbed a second. Liam McKenna was sent sprawling in the box by Scott Gibb but, amazingly, the referee blew for a free kick a couple of yards out outside the box. Gibb was booked and this was to prove crucial minutes later. Kris Renton stepped up and curled a cracker into the top corner.
Bo’ness pressed again and in the 43rd minute pulled a goal back with a fabulous strike from Darren Gribben. Former Hearts player Robert Sloan crossed from the right where Steven Hislop headed on to Gribben who controlled the ball with one foot, swivelled to his left, and slammed a spectacular volley past David Hay.
The game was living up to all the expectations with goals, and chances, and all it need now was a sending-off which duly arrived with a couple of minutes to go in the first half when Gibb was booked again for a handball.
It was an action-packed second half with both sides having chances to score again.
The referee then decided the game needed controlling and proceeded to book eight players in a contest without a dirty tackle. His far side assistant was just as busy calling him over if a player fell down.
Bonnyrigg were looking to run down time in a game where they never really stamped their authority. They were a goal up and down to the last couple of minutes when they ran out of luck. Bo’ness forced a corner in the last minute. Gribben sprinted over to take it from the left and crossed deep into the heart of the six-yard box where Stuart Hunter rose to power a header down into the corner of the net and earn Bo’ness the draw they deserved.
Amid all the crazy celebrations the far side assistant called the referee over once again. After a brief exchange Bo’ness striker Steve Hislop was called over and given a straight red card for gesticulating to his own fans leaving them with nine men on the field. There was no more time for either side to launch another attack and the game finished with the crowd just as exhausted as the players.
The replay will be in two weeks as both sides have players away this Saturday on Junior international duty.
Bonnyrigg boss Max Christie was happy with the draw: “We were down to the bare bones with suspension and injuries but I was proud of the way the players responded. We always knew it was going to be a tough game but we could have done better. We were running the clock down and could have won this at the first time of asking but they were always dangerous.”
Bo’ness manager Alan McGonigal was relieved, saying: “We gave away a couple of soft goals against the run of play but we never gave up. The players deserve all the plaudits for the way they fought back when down to ten men. At times it looked like it was Bonnyrigg who were a man short.
“We dominated the game from start to finish but that’s football, for you.”
David White, scorer of the opening goal, said: “We were up against it at times but when we got the corner I knew where it was going. It wasn’t even a header. I’ve been getting texts from Sloany, who I played with at East Fife and the patter has been great. I had a loan spell at Bo’ness last season and they are a great club but this is my home club and to play for them is what I wanted to do.”
Bo’ness striker Steve Hislop was disgusted with the sending-off. “I was just celebrating with our own supporters when the assistant shouted the referee over. I can’t believe I was sent off for that. I do it every time I score for our fans and if that’s the case then I should be sent off every time. I thought we deserved at least the draw and can’t wait to get them back to Bo’ness.”
Bonnyrigg: Hay, Horne, Gray, White, Woodburn, Gemmell, McKenna (McGachie), McDonald, Renton, Grady (Manson), Roseburgh. Subs: Main, Archibald, Patarek.
Bo’ness: Peat, Snowdon, Devine (Miller), Gibb, Hunter, Nimmo (B Jaconelli), Walker, Sloan, Hislop, Donnelly (Scott), Gribben. Subs: T Jaconelli, Wallace.