A COURAGEOUS defensive display from Hermiston Vale could do nothing to halt Ayrshire amateur giants Hurlford Thistle, who were 1-0 victors in the fifth round of the Foster’s Scottish Amateur Cup.
Hurlford, with several Scotland amateur internationalists, including former Stirling Albion striker Michael Mullen, had been expected to beat Vale with ease but a resolute home rearguard ensured it wasn’t Hurlford’s easiest afternoon.
The visitors came into the match with an impeccable league and cup record this season, scoring an incredible 56 goals in just nine league matches and it looked as if it would take a heroic effort from Vale to take something out the tie.
Hurlford had a golden opportunity to take the lead on nine minutes when Mullen popped up inside the box. A cutback from the left was heading into the striker’s path until Vale defender Craig Dobson intervened to knock it out for a corner.
Hermiston Vale worked their way into the game against the 2012 Scottish Cup winners, though, but everything they threw at them was dealt with by their defence.
Vale striker Allan McRitchie was given an opening after a rare defensive slip from Hurlford on 25 minutes. With a team-mate free inside the area he really should have cut it back, but instead he went for goal himself, but keeper Ryan Farrell got down well at his near post to tip the shot wide.
Hurlford tried in vain to get a first-half opener, but with Vale standing firm in defence and goalkeeper Martin Henderson in inspired form, they would have to wait until the second half for their elusive goal. Henderson had to be alert as Mullen threatened up front. His shot was heading goalwards but the Vale keeper did well to palm it clear.
Henderson could do nothing to stop Hurlford’s opener on 60 minutes, though. Andrew Gilgannon swung in a free-kick which Alex Duffy headed off the bar and the rebound fell to Keir Knapp, who drilled the ball into the net from ten yards.
While the supposed gulf between the two sides didn’t look evident in the first period, Hurlford looked a deal more confident now having taken the lead.
Vale didn’t have an opportunity of note in the second period until Derek Paterson almost gave the hosts an unexpected leveller late on. Alan Rutherford swept in a free-kick from the left and the ball popped up nicely for Paterson who, with his back to goal, hooked a shot over his shoulder, but Farrell tipped it over just as it looked to be dipping under the crossbar.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh Rose kept the LEAFA flag flying in the Scottish Cup with a 3-1 home win over Greater Glasgow Premier AFL side Weir Recreation AFC.
Rose were the only winners from the six LEAFA sides in Scottish Cup action on Saturday and remain LEAFA’s only hope unless Shotts Victoria can get a result next week against Inverclyde.
The visitors got the only goal of the first half against the run of play, with Rose having enjoyed the majority of the pressure in the opening period.
Raymond Walker got Rose back on level terms early in the second half with a stunning strike before a goal each from Craig Stewart and Liam Frost set up a last-32 home tie against Paisley outfit Ferguslie Star who were 6-2 victors over Newcraighall Leith Victoria on Saturday.
Elsewhere, North Merchiston Vale boosted their hopes of promotion from the Lothian West league as they moved clear of opponents Victoria Loco and into second spot after a 4-1 home win.
Both sides had came into the league clash with exactly the same record of five wins, one draw and three losses, but nothing was going to stop Vale, who ended up worthy winners.
It was Loco who took the lead at the tail end of the first half though, when they bundled the ball into the net from a corner kick. The hosts were level ten minutes after the interval when Chris Keir headed into the net from a free-kick.
Vale looked more likely to go on and win the important league encounter, but they didn’t secure all three points until they scored three times in a dramatic final ten minutes.
Vale head coach Scott Newby was rewarded for his tactical nous as his substitutions worked wonders. Marc Ritchie made an instant impact off the bench as he notched his first goal for the club when he found the net inside the box after shooting across Loco’s goalkeeper.
Defender Stephen Notman then made it 3-1 with a header from a corner before super-sub Ritchie made sure Vale would take all three points.
He netted in some style, smashing the ball into the top corner after a marauding run.