Tollcross Thistle’s East of Scotland Cup dream ended as they were knocked out in the semi-final, 2-1, by Central Scottish AFL side Steins Thistle.
There is still hope for an Edinburgh winner, however, as Premier Division 2 side Lochend are yet to play their quarter-final tie with Braehead for the right to face Slamannan in the last four.
Tollcross went into the tie at neutral Ainslie Park with confidence having come through a penalty shoot-out the weekend before against Sandys, scoring all four penalties after a 3-3 draw over 120 minutes of football. But they showed signs of perhaps lacking freshness in this match.
The first 15 minutes were frantic.There were long balls and hurried clearances aplenty, neither side able to get the ball down and pass it about in style.
After half an hour, Tollcross had a fantastic opportunity. A Steins defender was judged to have passed the ball back to the goalkeeper who had picked the ball up – and the Edinburgh side had an indirect free kick 12-15 yards from goal. The ball was laid off to Stewart O’Neill but he blasted the ball over.
Tollcross made up for that missed chance by taking the lead just before half-time. Left-back Greig Hogarth, from the halfway line, sent a long ball over the top for striker Adam Perry – the No.9 controlling well before slotting past David Kane for 1-0. Approximately 30 seconds after the restart, Tollcross conceded their advantage. Steins played the ball out to the right, a quick-fire cross from that area arrived at the feet of John Lynn, who allowed a bounce on the surface before strongly stroking the ball home to equalise.
The goal gave Steins confidence and they looked a different side to the first 45 minutes. While Tollcross were firmly still in the game, your money would have been on Steins getting a second goal before Tollcross would.
That occurred after the hour mark. Gordon McRoberts had the ball in the centre of midfield and he looked up to see Michael Kane near the edge of the area. Kane received the pass before turning a defender and curling a delightful, right-footed shot past Tollcross goalkeeper John Nisbet.
With the chance to reach the final slipping away, Tollcross made a few changes and looked for the equaliser. Their forays forward were troubling Steins, yet the LEAFA side lacked energy in the final third, something Steins only had to produce for their two vital goals.
As time marched on, Tollcross were becoming more frustrated. They came narrowly close in the 82nd minute through Hogarth’s strike. They were awarded a free kick on the right wing, which O’Neill carefully dinked into a crowded penalty area. The ball eventually found its way to Hogarth who was behind most of the other players in the box, and the full-back sent a 12-yard half-volley towards the goal - only to see it headed off the line by a Steins defender.
A disappointed Tollcross Thistle manager Alan McKay said: “Steins parked the bus and we simply couldn’t break them down. We’re very gutted to lose the tie. We gifted them their place in the final. The players have youth on their side and we will be back for the East of Scotland next season.
“They still have the league and three cups to go, so there’s plenty to play for.”
Tollcross Thistle: John Nisbet, John Diver, Greig Hogarth, Keith Harper, Faron Gribben, John Lawson, Sean Mossman, Kyle Hay, Adam Perry, Stewart O’Neill, Gary Craig, Michael Yuill, Martin McCann, Jason Bell, Joe Boyle, Robbie Simpson.
Steins Thistle: David Kane, Christopher Campbell, Gordon Passmore, Marc McCafferty, Ross Grant, Liam Kennedy, Michael Kane, Gordon McRoberts, John Lynn, Andrew McRoberts, Jamie McDowell, David Weir, Cameron McVicar, Sean McCafferty, Scott Cunningham, Barry Allan.