Haddington Athletic 1
(Troon win 4-3 on penalties)
HADDINGTON boss Stevie McLeish admitted his side’s Scottish Cup exit was a sore one after they had led in the first game, led in this replay and led in the penalty shoot-out that decided the third-round tie. Jackie Myles fired the ‘Hi-Hi’ in front five minutes before the break only for Troon to equalise through on-loan Ayr United man Dale Moore straight after the home side had seen Mattie Lynch sent off following two bookings in quick succession.
Haddington then held a 2-1 lead in the shoot-out before Troon keeper Stuart Leavy pulled off stunning saves from Sean Jamieson and Steven McDonald, leaving Moore to slot home the decisive spot-kick as the Ayrshire side won the penalty decider 4-3.
“It’s annoying because we were 2-0 up in first game, 1-0 up in this one and also in front in the shoot-out yet we’ve still gone out,” said McLeish. “It’s disappointing because the boys wanted to enjoy another run after getting to the fifth round last season.”
In a match that beat the weather thanks to a magnificent snow-clearing operation by the ‘Hi-Hi’ officials, Troon dominated the opening exchanges and were unlucky not to go ahead when Dougie Ramsay rattled the post with a rasping shot from 25 yards.
Myles had an effort saved as the home team started to gain a foothold and it was the same player who opened the scoring in the 40th minute, though he would have been the first to admit it was all down to some excellent play from Jamieson. The big striker made a surging run up the right, danced his way past Jonathan Baillie to get to the byline and cut the ball back for Myles to sweep home a left-foot shot from around the edge of the six-yard box.
McLeish was forced to shuffle his pack at the break and also alter his team’s shape due to injuries, Sean Connaghan and Michael Moffat replacing Brian Martin and Stephen Campbell, but one of the substitutes almost made an instant impact.
With his first touch, Conngahan poked a shot towards goal as he stole in at the back post but Leavy pulled off a great save, a feat he emulated again to beat away a stinging half-volley from McDonald shortly afterwards as Haddington pressed for a second goal.
Instead, they found themselves back on level terms and down to ten men midway through the half following the dismissal of Lynch, who was probably unfortunate to earn the first of his yellow cards but could have no complaints about the second one as he chopped down Moore.
From the resultant free-kick, the ball broke to Moore in a central position just outside the box and his shot took a deflection through the forest of legs as it beat Ross Combe in the Haddington goal.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Haddington looked just as likely to snatch a winner in the closing stages, a snap shot from McKenzie looking as though it would trouble Leavy until it hit team-mate Jamieson, who then had a looping header saved late on.
Tony Murphy blasted Troon’s first penalty high and wide but, after Jordan Cropley and Kevin Bracks had both scored for the ‘Hi-Hi’, Leavy then turned the shoot-out around as he made his two stunning saves from Jamieson and McDonald, who was making his final appearance before heading off to Australia for a year.
“Over the two games the telling thing has been the chances we missed,” said McLeish. “We had two early in the second half and if we had scored with either of those I think we would have been home and hosed.
“The sending off was also crucial as they scored straight after it but I still think we created as many chances as them with ten men.”
McLeish, who has done a fine job at Millfield over the past year or so, told his players to keep their heads up as he is still hoping they can challenge for honours in the second half of the season.
“This is by no means the end of the season for Haddington,” he added. “We are still in with a chance of winning the league, we are still in the East of Scotland Cup and we are still in the Fife & Lothians Cup.
“We have decent boys and we try to play in the manner I think the game should be played. We are moving forward and hopefully that will continue to be the case.”
Haddington Athletic: Combe, Lynch, Martin (Connaghan 46), Paterson, Campbell (Moffat 46), Motion, Myles, Bracks, Jamieson, McDonald, Cropley. Subs: Ferguson, Slight.
Troon: Leavy, Ure (Roy 49), Moore, Cairns, Baillie, McKinnell, Chatham, Ramsey, Wilson (Rae 64), Murphy, Sanderson. Subs: Lyle, McKay, McLelland, Fraser.
Referee: A Hogg.