Match-winner Scott Moffat doesn’t care who Haddington Athletic get in the next round of the Scottish Junior Cup – because he reckons the Hi-Hi have proven already they can deal with any challenge thrown at them in the competition.
The East Premier Division men progressed to the fourth round with a hard-fought 2-1 win over the West Region Central District First Division side Neilston at Millfield Park thanks to a brace from Moffat.
Haddington have now disposed of three western teams in the competition, seeing off Troon 1-0 in the first round before a penalty shoot-out triumph over Shotts Bon Accord in a replay, having battled back from 3-0 down. On Saturday they were favourites against an aggressive Neilston outfit, but they dealt with expectations and their opponents’ intimidating tactics to clinch victory.
“The draw for the next round is coming up and we don’t care who we meet because the last rounds were tough but we came through them,” said Moffat.
“It was a tough game for us because we were told before the game by the gaffer that they would try and intimidate us and they tried but we settled and got the opener.
“I’m delighted to get the goals and I had the chance for the hat-trick, but I hit the glory one high and wide.”
Neilston’s tactics were obvious from the beginning. Their aggressive attitude did unsettle the home players, but that all changed in the tenth minute when Haddington opened their account with a super move down the left wing ending with a cool finish from Moffat.
Home winger Andy Jones was proving to be a real handful for the Neilston defence and he could have scored himself minutes later as Haddington found their confidence again.
Neilston did have chances in the opening 45 minutes, but some resolute defending and good goalkeeping from Sinclar Inglis kept Haddington’s lead intact at the break.
Neilston’s resolve did get its reward early in the second half when they equalised in the 47th minute. The Haddington defence failed to clear a corner from the left and when the ball fell at the feet of Mathew Stevenson, his volley defelected past Inglis to make it 1-1. The Farmer’s Boys were having their best spell of the game and Haddington looked like wilting under the pressure. However, the Hi-Hi seized the initiative again on the hour mark when Moffat latched on to a long ball and drilled a low effort beyond James Digney.
Neilston did have the ball in the net late on, but the linesman flagged for offside, much to the disgust of the Neilston management and players. The visitors’ misery was complete late on when Allan Diack was sent off for throwing a punch.
Haddington co-managers Kevin Twaddle and Brian Johnston praised the way their players dealt with Neilston and their character. “Our players have never faced a team like this before,” said Twaddle. “We warned them beforehand and for a ten-minute spell at the start they looked like buckling, but they have great character and bounced back and thoroughly deserved our win today.”
Johnston added: “We’ve played better before, but to win against a resolute team like Neilston was something special. Andy Jones and Scott Moffat were a bit special today, but everyone played their part.
“We’ve a lot of quiet lads in our team so to have experienced players like Sinky [Sinclair Inglis], George Cunningham and the likes settled us down when needed. Who knows who we’ll get in the next round but the lads are up for anyone.”
Haddington: S Inglis, Berry, Ponton, Bauld, Cunningham, C Inglis, Wright, Fairnie, Devlin, Moffat, Jones. Subs: Hill, Robertson, Ingram, Wojtowyuk, Chapman.
Neilston: Digney, Gamba, Geddes, McDade, Clark, Stevenson, Magennis, Diack, Cameron, Crumlish, Stoney. Subs: Storrie, Kenneddy, Patterson, Paterson, McLachlan.