HE has spent almost 30 years in football, but Musselburgh Amateurs manager Cris Kay has proclaimed his team’s 3-1 victory over Stewarton United in their seventh round replay of the Scottish Amateur (Saturday) Cup as his proudest moment in the sport.
The East Lothian outfit had battled the previous week for a 1-1 draw on the Ayrshire coast and earn the right of a replay at Pinkie St Peters with a healthy crowd in attendance at the 3G artificial surface.
Victory has secured a home tie in the last eight against top amateur side Hurlford, also from Ayrshire.
A jubilant Kay said: “This is massive and probably my proudest moment in football. We’ve got a very difficult tie in the next round but the most important aspect is the guys go out and enjoy the occasion. We had a great show from the supporters and I hope they make it along again in good numbers for the quarter-final.”
Conceding there were periods of the second half which had his side on the back foot, Kay was grateful for the goals attained in the opening 45 minutes.
“We started really well and to go in two up at the break gave us that little bit of a cushion. But they came out after half-time fighting for everything and put us on the back foot for quite a spell. We scored our third on the counter-attack which effectively killed the game off.”
Musselburgh began with more authority but without really testing Darren Wilson in the Stewarton goal. Captain and striker Jamie Kay, on the books of Hearts as a youngster, was influential in most of Musselburgh’s good link-up play and, as the first half wore on, the pressure on the Stewarton defence forced them to retreat towards their own goal.
With 20 minutes on the clock, Musselburgh took a deserved lead courtesy of defender Steven Milne. A Craig Darcy free-kick from the left was delicately placed on to the on-rushing Milne whose header was initially parried by Wilson, however, the left-back was quickest to react to prod the ball into the net.
The goal appeared to ignite some passion amongst the visitors who had their first effort after half an hour. Good work on the left from Johnny Sinclair created space for Johnny Fairlie to have a shot, but he drove the ball straight into goalkeeper Ross Taylor’s arms from the edge of the box.
The Lothian and Edinburgh Premier Division One side, however, were still in the ascendency and added to their lead ten minutes before the half-time interval. An expertly weighted through ball from Scott Barclay sent Paul Marshall in the clear and he showed great composure in rounding Wilson and knocking the ball home to make it 2-0.
Kay nearly made it three just minutes later, failing to finish off a move involving goalscorer Marshall and Barclay as his shot went wide of the far left post.
Stewarton needed to exert some pressure of their own if they were to give themselves any chance of progressing through to the quarter-finals and they began the second period with this in mind. Moving the ball around a lot more competently, they were rewarded with a goal to reduce Musselburgh’s lead to 2-1. A free kick into the box caused confusion in the penalty area with the ball eventually falling to Michael Thomson who lashed the ball high into the net.
There was now a real cup-tie atmosphere around the perimeter of the playing surface with both managers and supporters alike edging their players on. Visiting defender Scott Thomson must have thought he had restored parity minutes later after unleashing a powerful strike from distance, but Taylor was equal to the task and tipped the ball over for a corner.
Despite extensive late pressure from Stewarton, Musselburgh were still a force and they appeared to have a strong case for a penalty after Barclay was upended by a trailing leg, but Kay made sure of the result in the closing stages when he slipped the ball under Wilson and into the far corner.
Musselburgh Amateurs: Ross Taylor, David Glynn, Steven Milne, Allan Cornet, James Henderson, David McCleod, Scott Barclay, Craig Darcy, Giovanni Crolla, Jamie Kay, Paul Marshall, Steven Gare, Andrew McDonald, Eamonn Reynolds, Allan Bain, Neil Thompson.
Stewarton United: Darren Wilson, Scott Thomson, Greg Miller, Michael Thomson, Tony Keaney, Brian Kilpatrick, Graeme McArthur, Fraser Cairns, Robert McNaughton, Johnny Sinclair, Johnny Fairlie, Stewart Dick, Steven Allison, Garry Smith, Ian McFadzean, David McIntosh.