Steven Hislop hailed substitute goalkeeper Caesar Hurst after his penalty heroics helped Whitehill Welfare lift the South Challenge Cup with a 3-2 penalty shoot-out win over Edinburgh City at East Peffermill.
Goals from Mark McConnell and John MacDonald either side of a Connor McGregor strike had City ahead 2-1 at half-time, with James Flynn levelling in the second half for the Rosewell side.
Hurst, who was thrust into action when Ben McGinley was sent off late on, saved four penalties as Hislop lifted his first trophy just weeks in to his Whitehill career.
“It was just as well we got another goalie on board!” he said. “I never like going without a goalie on the bench and thankfully that paid off. It wasn’t just about Ceasar though – every single player that played was incredible. What a shift they put in.
“I’m so proud of them. I’ve only been in a short time and to put in a shift like that and to work like that when they know that ultimately, they’re not the fittest team is great. We had a game plan and it wasn’t really working so we changed it and when we went down to ten men it was a case of holding on.”
Welfare were close to taking the lead on 12 minutes when Kevin Keane’s cutback found its way to Connor McGregor, whose low effort was goalbound until Frazer Paterson’s intervention.
Instead, City edged in front just moments later. John Williams’ poor touch allowed McConnell a clear run on goal, and the midfielder took full advantage by striding forward and calmly slotting past Ben McGinley.
It didn’t take long for Whitehill to restore parity however. Andy Martin’s knockdown teed up McGregor perfectly, and he sent a fine first-time volley low past Gregor Amos in to the bottom right-hand corner.
Steven Manson was inches from netting a second for Hislop’s side, collecting Keane’s high delivery at the back post and flashing an effort just past the top corner.
The Lowland League champions then restored their goal advantage on the half-hour mark in fine style. Neat interplay between Gordon Donaldson and Ross Guthrie ended with the latter finding MacDonald with a clever ball and from distance the substitute sent the ball flying past McGinley first time in to the far corner.
McGregor went close to his and Whitehill’s second just after the hour, latching on to the bouncing ball on the edge of the area and forcing Amos in to a fine save low to his right.
They did manage another equaliser soon after. Amos found himself caught underneath Nikki Murray’s long free-kick delivery, and substitute James Flynn ghosted in behind him to nod in to an empty net.
Proceedings appeared to have swung in City’s favour with just over ten minutes to go. Nico Gibson latched on to Ian McFarland’s through ball and knocked it past the onrushing McGinley, and the Welfare keeper was shown a straight red for cleaning out the striker when through on goal.
There was late drama when the ten men thought they’d won it as the game moved in to stoppage time after Williams headed home a free-kick, only to be denied by the offside flag.
John Hall and Jordan Caddow both went close with back-post headers in the first period of extra-time, with Gibson clipping the bar with a free-kick in the second.
Neither could prevent penalties however, and Hurst was the hero for Whitehill who won the shoot-out 4-2.
Edinburgh City: Amos, Dunsmore, Donaldson, McConnell (Caddow 86), Paterson, McKee, McFarland, Gair, Allum (MacDonald 8), Guthrie (Gibson 76), Mushin.
Whitehill Welfare: McGinley, Hall, O’Hara, Murray, Williams, McGregor, Manson, Anderson, Martin (Hurst 79), Arthur (Flynn 60), Keane (McKinlay 75).