A Heroic Bonnyrigg Rose pulled off the greatest result in their history last night as they stunned Championship side Dumbarton to set up a “fairytale” Scottish Cup fourth-round tie at home to holders Hibs next month.
Adam Nelson struck the winner for the Super League champions four minutes from the end of a tightly-contested replay. The full-time whistle was greeted by a pitch invasion and chants of “Bring on the Hibees” from the jubilant Bonnyrigg supporters who had braved a drizzly winter’s evening on the banks of the River Clyde.
The Midlothian minnows now hope to move the tie against Neil Lennon’s Championship leaders to Tynecastle. Chairman Charlie Kirkwood wept tears of joy as he spoke to the Evening News afterwards. “I’m absolutely overwhelmed,” he said. “I’ve been chairman for seven years but I’ve always been involved with the club. This is just the icing on the cake. In my opinion, this is the biggest result we’ve ever had.
“I spoke to [Hearts owner] Ann Budge at the weekend on another matter and I told her I might be phoning her back on Wednesday to see about hiring her ground depending how this game went. She said hopefully you get there Charlie and then we’ll get round the table and speak about it. I’m really hopeful it will be at Tynecastle because three quarters of the boys are Hearts fans. It’s a dream come true. I’m an emotional person at the best of times, but I’m so proud. It’s very rare these boys let us down and they’ve certainly stepped up to the mark this time. They were magnificent.”
This famous victory over a Dumbarton side they arguably should have beaten in the goalless first match ten days earlier maintains a superb Scottish Cup surge in which Rose have eliminated Glasgow University, Burntisland Shipyard, Turriff United and Highland League champions Cove Rangers.
“It’s an absolute dream,” said Bonnyrigg manager Robbie Horn, a former Hearts youngster. “I’m delighted for the supporters and all the guys on the committee who put their heart and soul into the club and deserve this reward.
“The club have got to maximise what they can make out of the tie. I’d be delighted if it’s at Tynecastle because I’m a Jambo. The only time I played a first-team game for Hearts was against Hibs in Craig Levein’s testimonial. I hope it’s there because I think the whole of Bonnyrigg as well as a lot of neutrals would turn out for it. The Scottish Cup holders against a Junior side – it’s a fairytale game.”
Horn is adamant that his team will be intent on making their presence felt against the holders.
“We’re not just going to turn up to enjoy it – we’re going to try and win it,” he said. “We’ve shown confidence and belief in the two games against Dumbarton – who knows what we can do? If we catch Hibs on an off-day and perform even better than we have in our last couple of games, then you never know.”
Underlining the calibre of opponents Bonnyrigg defeated, Dumbarton’s starting line-up included three former Hearts – David Smith, Ryan Stevenson and Darren Barr. Ex-Hibs goalkeeper Mark Brown was on the substitutes’ bench, while Sam Stanton, the midfielder on loan from the Easter Road club, again missed out through injury.
Bonnyrigg started in bright fashion and carved out the first clear chance of the match in the sixth minute when Ruaridh Donaldson’s pass up the left channel put Keiran McGachie in behind the home defence, but, with goalkeeper Alan Martin advancing to close him down, the striker curled his effort beyond the far post from the edge of the box.
Dean Hoskins then tried his luck with a firmly-struck free kick from a central position 25 yards out, but Martin was equal to it. The sense that the visitors might be able to pull off an upset was lent further weight in the 15th minute when winger Lewis Turner burst into the box and smacked an angled shot against the crossbar from 15 yards out.
This seemed to act as a wake-up call to Dumbarton, who gradually started to make their presence felt, creating a string of half chances, mostly from set-pieces, before the break. However, they never really looked breaching a spirited Rose rearguard, and the visitors were deservedly applauded off at the interval.
Bonnyrigg, who had fallen out of the game as an attacking force since the opening 20 minutes, began to reassert themselves after the break and felt they should have broken the deadlock on the hour mark. McGachie latched on to a pass from Kerr Young just outside the box and spun away from Gregor Buchanan before running on to slot into the net, but referee Greg Aitken had already ruled that the Rose striker had used foul means to get clear of the Sons defender. The Bonnyrigg players and supporters were livid at this perceived injustice.
At the other end, Stevenson drilled a low free-kick just wide from the edge of the penalty area. However, Bonnyrigg had looked the likelier side for most of the second half and they hit woodwork for a second time in the match when Nelson’s inswinging corner kick dropped on to the crossbar in the 73rd minute.
Nelson wasn’t to be denied, however, with the midfielder sparking jubilant scenes when he smacked an effort in off the inside of the post from the edge of the box. “I’m immensely proud of the way the players performed over the two games,” he said. “I think we’ve got boys here who could play senior and the game against Hibs gives them the chance to test themselves against top-level opposition.”
Dumbarton: Martin, Docherty, J Thomson, Buchanan, Stevenson (Pettigrew 68), Todd, Fleming, R Thomson (McCallum 68), Barr, Smith, Stirling. Subs: Brown, Crawford
Bonnyrigg Rose: Andrews, Horne, Donaldson, Stewart, Young, Hoskins, Turner, Kidd (Gray 80), McGachie, Nelson, McIntosh (McLaren 80). Subs: Rooney, Moyes, Archibald
Referee: Greg Aitken