Edinburgh City pulled off the result of their season so far to shock Championship outfit Alloa 4-3 on penalties following a 2-2 stalemate and seal their place in the semi-finals of the Irn-Bru Cup.
A quick-fire double from the Wasps inside the opening 12 minutes – on loan Hearts attacker Dario Zanatta and Alan Trouten both finding the net – looked set to spoil the party atmosphere that had descended upon Ainslie Park.
However, a Blair Henderson header, his 18th goal of the season, right on the stroke of half-time gave City the platform needed as they went in search of an historic win.
And they duly delivered as Scott Shepherd’s thunderous strike levelled the tie up 11 minutes after the restart and the Ladbrokes League Two leaders held their nerve in the shoot-out to triumph over Jim Goodwin’s men.
City will learn who stands between them and a cup final berth on Wednesday when the draw for the last four is made. Ross County, Welsh opponents Connah’s Quay Nomads, and Dublin-based Bohemians or East Fife are the remaining sides left in the competition.
“We didn’t do well for their goals and started the game poorly,” City boss James McDonaugh said afterwards. “But we had the impetus going in at the break with getting the goal. I thought we were great in the second half. I’m struggling to find who was our weakest player on the pitch. Everybody contributed massively.
“These guys have taken us from being a goal away from being bottom of the league last Christmas to a semi-final of a national cup competition 11 months later. It’s a fantastic achievement.
“We can now put this one to bed until the new year but it’s brilliant to still be in a cup competition after Christmas. I just think the players deserve so much credit. We’re a small club and I just think sometimes they don’t get the praise they deserve. This team keep reaching new levels.”
Zanatta’s astute finish from outside the box gave the Wasps the upper hand inside two minutes and things went from bad to worse for when Alan Trouten doubled the visitors’ advantage ten minutes later.
But City dusted themselves down and gradually began to work the Alloa No.1, Henderson forcing a fine stop from Neil Parry before Graham Taylor again stung the hands of the 33-year-old.
Robbie McIntyre’s teasing delivery was powered home by 24-year-old Henderson to inject some life into the City camp and they deservedly found themselves level in the 56th minute when Shepherd latched on to a sumptuous pass from Allan Smith before rifling high past Parry.
City always looked the more likely to add a third but despite their best efforts, the game would be settled from 12 yards.
Scott Taggart went first for the Clackmannanshire club but had his effort saved by Calum Antell. Liam Henderson, Marc Laird, Smith and captain Craig Thomson all held their nerve and Andy Graham miscued his effort wide to send the City players and management team into a state of euphoria.
“I think we showed them a bit too much respect at the start,” Antell said. “But what a comeback from the guys. I had a rough idea about where their penalty takers where going to put the ball. I’d had a quick look this week in the build-up as they’ve been getting a few penalties recently so luckily it paid off.”
Edinburgh City: Antell, Thomson, McIntyre, Black, Balatoni, Laird,mith, B Henderson, Taylor, Shepherd, L Henderson. Subs: Morton, Rodger, Donaldson, Hall, Lumsden.
Alloa Athletic: Parry, Taggart, Dick, Graham, Cawley (Brown 74), Robertson, Spence (Hetherington 61), Trouten, Flannigan, Peggie (Aloulou 82), Zanatta. Subs: Karadachki, Henry.
Referee: Don Robertson