Dejected Bo’ness manager Allan McGonigal felt his side deserved at least a draw as their bid to win the Scottish Junior Cup for the first time in 30 years came to an end at the quarter-final stage in Ayrshire.
A first-half goal for Irvine Meadow was enough to set up an all-Ayrshire semi-final against Hurlford United. Despite having all the pressure after the interval, the visitors couldn’t break through the home rearguard, with Darren Gribben missing a penalty in the second-half.
McGonigal felt his side were the better team, but their domination couldn’t stop them losing their first match of 2014 at a packed Meadow Park.
He said: “The very least we deserved was a draw, I think we were the better team. We didn’t start well in the first-half, but I thought we dominated the whole game after they scored on the counter-attack.
“We asked the players to be brave and strong and they were. We got a break with the penalty kick and we missed a couple of wee chances. All credit to Irvine Meadow, they made it difficult and defended like lions and put everybody behind the ball.
“It’s a massive disappointment for us. We’ll have to pick ourselves up. We only have ourselves to blame as the chances were there.”
Scott Gibb came in to the Bo’ness starting line-up after Stuart Hunter lost his appeal against his red card at Rutherglen the previous week. Stewart Devine returned at left-back, with captain Chris Donnelly pushed forward in behind striker Steven Hislop, as Andy Scott dropped to the bench.
The home side had looked threatening on the counter early in the first-half and Gibb had to use all his experience to prevent Shaun Fraser from getting a cross in to Paul Maxwell, free inside the box on 11 minutes.
Darren Miller then tested out Mark Peat with the first shot on target from the edge of the box, as the Bo’ness goalkeeper had to get down low to make the stop.
Miller got the better of Peat on 20 minutes though, to give the hosts the lead. Fraser was allowed to pick up possession on the half-way line and he ran across midfield unopposed before finding Gary McCann in space on the right. Bo’ness were guilty of failing to clear as McCann’s ball swept across the face of goal, and an unmarked Miller stabbed in to the net at the back post.
Robert Sloan almost put Bo’ness level immediately from 25 yards, with his shot fired narrowly wide of the post.
Meadow striker Maxwell then almost caught out Peat with a Wayne Rooney-esque turn and shot from just inside the Bo’ness half, but thankfully for the Bo’ness keeper the ball bounced wide of the target.
Bo’ness were starting to improve towards the end of the half and enjoyed a good spell of pressure. Paul Murphy came close to nodding in a Gribben corner-kick but he couldn’t divert his header on target.
It was all Bo’ness in the second-half as the Super League leaders tried to force an equaliser. Gribben was first to threaten when his dipping free-kick from 25 yards almost caught out Meadow keeper Stephen Hall, who tipped over.
McGongial brought on youngsters Kieran Anderson and Zander Miller on 65 minutes, and they almost linked up immediately when Anderson’s ball in behind the Meadow defence was aimed at Miller, but Hall came out to smother the danger.
The visitors were awarded a penalty and a vital chance to regain parity on 72 minutes when Sloan was bundled over just inside the box. Gribben stepped up but saw his spot kick saved by Hall, and the keeper saved again from Craig Scott’s rebound effort before taking acclaim from the home support.
Anderson had the best chance to send the tie to a replay with nine minutes remaining. His shot at the back post was on target but Hall saved again.
Meadow were reduced to ten men with five minutes to go when Fraser was shown his second yellow card for a trip on Will Snowdon, but Bo’ness couldn’t find a way through in the remaining minutes.
Irvine Meadow: Hall, Sideserf, Staunton, Twaddle, Brand, Thomson (Darroch), Miller, Fraser, McCann, Halliday (Caddis), Maxwell. Subs: Sheppard, Campbell, McLaren.
Bo’ness United: Peat, Devine, Gibb, Murphy, Snowdon, Craig Scott, Sloan, Walker (Anderson), Donnelly (Andy Scott), Gribben, Hislop (Miller). Subs: Wallace, Jaconelli.