Their day in the sun turned into a relentless storm but Bonnyrigg Rose players could still hold their heads high despite being on the end of an 8-1 battering from Championship leaders Hibs.
For a club whose ties with a former Bond star were celebrated in the build-up to this match, mission impossible proved to be just that as Neil Lennon’s men demonstrated the gulf in class between the two sides as they ran riot at Tynecastle. However, Rose could take solace from the fact they had done tremendously well just to get to this stage, for what was their ‘cup final’ – the final chapter of a stunning run which began back in August.
When the dust settles the Rose players and 5000-strong support will look back on Saturday and their entire cup run as one of their club’s finest moments. They played seven games just to get to Tynecastle, scoring 30 goals in the process and became the first Junior side to knock out a Championship club when they defeated Dumbarton in the third round. It’s a tale which will be reminisced about for years to come down Midlothian way.
Rose fans descended on Gorgie in their droves for their day of destiny against the Scottish Cup holders, with families packing out the entire Gorgie stand and two sections of the Wheatfield. Despite being outclassed by the visitors, they got their moment – defender Dean Hoskins’ penalty kick reduced the deficit with Hibs 3-0 up and cruising in the first half – it brought scenes like they had just won the cup.
Rose captain Jonny Stewart, a former Hearts player who won his fitness battle to start, felt they didn’t demonstrate close to what they are capable of as they wilted in the spotlight in front of a sold-out Tynecastle.
“It’s very disappointing, it’s obviously not what we hoped for,” said Stewart. “I feel we let ourselves down slightly and the great support we had. The boys are gutted, they just feel a bit disappointed that we couldn’t give a better account of ourselves.
“We conceded some bad goals but we’ve got to be realistic, we’ve done great to get here, the boys did remarkable to get this far. It’s been a great day out for everyone involved with the club - all the supporters, players, management and committee who deserved it the most.
“I felt we started the game OK, but the first goal kind of killed us and then we had a five to ten minute spell after that where they scored two goals rapid. To be fair to us, we came back into it with the penalty and we grew into it slightly. We might’ve had another penalty as well just after that and going in at 3-1 wasn’t too bad. At 3-0 we were kind of fearing the worst, but to get ourselves back into it we felt if we got the next goal we’d have a slight chance. Unfortunately Hibs showed their quality, they are obviously a full-time team and their superiority showed in the end.
“We were chasing shadows at times in midfield. [Andrew] Shinnie, [John] McGinn and [James] Keatings who was playing in that wee hole, their movement was great to be fair. They were really sharp, their passing and one touch was excellent.
“We’re really down at the moment but we’ll look back in a couple of weeks, a few years’ time and say it’s been a great occasion to reach this round.”
If Rose wish to return to the same stage next season, they’ll have to retain their East Super League title which will be a sizeable task given Kelty Hearts’ 17-point lead at the league summit. Winning the holy grail of Junior football, the Scottish Junior Cup, is another route into the competition and Rose now turn their attention to Saturday’s last-32 tie away to Kilsyth Rangers.
They’ll have to pick themselves up quickly to avoid any potential hangover from the Hibs tie with the importance of this weekend’s match in North Lanarkshire not lost on Stewart.
He added: “We’ve got a massive game in the Junior Scottish Cup this weekend, in a cup we feel we can go and contest right to the end – we’ve got a chance to go and win it. We have to pick ourselves up quickly, train hard this week and put this behind us.
“To get back involved in games like this we’re going to have to go and win the league which is going to be a hard task as Kelty are so far in front. Winning the Junior Cup would get us into it and it’s games like this that you play football for and want to be involved in every week, so we’re going to have to go and win one of them to get back into it next season.”
Despite letting in eight goals, Rose goalkeeper Michael Andrews wasn’t too despondent after holding his hands up for the first goal, Andrew Shinnie’s shot from range squirming underneath him and into the corner of the net.
Andrews also paid tribute to the Rose support, who stayed behind in their numbers to give their players their backing whilst they also took a standing ovation off the Hibs fans.
“I apologised to the boys for the first goal, it’s one of these things for a goalkeeper, it happens,” said Andrews. “Two or three after that we just didn’t get tight to their players and they got shots away from the edge of the area. They ran circles round us at times and as soon as they got one, two and three they kicked on from there.
“The boys need to remember what we did to get to this round. We showed what we can do against Dumbarton, but we were just up against a massive team in Hibs who are playing fantastic at the moment.
“We didn’t want to concede as many as that for our confidence, but we’re not embarrassed by the result. You have to remember who we were playing against and on paper they are a Premiership side. We have to get our heads up again and kick on from it.
“Our fans were brilliant, they were there for us and it just shows the belief they had in us.”