Haddington Athletic player-boss Joe Hamill breathed a sigh of relief after his spot-kick miss in the shootout didn’t stop his side from progressing to the second round of the Fife and Lothians Cup.
The former Hearts midfielder was thwarted by Musselburgh Athletic goalkeeper Ally Adams for Haddington’s ninth penalty and revealed he had tried to hide so he didn’t have to step up as the Hi-Hi overcame their Premier League and East Lothian rivals 10-9 on penalties after some sensational sudden-death drama.
The shootout was the highlight after a forgettable 90 minutes which didn’t get going until after the interval with both sides ending proceedings with ten men after two straight red cards. Hamill’s side were second best for most of the cup tie as they held on at stages against the league leaders who enjoyed the bulk of the chances but were handed their first defeat of the season.
“I was trying to hide behind the dugout,” said Hamill. “I just don’t hit them – even the wife knows that. I said to Yulley [Craig Yule, assistant manager] ‘If I’m playing the next time, take me off with a couple of minutes to go so I don’t have to take one.’ I’ve never been confident of hitting them.
“The penalties seemed to go on forever, but it nearly ended quicker because I missed, that’s for sure, but I’m absolutely delighted. It was down to everybody scoring and the goalkeeper [Haris Alysandratos] as well.
“It wasn’t a great game, but it’s a cup and we’re through to the next round and that’s what it is all about at the end of the day. Yeah, we want to play a lot better, and everybody knows that but some games you don’t play, you just need to sort of work hard and get through, and we done that.”
Burgh centre-half Bradley Donaldson had the best chance after six minutes in an opening period bereft of goalmouth action. He should have done better with his headed attempt which he couldn’t direct on target from Conor Thomson’s free-kick.
Team-mate Sean Murphy then had a similar chance saved when he arrived on the end of Jed Davie’s cross from the right.
The remainder of the half was a battle with both side’s fighting for supremacy, but neither managed to find the killer pass to create something to excite the large crowd packed into Millfield Park.
Burgh midfielder Declan O’Kane is capable of producing a wonder striker from distance, and he almost did just that with a free-kick from 25 yards out which curled just wide of Alysandratos’ left-hand post on the hour mark. That close shave sparked Haddington into life and they should have taken the lead minutes later, when Bob Berry’s delightful lobbed pass put Paul Devlin through, but instead of immediately pulling the trigger, the midfielder took a touch and that allowed Donaldson to sniff out the danger.
American striker Stephen MacDonald responded with a fierce effort straight at Alysandratos, before Chris Gray’s flick on from Thomson’s corner was inches away from finding the back of the net.
Substitute Matti King then curled just wide as Burgh started to turn the screw, but they were dealt a blow on 78 minutes when Gray was shown a red-card after a coming together with home forward Scott Moffat.
Home defender Robert Wilson evened things up just before the full-time whistle when he was shown a second yellow card. That provided Gary Cherrie with the opportunity to win it from the edge of the box. He couldn’t have struck his free-kick any better but Alysandratos got across well to his top left corner to push clear.
After Shaun Hill had put Haddington 10-9 in the shootout in the second round of penalties, Burgh substitute John McManus struck the post and the Hi Hi’s progression was secured.
Visiting boss Calvin Shand felt his side deserved to go through, he said: “I’m disappointed in the result, but not in the performance, I thought we dominated the game. We had enough chances to win it and it was just one of those days.
“We deserve to be in the next round of the cup, but that’s football for you. Once it goes to penalties it’s just a lottery.”
Haddington Athletic: Alysandratos, Berry, Tufail (Wright), Hamill, Wilson, Inglis, Hill, Devlin, Moffat, Temple (Brown), Jones
Musselburgh Athletic: Adams, Davie (McManus), Donaldson, Gray, Lynch, Murphy, O’Kane, Cherrie, Thomson, Murray (King), MacDonald