Musselburgh Athletic’s Scottish Junior Cup final dream ended at the final hurdle for the second time in four years as they were edged out 2-1 by Ayrshire giants Auchinleck Talbot.
Burgh, perceived as overwhelming underdogs and written off before kick-off, weren’t disgraced and ran their opponents close, with the Olivebank men dictating the match for long spells – but they couldn’t summon up a killer instinct in the final third.
Dwayne Hislop’s wonder strike gave Talbot the lead in the first half, before Musslburgh striker Jordyn Sheerin hit back before the break with a terrific effort of his own. Burgh looked the more likelier to go on and take the lead, but Gordon Pope scored from the penalty spot after 60 minutes and Talbot held on for the win.
Burgh boss Stevie McLeish felt his side dominated the match for long spells, but rued their inability to create enough chances despite having the majority of the possession.
He said: “We controlled a lot of the ball for a lot of the game. We had a lot of good possession and we played some really attractive stuff, but we didn’t make enough chances with the ball. If we got behind a bit more and asked a bit more questions, the result might’ve been totally different.
“They got a softish penalty in my view from where I was standing. That’s what happens when you play the big clubs, they get breaks like that and they took their chance.
“Up to when we got the penalty I felt that we looked like the team that was more likely to score.”
McLeish reserved special praise for their army of supporters who made their way from Edinburgh and East Lothian and packed out Kilmarnock’s main stand.
He said: “What a turnout from the supporters, they were fantastic. What a group they are. It was great to see how many punters were here today and the vocal support they gave us.
“The whole town has been right behind the team and there were people waving us off when we left in the morning.”
Auchinleck had the first sight of goal after two minutes when winger Bryan Young curled a shot just wide of Ally Adams’ left-hand post from just outside the area.
Talbot’s pressure on the Musselburgh goal intensified and they forced two early corners, but Burgh held firm.
Musselburgh’s first chance came through striker Steven Thomson, a headed effort sent just wide after a brilliant cross from the left supplied by Sheerin.
Left-back Brian Martin then came close at the back post from Darren Smith’s corner, he sent a shot goalwards, but Talbot were able to clear the danger.
Buoyed by a couple of chances, Burgh began to pass the ball around well as they dictated possession. However, the opening goal came for Talbot after half an hour gone. After a throw in from the left, the ball played was across the pitch and it fell to midfielder Dwayne Hislop 25 yards out and he unleashed a spectacular volley into Adams’ top left-hand corner.
41-goal striker Sheerin’s first sight of goal resulted in keeper Andy Leishman tipping the ball over the bar, but Talbot’s number one had no chance when Sheerin produced his second effort on goal.
Midfielder Jackie Myles laid it off to him on the edge of the box and the forward produced a piece of magic to curl a strike in off the underside of the bar and into the net past the hand of the outstretched keeper to deservedly level.
Musselburgh had a great chance to take the lead five minutes after the restart. Good work down the right wing from Alex Christie and Lewis Turner saw the former win a corner. Thomson swung it in on a plate for Christie but he didn’t connect fully with his header and the ball drifted well wide.
Auchinleck’s first chance of the second half came on 56 minutes when the ball fell to Hislop in the area, he struck goalwards and Adams held onto the effort.
Auchinleck were awarded a penalty on 60 minutes by referee Steven Kirkland. Striker David Gormley was tripped by centre-back Robert Wilson as he tried to turn and set himself up for a shot and left-back Pope converted from 12 yards.
Wilson atoned for his error six minutes later however after defensive partner Andrew Munro was slack in gifting possession to Gormley who ran in on goal, but Wilson stuck out a leg to nick the ball off him just as he looked to shoot.
Thomson carved out an opportunity after 71 minutes from the right side of the box as he twisted and turned his marker before firing in a shot which Leishman had to be alert to deal with.
Auchinleck came within inches of doubling their lead when striker Keir Milliken’s free-kick from distance cracked off Adams’ left hand post and away to safety. Their pressure continued and Burgh captain Martin had to fling himself in front of a Hyslop drive on 75 minutes after the ball had broken to the midfielder inside the box amid a goalmouth stramash.
Musselburgh were finding it difficult to break Talbot now that they had their lead restored, with Burgh restricted to efforts from outside the box but they did not test goalkeeper Leishman.
Youngster Jed Davie was introduced with five minutes remaining after Myles limped off with apparent cramp, the big Kilmarnock pitch having taken its toll on the centre midfielder
Auchinleck moved to a back five as Burgh sought an equaliser, with the men in blue-and-white throwing men forward.
Keeper Adams was sent forward in added on time as Burgh pushed everyone forward with the last chance of the match. Turner swung in the free-kick and Leishman rose to gather the ball high under a clutch of Burgh players.
Referee Kirkland blew the final whistle as Leishman released the ball high from his area and the Burgh players slumped to the turf in defeat while Talbot ran off to celebrate in front of their supporters.
Musselburgh Athletic: Adams, Christie, Martin, Myles (Davie), Turner, Smith, Beveridge (Hunter), Thomson, Sheerin, Wilson, Munro.
Auchinleck Talbot: Leishman, Lyle, Pope, McGoldrick, Campbell, Boyd (White), Young, Hislop, Milliken, Gormley, Wilson (Latta).