Lothian Thistle have been enjoying a dream season so far, undefeated in all competitions, but they notched up their biggest success to date as they stunned League 2 leaders Stirling Albion with a 5-3 win at Forthbank in the William Hill Scottish Cup second round.
The East of Scotland champions – no stranger to matching teams from higher leagues – were deserved winners in Stirlingshire on Saturday with a result that surely surpasses their victory in this competition over Montrose two years ago when they won a replay away from home.
The club will now welcome current Championship league leaders St Mirren to Saughton Enclosure – pending SFA approval – on Saturday, November 18 in a dream third-round tie.
Lothian actually got off to the worst possible start when Albion captain Darren Smith gave the hosts a sixth-minute lead, rounding goalkeeper Kevin Swain to squeeze the ball home from a tight angle.
However, the visitors regrouped and were level just four minutes later when striker Sean Wringe’s first-time effort came crashing off the underside off the bar and Willis Hare was in the right place at the right time to lash the rebound high into the net.
Wringe wasn’t to be denied, though, as his well-placed header from a Kevin Brown delivery had the underdogs ahead after just a quarter of an hour.
Despite the size of the task facing Rayond Carr’s men prior to kick off, the manager wasn’t surprised by his players’ response after going a goal down.
“That’s how we play every week. We don’t go anywhere to sit back and defend and if you’ve got players all over the park who can score goals then that stands you in good stead,” he said. “These are the calibre of games the boys want to play in and maybe Stirling got a bit of a shock the way we came back.”
The home supporters’ frustration became more vocal as Lothian continued to carve out chance after chance, Tony Muir shooting straight at Mark Foden before the midfielder headed just wide of the Albion No.1’s right-hand post.
Wringe sent the small band of travelling Lothian fans into raptures two minutes after the interval, glancing in Louis Swanson’s pinpoint cross before the 25-year-old came within inches of completing his hat-trick having seen his shot on the turn come back off the post.
Jamie Devlin’s energy caused the Albion defence problems all afternoon and when the striker was upended in the penalty box by Sean Dickson, the visitors could sense victory was within their grasp. Swanson duly converted from 12 yards to put Lothian 4-1 ahead with just 65 minutes on the clock.
Three minutes later Devlin deservedly got on the scoresheet himself, capitalising on Foden’s error to knock in the loose ball.
Peter MacDonald and Scott Davidson efforts in the final ten minutes couldn’t take the shine off a memorable 90 minutes for those in yellow and black.
“It’s the biggest scalp we’ve had during my time with the club,” Carr said. “I did think the game would be a lot closer and if we were going to win it then it would be just that wee bit of luck. But we played exceptionally well and deserved to win.”
Wringe, who took his goal tally to 20 for the season, said: “When they went 1-0 up so early you say to yourself ‘oh no’ but the mentality of the team is unbelievable and we should have won by more to be honest. We showed we are more than capable of competing at a higher level. I’ve scored in cup finals before but to score a double in the Scottish Cup just tops the lot.”
Stirling Albion: Foden, McGeachie, Noble, McNeil, Davidson (Cameron 84), Black, Caddis (MacDonald 54), McLaughlin, Smith, Kavanagh, Dickson. Subs: Binnie, Smith, Banner, McMullan.
Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale: Swain, Sherlock, O’Donnell, Crawford, Munro, Muir, Hare (Moore 63), Brown, Wringe (Nhamburo 70), Devlin, Swanson (Mungall 88). Subs: Robertson, Hutchison, Simpson, Easton.
Referee: R Milne.