Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale boss Raymond Carr was delighted to take SPFL League Two side Montrose to a replay tomorrow week – despite being denied a famous win by a linesman’s flag in the closing minutes.
Richie Wilkes netted his second goal of this season’s William Hill Scottish Cup with the equaliser on 42 minutes after Ross Campbell had given the visitors an early lead in the second-round clash at Saughton Enclosure.
Kevin Swain made a series of important saves to keep Lothian’s dreams alive and, in the closing minutes, substitute Liam O’Donnell slid the ball home at the back post only to see his celebrations cut short as the assitant referee adjudged the midfielder to have moved a fraction early.
Nevertheless, Carr was delighted with his players’ display.
“If someone offered us a draw before the game then we would have taken it but as the game unfolded, we now feel we could have taken something out of it,” said the proud Lothian manager.
“We had a nervous start, which was to be expected, but we competed tremendously well and could’ve snatched victory at the death.”
Carr knew his side were capable of causing Montrose problems having knocked out big-spending Junior outfit Kelty Hearts in the last round, though he admitted a late knee injury to stalwart defender Grant Munro soured the occasion.
“Grant landed awkwardly after going up for a challenge so we’ll have to assess him this week. He still has time to recover before the replay but I’d imagine he’ll be missing for the league game with Coldstream next week.
“The players know how to compete at this level – it’s the romance of the cup. You see it happen in England as well, it’s up to the players to go out and and make a name for themselves. We can help to develop and coach them at youth level but they are the ones who do it on the pitch when it matters.
“We won’t fear going up to Montrose and I know the players can give me another performance like they did on Saturday,” added Carr.
Lothian goal hero Wilkes hailed his team-mates’ display character.
“To still be in the cup is a good achievement and shows that we have the strength of character and ability to compete against higher-ranked opposition,” he said.
It was a tense opening period for the East of Scotland League champions as Swain made two key blocks to deny Gary Fraser and former Dundee winger Graham Webster at the back post.
The visitors took the lead on 12 minutes when Campbell glanced in from an inch-perfect Scott Johnston cross.
But Lothian kept battling away and, after Dean Cummings had a shot held by Montrose keeper Jordan Millar, Scott Taylor-McKenzie’s stinging 20-yard free-kick was tipped over.
Three minutes before half-time, Wilkes evaded his marker at the back post from a Darren Smith corner to bullet a header past Millar to the delight of the home supporters.
The second half saw less goalmouth action, although Swain had to be alert to tip over a looping effort from Fraser as Montrose threatened.
With two minutes remaining, O’Donnell saw his effort disallowed while Willis Hare could count himself unfortunate not to have snatched a winner with a shot that was plucked out of the air by Millar.
Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale: Swain, Crawford, Taylor-McKenzie, Wilkes, Munro (Joint), Mearns, Smith (O’Donnell), Cummings, Moffat, Gormley (Hare). Subs; Brown, Moore, McDonaugh.
Montrose: Millar, Reoch (Harwood), Ferguson, Masson, Pascazio, Steeves, Johnston, Malin (McCord), Fraser, Campbell (Mallagaray) Webster. Subs; Salmon, Reid, McLeod, Milne.