Uphall STATION fought off a second-half fight-back to narrowly defeat opponents Tollcross Thistle 4-3 in an epic Lothian and Amateur Challenge Cup quarter-final at Saughton 3G.
Uphall raced into an early four-goal lead with Thistle defender Greig Hogarth dismissed for a last-ditch challenge on Uphall striker Bamba Jobrteh.
Uphall, of Premier Division 1, certainly made use of their numerical advantage in the opening 45 minutes but were the pushed all the way as Tollcross went agonisingly close to drawing level and sending the tie into extra time.
Tollcross coach Alan McKay was left to rue a sluggish start, saying: “We lost silly goals in the first half and were punished for it. Our defending was awful and completely unacceptable. It was a good effort though from the guys after the break so I think we restored a bit of pride. We’ve still got another cup semi-final to go so there is still a lot to play for.”
A lively opening saw Thistle’s Lee Heinemeir with the first opportunity of the match. A mistake by Jobrteh, who had taken up an unfamiliar defensive position, left the winger bearing down on goal but his shot went straight into the arms of Uphall goalkeeper Robert Sinclair.
Jobrteh was also proving a handful at the opposite end of the park as his header from close range went just wide from a Chris Norris cross.
With Uphall beginning to find their rhythm in the final third, their search for a goal arrived after ten minutes. Midfielder Norris managed to break the attention of a Tollcross defender before coolly slotting the ball beyond Stuart Hogarth.
Their second came only moments later. A long throw from defender James Wilson found an unmarked Steven Flemming in the six-yard box and he had the simplest of tasks in knocking the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
Uphall had found their momentum on the artificial surface as the hosts struggled to contain the mounting pressure.
Norris and Jobrteh then combined to set up Gary White who added a third with only 20 minutes gone as the No. 10 fired into the corner past the helpless Hogarth.
Thistle’s misery was compounded further when defender Greig Hogarth saw red for upending Jobrteh in the penalty area and referee Garry McKenzie awarded a spot kick, which George McGregor duly converted for the fourth, and ultimately decisive goal.
Tollcross did manage a goal of their own prior to the half-time interval when Marc Robertson found space on the left and drove the ball across goal to onrushing midfielder Callum Roberts who fired past Sinclair.
If Uphall had the belief their work was complete after a strong first-half performance, they were met by a much changed side after the break, despite having enough chances of their own to add to the four goals, with Jobrteh particularly guilty of passing up several opportunities.
But it was Tollcross who added to their goal tally in the second half when substitute Steven Moncur showed great composure to place the ball past Sinclair after cutting in from the right hand side to give his side hope. Further attempts from Uphall’s Liam Whyte and Robert McGregor might have made the scoreline more handsome but both failed to convert opportunities they would normally expect to put away.
The home side did manage to add a third and set up a tense finale through Stewart O’Neill’s clever finish but the visitors held on to win the tie.
Uphall manager Stevie Clark was delighted with the victory which sees his side into the last four but admitted his concerns after Tollcross nicked a third goal towards the end. He said: “The game should have been out in the distance after the first half but credit to Tollcross who got themselves back into the game with their goals and took the game to us. We missed a hatful of chances to put the game to bed but at 4-1 up we should have just kept the ball.”
Tollcross: Stuart Hogarth, Graham Nisbet, Elliott Black, John Lawson, Greig Hogarth, Callum Roberts, Adam Robertson, Stewart O’Neill, Sean Mossman, Marc Robertson, Lee Heinemeir, Jamie More, Steven Kiakowski, Andy O’Hare, Kevin Martin, Steven Moncur.
Uphall: Robert Sinclair, James Wilson, Liam Whyte, George McGregor, Keith Robertson, Scott Gillies, Steven Flemming, Paul McCracken, Bamba Jobrteh, Gary White, Chris Norris, Lee Adams, Robert McGregor, Charles Wright, David Miller, Alexander Clarkson,