I’m fortunate enough that my remit for work on a weekly basis is travelling around Scotland covering all things Scottish football. The Scottish Cup Fifth Round replays certainly brought about an interesting two day’s graft.
First off we had Motherwell v St Mirren. After the Buddies raced into a 4-1 lead at half time, reports seemed to be writing themselves. That was until Motherwell’s 4-4 comeback and eventual 3-2 penalty shootout elimination, of course.
A pulsating 120 minutes and penalty kicks were had in North Lanarkshire, leaving Kilmarnock v Aberdeen with one hell of a job to deliver the same entertainment value. It looked to be falling flat on its face in that regard as Kilmarnock entered the final minutes with a 1-0 lead.
But an Andy Considine-inspired comeback later and Aberdeen had won 4-3 after extra time. It was certainly something and lived up to the entertainment provided at Fir Park the night previous.
It was a truly special 48 hours of Scottish Cup action, showing one thing- the magic of the competition is very much alive.
From Brian Rice to Jim Goodwin, many SPFL managers see the cup as a chance to create a wee bit of history for their clubs. Tommy Wright has fully etched himself into St Johnstone history with his historic Scottish Cup win with the Perthshire side in 2014.
The FA Cup, England’s equivalent to the Scottish Cup, is getting devalued. Bigger teams are fielding weaker sides to help keep up with Premier League demands. It’s taken a bit of the shine off a small club killing a potential giant.
Shrewsbury for example drew with Liverpool 2-2 in a recent tie. Due to a few different circumstances including a mini-winter break, their big day out at Anfield for the replay had them play against a Reds youth side.
Newcastle made seven changes for their Third Round FA Cup match with Rochdale. Leicester City made nine for their Fourth Round showdown with Brentford. Not every team south of the border is viewing the major domestic cup as secondary but it’s clear that some are.
It’s very different in Scotland. For clubs like Motherwell, St Mirren, Kilmarnock and Aberdeen, it’s one of two major chances to obtain silverware. Celtic’s domestic dominance has been relentless in recent years and still nobody outside of Glasgow has won the league since the Dons did in 1984-85.
Each side will go hammer and tongs to get into the hat for the Scottish Cup’s next round and that was certainly the case midweek.
Nights to remember
Scotland’s premier knockout tournament has been dominated by Celtic in recent times but still magic games and moments appear in the midst of this relentless trophy run. Two modern cup classics appeared midweek.
The Motherwell St Mirren game was as odd as it was brilliant. My match report was all but written at half time but you could almost predict what was going to happen after Tony Watt’s goal brought it back to 4-2. What couldn’t have been scripted is the bizarre nature in which the Well got on level terms, two crosses, one of which was deflected, inside a minute of each other.
At half time there was a collective look of disbelief. At full time there was a collective look of disbelief. Extra time though saw both sides swing wild punches without any real damage, a bit like boxers slugging it out in the 11th round after the gruelling ten that’d come beforehand.
Fir Park’s eight-goal thriller ended with more goals in normal time than the penalty shootout, remarkably. St Mirren fans went bonkers in the away end after shootout victory, showing just how much it means to the Buddies faithful.
More cup drama was to come at Rugby Park. Again the match report was almost good to go before Considine ripped up the script and a goal bonanza ensued. After trading blow after blow, Nicke Kabamba made it 3-2 Kilmarnock with three minutes to go in extra time.
The following 180 seconds that entailed were an example of what the Scottish Cup is all about and proof it hasn’t lost its magic touch. Straight up the other Aberdeen went and down went Lewis Ferguson in the Killie box, penalty given.
This was all happening around about 22:05. My train back to Glasgow Central from Kilmarnock was due in 22 minutes- it’s a 16 minute walk from Rugby Park to the town’s train station so decisions had to be made.
Sam Cosgrove dispatched the penalty and with that I packed up my things and bolted out the press box, headed for the exits. I didn’t want to miss a penalty shootout but by the same token, I didn’t want to sleep on a park bench either overnight in the freezing cold and sleet.
So as my back was turned for the exit, all I heard was screaming. Aberdeen had scored again, somehow, and the only live memory I have of their fourth goal is Dons fans falling over a few rows of seats by the looks of things as cup glory was had.
An epic pair of cup ties were played out during the last week and that should be championed. Sadly they weren’t televised due to Champions League competition but those who were present at either game got to witness Scottish Cup magic in all its glory.
Hopefully next weekend’s quarter finals brings about similar scenes. And aye, my train from Kilmarnock to Glasgow was cancelled in the end.
It wasn’t all bad though, another came rolling in just before 11, the voices and songs of the Red Army acting as some sort of lullaby as I scrambled to get my report online whilst my head swirled with what had transpired over two great nights of Scottish football.