BY MARK GODFREY
Last Saturday saw the Scottish Cup of 2013/14 get under way, and as per my resolution, I dutifully drove up to Hawick to watch my chosen team, St.Cuthbert Wanderers, take on Hawick Royal Albert.
The missus and I arrived a couple of minutes late after taking a leisurely stroll through the quaint border town and enjoying a smashing bit of soup and cake in a local tea shop. Having arrived at the tiny ground, we parted with £5 apiece to enter and I also relieved myself of £2 for the flimsiest programme I’ve seen in many years.
The one ‘grandstand’ had the obligatory corrugated iron roof and blue and white painted wooden benches, making it a typical grass-roots football fire hazard. We sat down in the Hawick supporters section with our view of one goal obstructed by some murky looking Perspex.
Thankfully, we hadn’t missed any significant action as Hawick, in their usual blue kit, thundered into the black-shirted Saints in a messy and haphazard opening ten minutes. Quality was non-existent and not just because of the state of the Albert Park pitch, which was, in one half, covered in quad bike skid-marks (perhaps a local farmer’s recent attempts to wrangle some wayward sheep?). After about 20 minutes of the first half, a football game finally broke out and it was the visitors who stepped up the pace as their superior quality in midfield and movement up front began to cause the rotund Hawick defenders, for whom pre-season training must have passed them by, plenty of problems.
By this time, St.Cuthbert’s goal machine, Craig Rudd, had already missed a sitter in front of an open goal to set the tone for the rest of his afternoon. Hawick were just about living with Saints as both sides traded blows and Rudd missed another golden opportunity to take the lead on 32 minutes. But just four minutes later, Grant Middlemiss broke the deadlock when he pounced on a knockdown from a corner. He swivelled on a sixpence (that’s about 10p in new money) and buried a right foot volley into the top corner of Albert’s onion bag to give St.Cuthbert’s a just-about-deserved lead at half time.
The break in on-field proceedings saw a procession of locals emerge from the bar with pints of Tennents in real glasses and Jaegerbombs to accompany their ham and cheese toasties, which were brought onto the terraces by a kind lady from the clubhouse-a new spin on the ‘Prawn Sandwich Brigade, perhaps?
The second half continued much like the end of the first with St.Cuthbert’s playing the more constructive style and creating the lion’s share of chances. Sadly for them, Rudd seemed to have left his shooting boots back in Kirkcudbright as a procession of chances to kill the game off once and for all were missed, including a shot cleared off the line after striking the Hawick upright.
Hawick finally raised a worthwhile effort in the final ten minutes as they pushed forward for the equaliser. Their cause was helped when Saints were reduced to ten men with about five minutes remaining for what seemed a harsh, second yellow card for obstruction.
As the game clicked over into stoppage time, the home side had a succession of corners as they laid siege to Jack Johnston’s goal, and it was the Saints keeper who pulled off a superb, diving, one-handed save to protect their slender one goal advantage. And with that chance wasted, Hawick’s Scottish Cup campaign was over and our friends from St.Cuthbert’s put themselves in the hat (isn’t it about time they used a hat again?) for the second round draw. Man of the Match for Saints was a toss up between right back, Paul Gray, and either of the two lads in central midfield.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stick around to get some post-match quotes as I had to zoom off down the road to catch as much of Everton’s excellent 1-0 win over Chelsea as possible. Even worse, I won’t be able to cover the second round game as I’ll be working (honestly) in Amsterdam on October 5th. The draw, made by former Celtic left back Lee Naylor, has paired St.Cuthbert Wanderers with crack Junior side, Auchinleck Talbot, in another away tie. So check back in with The Football Pink for reaction and build-up to round two on The Road to Hampden.
Check out some photos from Saturday’s game: