IF Jim Weir could bottle up the ingredients that went into Kevin Byers’ performance in a Brechin City jersey in the much postponed Scottish Cup replay at Annan last week he would undoubtedly have a highly profitable commodity on his hands (writes Steve Mitchell).
Byers produced arguably his finest 90 minutes in a City jersey as he helped tear apart City’s third division opponents and leave them dead and buried by the time this game reached that half-way mark.
The former Inverness Caley Thistle midfielder played an influential role in scoring one tremendous goal and laying on at least one of City’s other counters as they eased their way into the next round of the Scottish Cup - and a meeting with Queen of the South at Palmerston.
Despite being forced into changes, Weir’s side, which included Mark Docherty back in the starting eleven, and youth team player Marc Walker on the bench, took the lead from the first meaningful cross into the box.
Following a corner, Janczyk picked out Rory McAllister six yards out and the big striker leaned forward to head his side in front.
Annan had actually started the game reasonably well and they were very quickly back in it, with an equaliser just five minutes later.
The blustery conditions made high balls into the box all the more difficult to defend and that proved to be the case from Chris Jardine’s free-kick as Bryan Gillfillan got his head to the ball first at the far post.
City’s second goal didn’t need any wind assistance. It arrived courtesy of the right boot of Craig Molloy, whose magnificent first-time effort from 25 yards was lashed into the net, giving the goalkeeper no chance.
Brechin gained added impetus from their second goal and Byers and McAllister both went close to adding to the visitors tally, before they added a third in the 37th minute.
David McKenna’s decision not to give up on what looked like a lost cause paid off. The City striker charged Annan goalkeeper John Jamieson’s clearance down and the ball rebounded off his back and into the net to put City three-one ahead.
While City’s third goal had a slice of good fortune about it, the same could not be said of the fourth. It was solely manufactured by the right boot of Kevin Byers.
The midfield man cut inside his marker and created a space for himself very cleverly before firing a tremendous effort into the top left-hand corner of the net.
City left the field four-one to the good at half-time and, while they may have played better football at times this season, there was no getting away from the immensely high quality of City’s finishing throughout the first period.
Annan started the second half on the offensive and, following a corner, the ball broke to former City man Ian Harty inside the box, but with his back to goal, the veteran tried an audacious over-head kick, which rebounded off the foot of the post and away to safety.
Annan did manage to pull another goal back ten minutes after the restart. Once again it followed a corner kick and City failed to clear their lines, allowing Andy Aitken to fire home Jordan Halsman’s corner from just inside the penalty area.
Rory McAllister, once again a constant threat throughout, was denied by a fine save by Jamieson, the goalkeeper getting down to block Rory’s low drive after he had escaped the clutches of Kevin Neilson.
However, with Annan committing more and more men forward as time progressed, McAllister did, once again, take advantage of slackness in the heart of the home defence, as he beat the offside trap and advanced and rounded the goalkeeper, before rolling the ball home to give the reds a nap hand.
Annan threw everything they could at Brechin, but the reds defended very well throughout the second period, with not a failure in the entire City line-up.
McAllister led the line superbly and the entire City midfield or back four could have qualified for the man-of-the-match award. However, Kevin Byers was a creative genius for most of the game.
Annan Athletic: - Jamieson; Muirhead, MacBeth (Steele), Neilson, Aitken, Gilfillan, S. Sloan (Felvus), Jardine (L. Sloan), Harty, Cox and Halsman.
Brechin City - Nelson; McLean, Cook, White, Moyes, Janczyk (Fusco), Byers (Redman), Molloy, McAllister, McKenna (Archdeacon) and Docherty.
Referee: Bobby Madden; Crowd: 512.