THIS is probably the hardest football report I have ever put together (writes Alan Ducat).
It really should have been Steve Mitchell telling you how his beloved Brechin City had bounced back from an initial two-goal deficit at the Glebe to win their way into the final of the play-offs for a place in the Scottish first division.
He was in the stand last Wednesday evening to watch the reds bounce back to clinch a two-all draw with Cowdenbeath and set up a 90-minute decider at Central Park on Saturday (see his report on page 23)
And he was over in Fife on Saturday, his text messages to me reflecting his joy at Brechin getting the better of the Blue Brazil to win their way through to the two-legged final with Ayr United this week.
Sadly, Steve will not be around to cheer his favourites on, having passed away so suddenly at the age of 42 on Sunday morning.
Steve’s death has come as a real hammer blow to all of us who knew him as a colleague, a family member, a friend or a fervent City fan.
He didn’t get the opportunity to put into words how the club got the better of Cowdenbeath by two goals to nil to get within 180 minutes of a place in the Scottish first division.
But, I know from the text messages that were bouncing between us late on Saturday afternoon that he was relishing the thought of two games against Ayr to decide who takes the step up.
Indeed, his final text, relayed when the second goal went in at Central Park, simply stated: “The cream always rises to the top.”
That was Steve, and hopefully the club can do him proud ahead of his funeral by claiming a place in the first division.
A passionate fan, he always felt the players had it within themselves to come good after a jittery period that almost cost them a place in the play-offs.
And his faith was paid back in kind on Saturday past when, going into the game with Cowden locked at two-each, Brechin ran out two-nil victors to propel themselves into this week’s two-legged final.
The opening half at Central Park, by all accounts, was a tense affair, with the only moment of note coming in the 27th minute with the home side’s Colin Cameron forced Craig Neslon into a fine save.
Little change for the greater part of the second period, but City sealed the tie with two late strikes.
The first came in 78 minutes when Andrew Cook sent in a telling cross from the right and Jamie Redman fired home from six yards out.
That goal gave Brechin the upper hand and the second goal, in 84 minutes, was the clincher, Craig Molloy finishing from close range.
The result delighted manager Jim Weir, who said: “I am absolutely thrilled for the club to be in the final.
“It was important to get the first goal and then Molloy scored the second to calm my nerves - although he took some time sticking it in the back of the net!”
Chairman Ken Ferguson was equally thrilled to see City progress to the final.
“It didn’t look good at half-time last Wednesday evening,” he commented. “We were being thrashed by a Cowdenbeath side who were fast going forward.
“However, the manager made some changes and we did well to get back on level terms.
“That enabled us to go to Cowdenbeath with a fighting chance of progressing.
“On Saturday, I think both sides showed each other a lot of respect and it was a cagey affair for the most part.
“Whoever got the first goal was going to have the upper hand. Thankfully it was us and the second goal sealed it.”
Mr Ferguson is looking forward to meeting Ayr United over two games in the course of the next week.
Brechin City head west on Wednesday evening (tonight) and then entertain the Honest Men on Sunday afternoon.
“It will be two tough matches against a quality side that got the better of us when we were struggling with injuries and suspensions,” he explained.
“However, we have our big players fit and available for the final and hopefully we will return from Ayr United still very much in contention. Then it will be all to play for over ninety minuets at the Glebe.
“The fans have experienced the thrill of big occasions in the cup already this season and this is another. Hopefully it will be another fun day at the Glebe on Saturday.”