Brechin City 2 St Johnstone 2
SOMEWHERE in a dark corridor in a television studio deep in the heart of England there should be a television executives from Sky Sports and, closer to home, BBC Scotland, looking for new jobs, after missing out on an opportunity to watch one of the finest cup-ties I have seen in 35 years watching Brechin City.
While the predictable SPL rubbish helped bore people to death at lunchtime, this was a real old-fashioned cup tie, where the game itself and then the result was in doubt right up until the last kick of a ball.
While Sky and the BBC have gone down the football equivalent of let’s pick three out of four games and ignore the only non-SPL side in the competition, it was their loss.
What they missed out on was an epic game of football, with both sets of players deserve ingenormous credit for trying to play positive football on a glue-pot pitch.
Brechin created more opportunities than their SPL opponents in the first 45 minutes, St Johnstone came back strongly after half-time and their manager made a positive substitution that handed them the initiative. However, take nothing away from Brechin. In Rory McAllister, who once again showed why he should grace the same stage as the individuals he took the field against on Saturday, City had an individual voted man-of-the-match, having danced around the Saints back four in a manner that underlined his ability as a top notch footballer.
In defence Gerry McLaughlan was composed, dominant and powerful, his only lapse being the loss of substitute Reynolds at the death, which could have proved more costly.
However, one bit of tiredness doesn’t detract from an otherwise flawless performance from the big man, who has attracted the sort of cult following at Glebe Park that has been afforded the likes of Harry Cairney and Davie Watt before him.
I was lucky to be joined by almost 100 people in the morning who helped remove morning snow from the Glebe Park playing surface.
First of all Frank McDermott passed it as playable at 11 am. However, match referee Steve Conroy carried out two further inspections before the game was declared on.
As one punter said during the snow clearing there were more people in to clear snow off the park than used to come to home games when some of us started watching the reds.
Steve Conroy could have probably postponed it. His decision to keep the game on was one that was rewarded with a game full of goal-mouth incidents, controversial moments and four well taken goals.
If the SFA have another think tank, perhaps they should think about why so many games are postponed in dreich weather conditions, if this is what ensues.
Mr Conroy went on to do a fine job in the testing conditions of refereeing the game and hopefully he will be in charge for the replay on March 22.
The first opening in what was a very positive start by Brechin saw Craig Molloy’s drive deflected into the arms of former Aston Villa goalkeeper Peter Enckleman.
Just five minutes into the game, St Johnstone’s Liam Craig cracked a well-struck effort off the underside of the crossbar.
City were stirred rather than shaken and, less then a minute later, almost took the lead themselves, McAllister and McKenna linking up on the right and the City number nine finding Kevin Byers whose first-time effort was curled perfectly around Enckleman but struck the foot of the post.
Saints came at City again and Ewan Moyes had to time his tackle to perfection to halt the advances of Liam Craig inside the City penalty area.
At the other end a mis-placed back pass from Graham Gartland, who had an uncomfortable afternoon against Rory McAllister, led to a corner which Enckleman grasped.
McAllister was once again prominent as his strength took him down the right flank and he picked out Redman, whose cross-cum-shot was grabbed under his crossbar by Enckleman.
Jamie Adams became the first booking of this enthralling cup tie when he hauled down Craig Molloy. City continued to press and at this stage were looking more likely than their illustrious opponents.
Byers picked out McKenna on the left hand side of the St Johnstone box and the striker cracked a decent effort narrowly past the upright.
McAllister went down in the box under pressure from Gartland, but referee Conroy waved away the striker’s penalty claim.
Craig Nelson had his first real save to deny Danny Invincible from close range along with some help from Byers who cleared for a corner. Then Jamie Redman was booked for hauling down former City man Danny Grainger.
In the 41st minute Glebe Park shook to its very heart. Neil Janczyk burst through the heart of the Saints’ midfield and then the heart of their defence. He played a lovely one two with McKenna and, as he attempted to latch on to the return pass, he went down like Foinavon at Aintree.
Penalty said Mr Conroy. Up stepped Craig Molloy, obviously the coolest man in the Glebe, and he dinked the ball over the goalkeeper.
The referee, however, ordered a retake, as McAllister, amongst others had encroached into the box. McAllister stepped up and sent Enckleman the wrong way to give City a one-nil half-time lead.
Jamie Redman started City on the attack in the second period and Enckleman was forced to push away the midfield man’s curling effort.
However, it was St Johnstone who found themselves back in the game just two minutes after the restart. Chris Millar popped up inside the City box and fired past the unsighted Craig Nelson to level the score.
If losing a goal was meant to have a negative effect on Brechin it had the exact opposite. Back they came again and from Janczyk’s corner, Ewan Moyes’ header was cleared off the line by Steven Anderson.
Brechin looked to have an even stronger penalty claim than the one they were awarded when Gartland threw McAllister to the ground inside the box. However, Referee Conroy waved away the City protests.
City went close again when David McKenna bravely managed to squeeze through an effort on goal after a mix-up between Anderson and Enckleman.
Having had a decent spell of pressure, Brechin were hit by the classic sucker punch. Nelson tipped over McDonald’s header, but from a corner on the right Invincible stole in off his marker to head Saints into the lead for the first time in the game.
Anderson was then fortunate to remain on the pitch after McAllister once again showed him a clean pair of heels. The defender blocked the striker’s run and picked up a caution.
In the 70th minute, David McKenna received a standing ovation from the home support after he was replaced by Daniel McKay.
City fought their way back again and McAllister won a free-kick when Gartland brought him crashing to the ground. The striker tried to make the ball bounce in front of the goalkeeper, but Enckleman once again grasped the ball comfortably.
In the 77th minute, the roof almost came off the cemetery end enclosure, as man-of-the match Rory McAllister took control of a lobbed pass from Craig Molloy and spun Danny Grainger, before sending a perfect effort into the net off the inside of Enckleman’s far post.
Two-two and the game continued to swing one way and another.
Fusco replaced Byers.
Back came Brechin once again and McKay found McAllister on the right hand side of the City box and he fired over the bar.
Then it was St Johnstone who almost stole it at the death with Craig Nelson doing well to put Steven Reynolds off as the striker tried to net from six yards.
The TV companies’ loss was certainly Brechin’s gain.
If they have any sense of injustice whatsoever, perhaps the replay might make the television. (it has: see front page for story.)
Brechin City - Nelson, McLean, Cook, McLaughlan, Moyes, Janczyk, Redman, Molloy, McAllister, McKenna, (McKay) and Byers (Fusco).
St Johnstone - Enckelman, MacKay, Grainger, Anderson, Gartland, Craig, (Millar) Davidson, Invincibile, Adams, MacDonald and Samuel (Reynolds),