Yesterday I made the short train journey, about 40 minutes, from Paisley to Ayr for the Scottish Cup fourth round replay between Ayr United and Hibernian. The first encounter at Easter Road had ended in a goalless draw. I had not seen that game but apparently both sides rued missed chances that could have secured their passage to the fifth round. Many in Scotland, including myself, believed Ayr could win this replay. The Edinburgh side are traditionally one of the stronger outfits in the SPL but things have not gone to plan since manager Colin Calderwood took over from John Hughes in October of last year. Prior to last night's match the Hibees had only won two of their thirteen games under Calderwood. The men from Leith have an atrocious record in the Scottish Cup anyway considering their pedigree. The last time they lifted the oldest trophy in football was 110 years ago. And then there was the CIS Insurance Cup semi-final at Hampden in 2002: Ayr United, playing in the First Division at the time, eliminated Hibs 1-0 after extra time and reached their first ever major final. The Honest Men lost 4-0 to Rangers but they probably were not too upset about it.
Nowadays United have to strut their stuff in the Second Division. They said goodbye to full-time football after last year's relegation but they are once more in contention for promotion to the second tier of Scottish football. Somerset Park is a great stadium for groundhoppers but unfortunately unsuitable for a club with the ambition to play SPL football in the near future. There is one main stand and three fairly large terraces. Although the official capacity is just over 10,000 there was a great atmosphere inside the stadium with a crowd of under 4,000. I witnessed most of the first-half action from the North Terrace, including Mark Roberts's goal after 18 minutes. From that moment the crowd really started believing an upset was possible. Hibs had a few good chances but it was one of those nights for them.
In the second half the tension was relieved temporarily when a streaker, dressed only in a Borat-style mankini, entered the pitch and ran along the Somerset Road end of the pitch. Soon after however the nail-biting resumed. Then finally, Somerset Park erupted at the final whistle, followed by a good-natured pitch invasion. In the fifth round the mighty St Mirren will visit Somerset Park so I will be back on 5th February!
Tuesday 18th January 2011
Scottish Cup 4th round replay (first game: 0-0)
Ayr United 1 Hibernian 0
Goal: Roberts 19.