Cole McKinnon’s first half double set Drumsagard FA on the road to victory despite the brave efforts of Arbroath Lads Club. Goals from Andrew Rushbury, Lyell Hunter, and Kyle Gillespie eventually sealed the win after Bartosz Kwiatek’s brace had kept the visitors in the tie almost until half-time.
Arbroath faced a long journey down to Hamilton for this fifth round Scottish Cup tie, which had been called off last week due to Storm Desmond and despite conditions still not being perfect (it rarely is in Scotland in December!), both sides were keen to get the match played.
It took less than a minute for Drumsagard to live up to their pre-match billing as favourites. Left-back Ben Duncan found himself deep in opposition territory and as his ball bounced neatly in front of McKinnon, the attacking midfielder struck it sweetly on the half-volley into the corner of the net.
The Lads Club boys didn’t let their heads drop however and began to get the ball on the floor and look to pass it about. Despite conceding the early goal, Arbroath continued to play the game mostly in the Drumsagard half, playing a high line of defence and looking to attack down the wings. Connor MacFarlane linking up well with Kwiatek down the right as a sign of things to come.
Key to Drumsagard’s game however was their pace on the break and they looked to exploit this on every occasion. Kyle McDonald cut in from the right wing and his shot looked goalbound but for a fantastic diving save from Shaun Watt. The referee gave a throw-in, with the Arbroath coaching staff half-pleased to avoid the corner and half-disappointed that Watt wasn’t getting the credit he deserved.
There would be plenty more opportunities for the youngster to show his class, however. McDonald was causing havoc with his pace and movement down the right and he almost created the second with a flicked cross to Rushbury arriving late at the back post but he headed wide.
Despite most of the chances falling to Drumsagard, Arbroath were still seeing plenty of the ball and eventually fashioned out a chance of their own which they finished clinically. Unsurprisingly it came via the quick feet of MacFarlane down the right who used stepovers to great effect to reach the byline. His low cross looked to be heading into the arms of Annan Lung in the Drummy goal but Kwiatek showed great speed and quick-thinking to bravely nip in front of him and flick it into the empty net.
It’s a cliché that teams are at the most vulnerable just after they have scored but Arbroath fell into the same old trap and were behind within a minute of drawing level. McKinnon burst through on goal and a great save at his feet by Watt looked to have stopped the danger, but Arbroath failed to clear their lines and when the ball broke back to McKinnon he made no mistake with his second attempt.
The home side looked to extend their lead with some good play down the left through Rushbury and Lewis Kilpatrick resulted in Duncan firing in a low effort that was turned away by Watt at his near post.
It looked to be an even more important save when his side broke up the pitch and grabbed another equaliser moment later. A loose ball in the middle of the park took an awkward deflection off a Drumsagard player and sent in spinning over the defence who were caught cold. One player who wasn’t caught cold was Kwiatek who raced through to collect it and, one-on-one with the keeper, calmly slotted it past him then watched anxiously as it just rolled into the far corner. A composed finish under pressure.
They might have been the underdogs but Arbroath were battling bravely and despite being starved of opportunities, Kwiatek’s clinical finishing meant they were well and truly in the game.
Drumsagard once again looked to rally after conceding the goal, Rushbury’s one-touch layoff to Hunter bringing another good save from Watt who got some help from his captain Nairn Beaton to get it clear. Hunter then turned provider with the through ball to Dylan Campbell but Watt was out quickly to smother.
As the chances piled up for Drumsagard, it was quickly turning into the Shaun Watt show. First he pulled off a terrific save diving to his left from McKinnon’s edge of the box shot, then he denied the attacking midfielder with an absolutely world class one-handed diving stop from close range, with the Drummy number 10 wondering just what he had to do to beat this keeper and get his hat-trick.
Watt could only keep his side level for so long however. After denying McKinnon again from long range, Rushbury struck the rebound harmlessly across goal but again the Arbroath defenders didn’t take the opportunity to get it clear and when it was crossed back into the six-yard box Rushbury was waiting to knock it home. Coming not long before half time, it was a devastating blow for Arbroath who had done so well to keep themselves in the tie despite intense pressure from the home side.
Kwiatek almost got them on level terms again before the whistle after forcing his way across the right byline, but his shot was kept out by a combination of Lung and post.
Drumsagard took the lead into half time. Their extra man in the centre of the park giving them time to pick a through ball for wingers Campbell and McDonald or up to lone striker Rushbury, with McKinnon always busting a gut to get up and provide support. Arbroath on the other hand, while always seeing plenty of the ball, looked to play it short more often than their opponents and as such were struggling to create the same number of chances, with conditions not conducive to the passing game and Drumsagard seeming to have an advantage physically and numerically in the middle..