Forfar Albion 0

Haddington Athletic 6 (Lewis Temple 3, Bob Berry 7, Scott Moffat 29, 57, Jamieson own goal 41, Scott Wright 74)

On the face of it the draw for the second round of the Scottish Junior Cup could scarcely have been kinder to the Hi Hi – those who like to see new places were accommodated by our being given an away tie at Forfar Albion, a team we’d met just once previously and that at Millfield, and with every respect to all involved with our hosts their record over the past decade’s such that the bookmakers had us as 1/20 favourites to overcome their challenge, which tells its own story. For Joe Hamill’s first game as a manager in the national competition he’d to contend with no fewer than eight absences – Gavin Brown, Chris Cairney, Craig Cockburn, Paul Devlin, Shaun Hill, Andy Jones, and new signings Jordan Cropley and Declan Quinn, were all unavailable for a variety of reasons. We expected to come up against opposition decidedly on the young and inexperienced side and that’s what we got – Albion’s previous manager had resigned a fortnight earlier after his team picked up three points in their first seven outings, leaving them sat in the all too familiar position of bottom of the North Division table, and the new man in charge had endured a 7-0 home defeat against Scone Thistle a week earlier.

For all their difficulties in putting together a team capable of competing over the past decade, Albion off the field were no slouches – their officials were very welcoming on our arrival at the well-appointed Guthrie Park and certainly there was no hint of long-suffering misery about the place, no mean feat when your team’s finished bottom or second bottom every year since 2007. Once the whistle blew to signal kick off however it quickly became evident that as a contest the tie was never going to be anything other than relatively straightforward. In the third minute we went a goal up when Chris Robertson beat his man comfortably on the right before being unceremoniously fouled as he began making his way along the byeline. Skipper Chris Inglis delivered from a little in front of the corner spot, and the unmarked Lewis Temple met the ball at the back post, confidently putting the ball beyond Scott in the home goal – diminutive by goalkeeper standards but, as it turned out, not ineffective in the role. Scott was though beaten again in the seventh minute, Bob Berry giving him little chance with a well-executed free kick from twenty five yards out, to the left of the penalty area. Nifty footwork from Scott Moffat was curtailed illegally by an Albion player, leaving the referee no option other than to award the free kick, from which Berry lifted the ball over the defensive wall and the helpless ‘keeper. At two goals up and with over eighty minutes left to play, it didn’t seem unreasonable to think the Hi Hi might inflict a real hammering on their opponents, however the early momentum waned a bit and although almost all the play took place in the Albion half there was a considerable wait before goal number three materialised.

Robertson was seeing lots of the ball on the right, with the Albion left back complaining in good humour before half time he’d exhausted himself in trying to keep up with his pacy runs down the wing, and the space afforded him almost led to our third goal on ten minutes – Moffat however couldn’t quite connect with his inviting ball across the face of goal. Two minutes later another Haddington free kick resulted in another close call around the home goal, Inglis’ delivery glancing just wide of the back post off the head of George Cunningham, who like Robertson was enjoying his first action since the home win over Dalkeith Thistle on 23 September. Within a minute or so Inglis’ inswinging corner from the right almost found its way directly into the net, but was cleared by a home player at the expense of another corner, delivered this time from the left – the ball sat up kindly for Bob Wilson, up-field in search of his first Haddington goal, but the centre half shot over the bar from around twelve yards. Then on seventeen minutes Pinkie Tufail made his way down the right and delivered a great ball into the box for Robertson, whose shot was on target but brought out a great save from Scott. Fully in control, around this point the Hi Hi began to let the pressure on the home goal lessen a bit, the next notable goal effort coming a couple of minutes before the half hour mark – Cunningham headed off the post, but was called offside in any case.

With twenty nine minutes on the clock Moffat made it 3-0. Robertson again posed a real threat on the right, earning a corner from which Inglis flighted the ball towards the near post, where our top scorer met it with his head, cleverly directing it into the net in front of the ‘keeper. Given the imbalance in possession up to this point it seemed inconceivable Albion could turn things around over the course of the hour ahead, but there were no more near things around the home goal before our opponents finally managed a shot on goal with thirty nine minutes played, though Johnston failed to trouble Haris Alysandratos, for the most part a mere spectator, hitting his shot a fair few yards wide of our ‘keeper’s right hand post. Two minutes later the Hi Hi’s went 4-0 up; Inglis played a lovely ball down the right touchline, finding Moffat in space – the striker cut in towards goal but, in two minds whether to go directly for goal or set up a team-mate to his left, he chose the latter option but the ball hit off home defender Jamieson, who could do nothing to prevent it finding its way into the net. In the first half’s final minute Albion forced Alysandratos into his first save of the afternoon, a routine stop from a free kick twenty yards out – moments later the ball fell for Albion midfielder Gellatly, who ambitiously tried his luck from inside the centre circle and cleared the bar but not by much.

Half-time – Forfar Albion 0 Haddington Athletic 4

With the tie already sewn up Joe Hamill removed himself from the action at half time, Scott Wright coming on in his place with Jamie Hamilton dropping back to replace our manager in the left back role. The pattern of play in the second half was much the same as in the first, the vastly more experienced Hi Hi dominating possession and probing regularly around the home goalmouth, without though perhaps the same level of focus as might be expected in a closely-contested affair. On fifty minutes Moffat set up Wright for a shot on goal, but Scott brought off a super save to keep the scoreline down. A couple of minutes later some nice possession football was halted when Temple was fouled just in front of the eighteen yard line – Cunningham had high hopes for his free kick from such a promising position but the ball came back off the defensive wall. Temple had the ball in the Albion net moments later but the referee had no hesitation in blowing for offside. Just after this Inglis retired to the dugout nursing a strain, handing the captain’s armband to Cunningham while Jamie Chapman came off the bench to take his place in midfield. Moments after Chapman’s introduction a long ball out of Alysandratos’ hands fell invitingly for Moffat, but the alert home ‘keeper Scott beat our man to the loose ball by a narrow margin. Goal number five wasn’t far off though, arriving as it did in the fifty seventh minute – Robertson once more was pivotal in the build-up, playing the ball across the face of goal where Moffat was waiting to tuck away goal number eighteen for the season; there was a fortuitous aspect to the goal, Scott saving Moffat’s initial effort from close range only for the ball to rebound straight back in such a fashion as the striker had only to stick out his left foot to guide it home. A sixth almost materialised after sixty three minutes when Temple laid a lovely ball into the path of Wright, who from the left of goal seemed set to find the net, only for the ball to go out of play at the back post by a whisker. Wright did get his name on the scoresheet with sixteen minutes left, after another bout of good flowing football from the Hi Hi – Temple had the initial opportunity but couldn’t take it, and the ball fell for the substitute, who from the left of the penalty area chipped the ball over the ‘keeper and into the net, just the right side of the post this time at the top corner. After this, things petered out further, with nothing of particular note to report. It could be argued the Hi Hi might have been more ruthless and truly gone for Albion’s jugular, but with the job done and a place in round three secured there wasn’t any real appetite for piling further misery on the opposition.

Without wishing to sound in any way complacent it looked from the off as though we’d coast through the tie and that’s largely how things panned out – there was simply too much of a gap in quality between the teams for it ever to have been a hard-fought cup tie. Much respect though to everyone involved in Forfar Albion – when considering their record over recent years it was only natural to imagine we might be visiting a beleaguered club hanging on desperately for survival, but that proved far from the case. Guthrie Park’s a trim venue in pleasant surroundings and the club look to have things well-organised off the field – we wish them well and hope they can enjoy improved fortunes in the years to come.

Forfar Albion: Scott, English, Sangster, Jamieson, Thomson, D Johnston, Phillips, Gellately, Cargill, Fraser, Amos. Subs: R Anderson, Arbuckle, C Airlie, Taylor, Nee.

Hi Hi: Alysandratos, Tufail, Hamill, (Wright S46), Wilson, Cunningham, Inglis, (Chapman S53), Berry, Robertson, Moffat, Temple, Hamilton. Unused sub: Simmonds (SG).

Referee: Stephen Trainor.