Nerve, guile and sheer hard work secured a 2-0 victory for St Andrews United in Saturday’s Emirates Scottish Junior Cup fifth round replay at Kilbirnie Ladeside.
In what was an intimidating atmosphere, Jim Hardie’s side dominated their West Super League hosts from start to finish and thoroughly deserved to take their place in the quarter-finals for the first time since 1965.
Hardie sprung a major surprise in the back four, Gibb dropping down to the bench and, with Rattray injured, 19 year old Adam Porteous partnering Kevin Fotheringham with Johnny MacRae reverting to left back. Ramsay was brought into midfield in place of striker Gary Sutherland while Kilbirnie made one change with Gibson coming in at left back in place of Arthur, who was on the bench.
Kilbirnie kicked off on a very heavy pitch and had the first real pressure but McLean blazed over the bar.
In the next move, instead of shooting from the edge of the box, he played the ball through for Monaghan but the full back had strayed offside.
United had their first chance in the fourth minute when Watson moved forward through midfield before switching the ball to McInnes who - in turn - found Ramsay but he saw his shot blocked. The home side broke at speed through Montgomery, but Fotheringham managed to get back and block the ball before McMullan cleared any danger.
Dignan chased a long ball and, when Mc Cann tried to clear, it looped up off the Saints man and, luckily for the ‘keeper, back into his arms.
United took a deserved lead after 13 minutes. Buchan was tripped on the left just outside the box, Patrick took the kick and Dignan leapt to glance his header into the far corner.
McLean had a chance to pull Kilbirnie level on the 18th minute but saw his shot well saved by Bennett.
Ladeside were awarded a free kick for a push on McInnes by Ramsay 30 yards from goal, but the ball drifted straight through to Bennett.
Porteous made a great interception just as McInnes was about to shoot and MacRae completed the clearance.
Saints doubled their lead after 31 minutes when a free kick was poorly cleared and Patrick had enough time to turn on the penalty spot and clip the ball beyond McCann.
Gibson was booked for hacking down Dignan wide on the right when he looked to have got the ball, followed by McMullan for a rash challenge on Montgomery wide on the Kilbirnie left.
United should have been further in front when McInnes received the ball on the right, lobbed it over the full back and continued forward before playing a return pass with Dignan, but he couldn’t turn to get his shot on target.
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On the 52nd minute, Dignan was brought down again on the edge of the area by Gair who received a yellow card for his protestations.
A long throw from Patrick found MacRae but he put his shot wide of the far post and then Gow was sent off for Ladeside after he made a wild lunge at Dignan on the wing and received a second booking.
As the game reached the hour mark, Kilbirnie launched a concerted period of pressure but United’s defence and Porteous in particular held firm and dealt with everything the home side could throw at them.
McInnes was brought down in the centre of the park, and the midfielder almost made the home side pay two minutes later when he started a fine flowing move that also involved Buchan and Dignan before Paul Watson clipped his shot inches over the bar.
Watson hit a speculative shot from all of 45 yards out of goal with McCann off his line but his shot was just wide, however, he showed his defensive capabilities when he made a brilliant tackle on Seagraves on the edge of the box and then found a flying MacRae wide on the left, but his effort went across the face of goal.
Sutherland, who replaced Dignan, almost scored with his first touch after a great pass by Ryan McInnes but his effort was knocked wide by McCann.
Patrick was booked for an accumulation of fouls. The home side showed they weren’t totally out of the game when a corner was met by McLean but his header was brilliantly cleared by McInnes on the line. Sutherland and Watson did well on the left before setting up Buchan but he hit his effort over the bar.
United were now well on top and Sutherland was unlucky when he saw another effort turned round the post by McCann.
McLean was booked for dissent after persistent protesting and Suttie replaced Ramsay for United after 85 minutes.
Sutherland was then booked after a disagreement with Monaghan but, on the referee’s whistle, the Saints team and support were jubilant as they relished a quarte- final place for the first time in 47 years.
Tomorrow (Saturday) will see United return to Super League action with a crunch game at Carnoustie Panmure. Panmure are currently bottom of the league with just five points, four adrift of their nearest rivals, Lochee.
Three points will not secure United’s Super League position for another season, but will go a very long way as that would put them 10 points ahead of Carnoustie. Kick Off at Laing Park is 2.30pm.