Royalists have that extra edge to reach cup quarter-finals

Shaun Meikle is composed on the ball for Hawick Royal Albert against Heriot-Watt University at Albert Park
Shaun Meikle is composed on the ball for Hawick Royal Albert against Heriot-Watt University at Albert Park

Hawick Royal Albert 2 
Heriot watt University 1

(after extra time, 90min: 1-1)

Hawick Royal Albert entered the quarter-finals of the Football Nation Qualifying Cup through an extra-time win.

Royalists took a long and winding road to reach their destination though. Had the Albert Park side capitalised on the many scoring opportunities that fell their way it would have been a straight forward path to victory.

Facing a Heriot Watt side whose prime aim appeared to be to just defend, Royalists had the bulk of the play throughout, but when it came to the vital finishing touch matters broke down.

Indeed, the Albert had to wait until the third minute of injury time to open their scoring account as well as snatching a last-gasp dramatic equaliser.

Searching for their first win since toppling Berwick Rangers in the second round of the William Hill Scottish Cup, Royalists ruled the first half.

Build up moves and probing attacks, however, proved fruitless.

When a scoring opportunity arrived it was no go.

In the 38th minute, the students gave Royalists a lesson in the way of taking chances by breaking the deadlock with a goal from out of the blue.

With home No.1 Kyle Rankin having strayed way of his line, Heriot Watt’s Anton Dowds ran on to a loose ball to fire a shot past the stranded keeper.

Minutes into the second period Royalists came near to equalising when Gavin Pettigrew had a net-bound shot deflected round the post by Aiden Quinn following an Ayrton Sonkur free-kick.

Immediately after this, Craig Saunders pulled off the first of a string of saves when tipping a shot from Albert’s top performer Sean Meikle round the post.

Within minutes the University keeper excelled again when pulling off a brilliant stop from James McPartlin.

It was one-way traffic but Royalists were heading nowhere.

In a bid to find a much needed scoring touch there was a team reshuffle.

Thomas Crease was brought off the bench and added to the attack while Sonkur was switched from a defensive role to play up front.

Heriot Watt were on the back foot but were holding out.

Ninety minutes went past and the students appeared destined for victory.

Three minutes into injury time this was to change.

Following a hectic goalmouth scramble the University made a clearance.

The ball then broke to the feet of Kris Mitchell, who rifled a shot through a ruck of players and into the net.

With the final whistle going just after this, the cup tie went into extra-time and with minutes of the first period gone, the Albert went ahead.

Centre-half Sonkur, who is on loan from Queen of the South, doing the business when stabbing in a shot from close range after a free kick had landed in the goalmouth.

Royalists pushed for further strikes after this and Crease was foiled by a fine save from Saunders as well as seeing an effort cannon off the post.

There were to be no more goals, though.

Albert manager Dean Shanks said: “We needed a win as recent results haven’t been going our way and we got one but we had to work hard for it.

“We were always on top but I thought we were never going to score and I had it in my mind that it was going to be one of those days.

“However, we did manage to score and although we made it hard for ourselves we are in the quarter finals of the cup and that’s what counts.

“I was pleased with the character the players showed as they battled hard to the end.”

Royal Albert: K Rankin, R Stevenson, S Spence, D Johnson, A Sonkur, S Conaghan, G Pettigrew, S Meikle, J Morris, K Mitchell, J McPartlin. Subs: H Hunter, T Crease, R Boyd.