MANSFIELD Park fell silent as Rory Hutton stepped up to take what would have been the winning kick against Championship chasing Ayr – you could have heard a pin drop at the other end of town in the Common Haugh.
Unfortunately it fell short.
Graham Hogg then had a chance to become a hero deep into injury time when he lined up another penalty attempt from almost the same spot – this time you could have heard the whispers at Wilton Lodge Park.
Agonisingly though for the hushed Greens support, his effort matched that of Hutton’s and the groans of disappointment were overshadowed only by the huge sighs of relief from the visiting players and fans, who can consider themselves unlucky not to have been humbled by a smaller, younger, depleted Hawick outfit.
Just as the Greens had run the seasiders close on the opening day of the season, so they turned up the heat again and came within a whisker of a deserved victory.
Hutton opened the scoring for the home side when Ayr were penalised for off-side and his kick split the posts. And when referee Marcus Caton blew for another off-side infringement, former Edinburgh professional Hutton doubled his own and his side’s tally for the afternoon.
It was no more than they deserved as Linden winger Graeme Anderson, who was lining up on the opposite flank to brother Steven, pushed forward. While there were promising bursts from YM’s Dean McCracken, David Denton and Kieran Willison.
When Ayr did gain possession it was often hoisted high into the sky. And when Hawick were penalised they made use of the boot again, but instead of taking three points, the visitors were kicking to the corner and making use of their heavier pack to drive the Greens back.
That tactic paid dividends when Cammy Taylor burst into the line after a couple of phases and touched down under the posts, with Ross Curle adding the conversion.
Ayr continued to pass up the chance to add three points, which almost cost them in the end, while Hawick defended stubbornly, marshalled by captain Bruce McNeil and assisted in no small way by the youthful exuberance of Gary Lowrie.
Cottrell had the crowd on their feet when the home side won a strike against the head and young Rory Sutherland showed no respect of age or size as he battered into the Ayr line.
But with half-time approaching Hawick were dealt a blow when the impressive Lindsay Gibson, who had done a power of work picking and driving from the bottom of the ruck, was sent to the sin bin.
Still it was the Greens who pressed and Sutherland took up from where he left off after the interval, driving straight through the Ayr defence. His run was continued by Edinburgh professional Denton but Graham Hogg’s final pass to Graeme Anderson just failed to go to hand.
Ayr looked rattled in the Mansfield mud and Hutton almost punished them with a trademark jink of the hips as he breezed past a couple of defenders and off-loaded to Michael Robertson. It looked a try all the way but the crowd’s joy was short-lived as Mr Caton adjudged the ball to have been held up.
The frustration was adding extra niggle, while injuries and replacements were disrupting the Hawick pressure.
Their momentum was halted altogether when Sean Linton was carded and Ayr threatened to take advantage.
But this time it was Damian Kelly who was left disappointed as a desperate home defence held him up over the line.
Hawick weathered the storm and turned defence into attack as Cottrell launched a clever box kick into the late afternoon sky. Ayr failed to deal with it and after one bounce, McNeil burst through and looked to be clear, only to be stopped short.
The script was set for a last gasp winner and Sutherland kept knocking on the door with his ferocious runs forward. But it was to end in heartache as first Hutton and then Graham Hogg saw their valiant efforts miss the target.