Auchinleck Talbot 3-2 Hurlford United: Late drama secures 12th Scottish Junior Cup

Craig McCracken (left) celebrates his winner for Auchinleck
Craig McCracken (left) scored the winner after coming on as a substitute

Two stoppage-time goals secured Auchinleck Talbot a 12th Scottish Junior Cup success as they came from behind to beat Hurlford United.

Underdogs Hurlford dominated the early stages after taking the lead through Ross Robertson's fifth-minute penalty.

Dwayne Hyslop headed the favourites level shortly before the break.

But Paul McKenzie's fine dribble and finish looked to have won it for the Ford until Graham Wilson and sub Craig McCracken headed home from two corners.

It had looked like the Bot would be left as runners-up for a second year running - and by the same 2-1 scoreline after last season's loss to Glenafton Athletic.

However, the West Superleague leaders came good in the end against the side sitting nine places below them to extend their record number of Junior Cup triumphs.

Centre-back McCracken, in his second spell with Auchinleck after a spell in senior football with Ayr United, paid tribute to Tommy Sloan for the late substitution that led to the manager's sixth cup success with the Ayrshire club.

"He knows what he's doing," the 22-year-old told BBC Alba. "He's won it so many times and he knows exactly what to do.

"It's brilliant for him and all the players. This is my first appearance in the Scottish Cup this season - I've picked up a few injuries.

"I didn't start, so I was gutted there, but to come on and win - it just shows you how football can change so quickly.

"We certainly know how it feels to lose in the final and we didn't want that to happen again. Amazing. This is what you play football for."

Paul McKenzie fires Hurlford into a 2-1 lead
Paul McKenzie thought he had won the game after firing Hurlford into a 2-1 lead

Buoyed by improved late-season form, Hurlford started the better side in front of 4,874 fans who came to Rugby Park, Kilmarnock, ready to witness a sixth consecutive Junior Cup success by an Ayrshire club.

And they edged in front when Robertson's unconvincing penalty evaded goalkeeper Andrew Leishman after a clumsy Neill McPherson challenge on the striker.

Defender Chris Robertson squandered a good chance to extend the lead, but Hyslop rose to head Talbot level eight minutes before the break from a Wilson cross.

Talbot gained the ascendency and Ross Fisher headed off his own line before Jamie Glasgow twice shot straight at former Forfar Athletic goalkeeper Alistair Brown as a tiring Hurlford were consistently exposed on the break.

However, it was Auchinleck's turn to be caught napping as Hurlford claimed for a foul on Ross Robertson and, when the ball broke to McKenzie, the winger stepped inside a couple of defenders and poked it into the far corner from 16 yards.

McKenzie was named man of the match but was left "shocked" by the late capitulation.

"We've only got ourselves to blame," he said. "At the end of the day, we've conceded at three set-pieces and you can't do that.

"That's their biggest strength and that's all they had today and they've came and punished us with it and we've not been big enough and strong enough to stand up to it."

The late comeback secured Talbot a third Scottish Junior Cup in six seasons and denied opposition manager Darren Henderson a second triumph with Hurlford, four years after he led them to their first Scottish trophy.

What the managers said

Auchinleck Talbot manager Tommy Sloan gets his hands on the cup for the sixth time
Auchinleck Talbot manager Tommy Sloan got his hands on the cup for the sixth time

Auchinleck Talbot's Tommy Sloan: "What a feeling! I didn't think it was coming to be honest.

"Mark Shankland has come on and his deliveries into the box have made all the difference.

"Winning the trophy for the first time was the best but this one is sweet. We'll celebrate tonight then look at the next game. Cumnock are not going to lie down to us [Talbot will secure the league title with a win]."

Hurlford United's Darren Henderson: "We just switched off at the two set-pieces.

"It's a hard one. I can't fault them. To a man, all the players have been magnificent for me. They've not done a lot wrong. We just couldn't see it out.

Auchinleck have done it to better teams than us and they'll do it again. It's a horrible way to lose."

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