McNeil keeps his word in cup thriller

Image: by Gary Hutchison. STENHOUSEMUIR. Ochilview. Stenhousemuir FC official team picture 2013/14. Ross McNeil.
Image: by Gary Hutchison. STENHOUSEMUIR. Ochilview. Stenhousemuir FC official team picture 2013/14. Ross McNeil.

Stenhousemuir survived a red card and overcame a two goal deficit to complete an amazing turnaround at Galabank and book their place in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup.

Annan Athletic will be kicking themselves after completely controlling the first half of this replay and racing into a two goal lead courtesy of strikes from Josh Todd and David Hopkirk either side of half-time.

It was the introduction of Ross McNeil to the forward line that turned this game in ‘Muir’s favour.

Annan keeper Mitchell tripped him in the 77th minute and the referee Des Roache eventually awarded a penalty. John Gemmell thrashed the ball into the net to reduce the Annan lead to a single goal with 13 minutes left.

Stenhousemuir then took the game to Annan as they pushed for the equaliser. McNeil saw a shot saved after bursting through the middle in the 84th minute and a minute later Ross McMillan saw a header cleared off the line.

With two minutes left Martyn Corrigan brought on Ross Smith and pushed him up into the forward line to try and add another aerial threat to help John Gemmell. This had the desired effect and Gemmell and Ross Smith combined to play the ball into the path of Sean Dickson who swept the ball into the net.

Almost immediately the referee blew for full time and - in a reversal from the first game - it was Stenhousemuir who benefitted from an injury time goal.

The Warriors suffered a set-back when McMillan was sent off in the 96th minute for deliberate handball, but his teammates kept their cool and Sean Lynch flashed an effort just past the post shortly after.

Lynch was to be more successful in the last minute of the first period of extra time. Brown Ferguson, on for the injured Sean Dickson, played the ball into Gemmell and he flicked it through to Lynch, who curled a beauty into the top corner.

The start of the second period saw the Warriors extend their lead through the perseverance of John Gemmell.

The big striker charged down a clearance before rushing to the byline and whipping a cross into the middle where super-sub McNeil fired home from close range.

A delighted Martyn Corrigan told Heraldsport that the introduction of McNeil changed the game in his side’s favour.

“He said to me on the touchline before he went on: ‘Give me the opportunity and I’ll score for you’ - and that’s exactly what he did.”