On paper this replay of last year’s cup final looked too close to call but Talbot simply blew the hosts away; cruising to a 5-0 win over Hurlford that in no way flattered Talbot.
Talbot made the perfect start, taking the lead with only 6 minutes on the clock. Graham Wilson fed the ball out to McDowall on the left & he whipped a cross over to the far post where GARETH ARMSTRONG looped a header back across goal & over Brown to put Talbot 1-0 ahead.
Within a minute Talbot were back on the attack. Pope lifted a great ball over from the left touchline that flew across the face of goal and wide of the far post.
With 8 minutes gone Talbot were firmly in the driving seat as they doubled their lead. McDowall showed great pace & strength to surge through the centre & break into the Ford box where he was unceremoniously dumped to the turf by Fisher. The ref pointed to the spot & booked the Ford full-back before STEPHEN WILSON coolly slotted the penalty home to make it 2-0.
On a quiet afternoon for Leishman, he was called upon in the 11th minute when L Caddis lifted a cross over from the right that was met by M McKenzie. His header landed on target but Leishman held it at his left post.
P McKenzie had a half chance to reduce the deficit a few minutes later. Hurlford won a corner on the right that was pulled back to him at the edge of the area but his shot sailed over the bar like a try conversion.
McKenzie’s next involvement was receiving a booking in the 26th minute when he went in with raised studs in a challenge on Hyslop. This proved doubly expensive for Hurlford as Pope flighted the ball into the area where GRAHAM WILSON guided a looped header over Brown to put Talbot on easy street.
The home side had a chance to pull one back in the 31st minute when they won a free kick 23 yards from goal but M McKenzie made nothing of it; tamely firing a shot straight into the wall.
Hurlford’s defence had looked shaky from the start & they were posted missing again in the 37th minute. Leishman launched the ball down the centre where Hyslop rose to head it on. The ball came through to Graham Wilson on the left of the penalty area but he fired over from the bar from 16 yards.
A minute later Talbot ought to have moved four ahead following a free flowing move. A string of passes ended with Graham Wilson sending Armstrong through on goal down the right. He could have shot but instead opted to roll it across goal where McDowall prodded it home but he’d moved too early & was caught offside.
The goal frame came to Hurlford’s rescue in the 43rd minute. Graham Wilson gathered on the left & played it back into the path of Pope whose fierce drive cannoned off the bar with Brown well beaten.
Hurlford had a rare chance in injury time when miscommunication in the Bot defence saw McCracken & McPherson go for the same ball. It broke to Reilly at the edge of the area & his snapshot went just wide of the left post. This proved the final act of the half & Talbot trooped off 3 goals ahead.
The home side made a change at the interval with Fisher staying in the club house & Whittaker on in his place.
Talbot started the 2nd half positively & tested the home defence in the 47th minute. Graham Wilson’s ball up the line sent McDowall racing toward the box where he knocked it past Robertson but he did just enough to ensure the ball ran through to Brown.
P McKenzie managed an effort on target in the 48th minute; firing on goal from 25 yards but it never seriously tested Leishman.
The Bot were soon back on the attack, Pope carrying the ball forward before releasing Graham Wilson down the left. He whipped a great cross over to the back post which broke off the in rushing McDowall & wide of target.
The game was all over bar the shouting when Talbot moved 4-0 ahead in the 53rd minute. Pope slung an accurate cross into the centre where GRAHAM WILSON rose to power a header inside the right post past the static keeper.
Hyslop had his name taken in the 55th minute for a late challenge.
Hurlford made their 2nd change soon after with R Caddis making way for Morrison.
The home side had a chance to grab a consolation in the 58th minute when they caught Talbot on the counter-attack. M McKenzie was played in down the left & made his way into the area where he hit a tame shot at Leishman.
Kemp had to limp off in the 63rd minute & Samson came on in his place.
Talbot nearly moved further ahead after 68 minutes. McCracken’s ball from the back found Graham Wilson in space on the left. He held it up before releasing the ball out right where Lyle had raced forward & his low angled drive flew across goal & narrowly past the right post.
Tucker now made a further substitution with McIlroy replacing Graham Wilson.
Samson had a close call in the 69th minute when he was barged into the advertising hoardings by Barron but fortunately he wasn’t badly injured. Pope took the free kick & bent a ball to the far post where Watt put it behind for a corner. When Stephen Wilson’s corner came over McCracken met it & saw his header cleared off the line by Hodge. The ball came out to Armstrong & his powerful drive was net bound til it was blocked by Robertson. Talbot then had a 3rd bite of the cherry when it broke to Hyslop 6 yards out. He passed it toward goal but didn’t get enough behind it & once again the ball was cleared off the goal line.
Talbot saved the best for last. With 74 minutes gone Armstrong made tracks down the right before pulling the back across toward McDowall. He teed it up for GORDON POPE who hit as sweet a strike as you’ll see all season; leathering the ball into the top corner from 35 yards to put Talbot 5-0 ahead & set the benchmark for goal of the season.
Tucker now completed Talbot’s changes with White coming on in place of Hyslop.
Talbot didn’t rest on their laurels and kept pushing forward in search of more but Hurlford managed to hold on to the end without any further damage.
A superb performance from the Bot that narrows Hurlford’s lead at the top & sets Talbot up nicely for next week when they entertain Cumnock at Beechwood.
Hurlford United – Brown, Hodge, Fisher, Barron, C Robertson, L Caddis, P McKenzie, Watt, Reilly, R Caddis, M McKenzie
Subs – Byrne, Whittaker, McWaters, Morrison, R Robertson
Auchinleck Talbot – Leishman, Lyle, Pope, McPherson, McCracken, Armstrong, Stephen Wilson, Hyslop, Graham Wilson, Kemp, McDowall
Subs – Samson, McIlroy, White, Shankland, Glasgow
Photographs by Paul Flynn.
Talbot suffered a frustrating loss at Blair Park due in no small part to leaving their shooting boots at home.
The opening spell was very scrappy with the ball careening up & down the pitch at breakneck speed.
The first opening came in the 8th minute when a shy from the right found Stephen Wilson inside the area. He turned away from his marker before toe-poking an effort wide of the right post.
Two minutes later McIlroy had a half chance in the Hurlford box. McPherson nodded the ball into the penalty area to find McIlroy breaking down the left. Sean got his shot away but it was blocked by Fisher & deflected over the bar. Shankland pulled the corner back to the edge of the box where Stephen Wilson curled a shot just over the bar.
Hurlford had barely mustered an attack but they took the lead against the run of play in the 18th minute. McKenzie gathered on the right & swung a cross into the centre which came off the back of the unfortunate CRAIG MCCRACKEN & sailed past Leishman.
Talbot pushed for the equaliser & had an opportunity in the 25th minute when Graham Wilson was obstructed outside the area. Shankland took the set piece but got too much on it & blazed his effort over from 22 yards.
The match should have been level on the half hour mark. Graham Wilson sped down the right past Mikilen & slid it across the face of goal. Shankland looked set to burst the net from 6 yards out but tried to pass it in, allowing Brown the chance to smother it.
The next Bot chance came in the 40th minute. Graham Wilson climbed to meet a ball down the centre & head it into the path of Hyslop whose low drive from 18 yards shaved the right post on its way past.
On the stroke of half time Talbot had another opportunity. Stephen Wilson gathered on the right & chipped the ball inside the area to find McIlroy. He lobbed the ball over the advancing Brown but didn’t get enough on it & the keeper was able to scramble back & retrieve the ball in the goal mouth and so Talbot went in a goal down at the interval despite having dominated proceedings.
Talbot started the 2nd half strongly, pressuring the Hurlford box but to no avail. Pope fired a good cross into the centre but there was no one on the end of it and a shortly after Graham Wilson slid a dangerous ball across goal that went a begging.
McCracken had his name taken in the 56th minute for an aerial challenge on McKenzie; with the Hurlford player milking the incident for all it was worth.
Tucker made his 1st change in the 59th minute when Glasgow came on for Shankland.
Talbot’s next chance came from one of the many corners they won. Glasgow lifted it into the area where Pope headed it just over.
Hurlford did have the ball in the back of the net in the 70th minute but Kean was clearly offside as he bundled Ferguson’s cross home from close range and the linesman was quick to flag.
Tucker now made a further change with Armstrong replacing White in the centre.
Talbot were camped in the Hurlford half but a combination of resolute defending and some poor final balls meant that they couldn’t convert their pressure into clear cut chances and then finally when they did create decent openings, Talbot failed to capitalise.
Hurlford were also doing their best to frustrate Talbot with some blatant time-wasting which went unpunished due to the laxity of the match officials.
In the 79th minute Graham Wilson rose inside the box to flick the ball down into the path of Armstrong but he couldn’t get his shot away and the ball was cleared.
With 5 minutes remaining Talbot missed a couple of chances in quick succession. Graham Wilson sent a ball across goal that came to McIlroy at the back post but he couldn’t force it home. The ball went out to Stephen Wilson who crossed it into the centre where Hyslop met it unopposed but his header from 6 yards crashed off the bar. Hyslop went for the rebound & tried to force it home in a packed goalmouth but the referee took the easy option, intervening to award a free kick to the home side.
The referee could easily have added 5 or 6 minutes on at the end for various lengthy stoppages & treacle slow substitutions but there was to be no Fergie time and a couple of minutes after the 90 he blew up for full-time.
A disappointing result for Talbot who now travel through to Kilbirnie knowing only a win will do if they are to have any realistic tilt at the league title.
Hurlford United – Brown, Fisher, Lidington, Mikilen, G Mitchell, D Mitchell, McKenzie, Watt, Kean, Robertson, Ferguson
Subs – Jenkins, Hodge, Agnew, Whitiker, Caddis
Auchinleck Talbot – Leishman, Lyle, Pope, McPherson, McCracken, White, Hyslop, Shankland, G Wilson, McIlroy, S Wilson
Subs – Glasgow, Pooler, Armstrong, Harvey, Faulds
Sometimes a point can feel like winning all three, and this was the case yesterday as Talbot produced a late fightback to secure a draw away at Hurlford.
The game was only 7 minutes old when Wilson was harshly cautioned for a foul wide of the Talbot box. Kelly took the free kick but drilled it low straight into the wall.
Within a minute Talbot were threatening down the other end. Young gathered out on the left & cut back onto his right foot before swerving a dangerous cross over that C Robertson headed behind for a corner on the right. Young swept it into the near post where Wilson glanced a header on target that was cleared off the line.
In Hurlford’s next attack Hodge went on a good run, beating a couple of men down the right before shooting from the angle of the box but it sailed straight at Leishman.
Latta had his name taken in the 12th minute for a foul on McKenzie near the bye line.
Six minutes later Latta’s afternoon was over. He fell awkwardly after an aerial challenge & limped from the field to be replaced by White.
Molloy received a caution in the 25th minute for a foul on Young.
Milliken had a half chance in the 32nd minute. He held off Fisher to get to a ball over the top & raced into the penalty area. The angle was too tight for a shot so he tried to square it across goal where it was blocked by C Robertson & broke through to the keeper.
A minute later Hurlford took the lead thanks to a rare clanger from Leishman. There appeared to be no danger when a nothing ball was floated down the centre into the penalty area. Leishman came out to gather but misjudged the flight of the ball, missing it completely, leaving R ROBERTSON the simple task of passing it into the empty net.
Hurlford had a chance to double their lead in the 38th minute. Fisher drove forward before releasing the ball out to McKenzie in space on the right. He pulled it back across the area to pick out Roberts who shot wide of the right post.
Talbot had an early opportunity in the 2nd half when Wilson was pulled down just outside the Hurlford penalty area. Pope took the set piece but lofted his shot well over the bar.
The home side began to take a grip on the game & had Talbot pegged back in their own half for a spell without being able to test Leishman. The closest they came was in the 59th minute when Robertson laid the ball off to Roberts 20 yards out & he fired just over the bar.
Talbot had a chance to put the home defence to the test in the 63rd minute when Young won a free kick on the right. He delivered a good ball into the centre which Fisher headed out to the edge of the box where Stevenson volleyed it over the bar.
Leishman came to Talbot’s rescue a minute later. Robertson headed the ball into the path of McKenzie to send him through on goal but Leishman managed to block his attempted lob.
Brash, who was living up to or down to his name depending on your point of view, managed to talk his way into the book in the 65th minute.
Milliken nearly got in behind in Talbot’s next foray up field. A mix up between C Robertson & his keeper saw Milliken nip in between them just inside the penalty box but Fisher got across to turn it out for a shy.
A combination of Leishman & the woodwork prevented Hurlford doubling their advantage in the 73rd minute. Talbot’s defence failed to cut out a ball in from the right that landed at the feet of McKenzie. He prodded it goal ward & Leishman stuck out his right hand to turn it onto the post before Lyle scrambled it behind.
It looked bleak for Talbot two minutes later when Hurlford moved two goals in front. McGoldrick headed behind for a corner on the right and when it came over Fisher directed his header inside the left post where THOMSON put it into his own net whilst trying to clear off the line.
Tucker now made a change with Pooler coming on in place of Thomson.
The Hurlford defence had a lucky break with 10 minutes remaining. Pooler got free down the left & cut the ball back into the centre to find Wilson. He turned to shoot but a Hurlford defender nicked the ball off him & sent it toward his own goal where Brown had to save with his feet to prevent an o.g.
Hurlford had a chance to put the game beyond all doubt in the 81st minute when they won a free kick 22 yards out. R Robertson took it but sent a tame shot through to Leishman.
Talbot’s next attack saw Milliken racing down the left. He lifted over a cross that Wilson headed for goal, only to see C Robertson clear it from the goal mouth.
Time looked to be running out for Talbot but they were thrown a lifeline in the 84th minute when they pulled a goal back. GRAHAM WILSON latched onto a ball in from the right & took a touch before slamming a low shot inside the left post to make it 2-1.
Hurlford were rattled & threw on a couple of late substitutes in an attempt to run the clock down. Firstly, Kean coming on for Roberts and a few minutes later Merenghi replacing Brash.
The latter substitution proved to be decisive. With 1 minute remaining Milliken burst down the left wing & clipped a cross over to the far post where MERENGHI scored a bizarre own goal; coolly heading it inside the left post under no pressure to level the score.
Talbot’s tails were up but there was no time left to press home their advantage & the game finished 2-2.
With Glenafton being held to a draw at Arthurlie, and Rob Roy slipping up against Kilbirnie this was definitely a point gained for Talbot & could yet prove to have a real bearing on the title chase.
Next up for Talbot is a midweek trip to Troon on Ayrshire cup duty.
Hurlford Utd – Brown, Hodge, Kelly, Fisher, C Robertson, Molloy, McKenzie, Brash, M Roberts, R Robertson, Chisholm
Subs – Kean, Byrne, Merenghi, Agnew, McColm
Auchinleck Talbot – Leishman, Lyle, Pope, Harvey, McGoldrick, Stevenson, Young, Thomson, Milliken, G Wilson, Latta
Subs – White, Pooler, McPherson, Hewitt