THORN ATHLETIC edged past Meadowbank AFC from the Edinburgh and Lothian Amateur Premier Division on Saturday after a competitive contest ended with the match being decided by a penalty shootout. Thorn goalkeeper Ryan Ward (featured image) was the hero as he saved the side from the capital’s decisive fifth penalty to send the Thorn through to the fifth round.
Thorn Athletic opened the scoring through a familiar source when Muir McCluskey set up John Martin to score his fourth goal in two games following his hat-trick against Cambria in the Thorn’s last league outing. It is the sixth goal that Martin has been directly involved in throughout the Thorn’s last three games and it came at a crucial time to put his side in the ascendancy just after the hour mark. Nobody on the pitch would have been more relieved to see the ball hit the back of the net than club captain Ryan Crawford, who uncharacteristically missed a golden opportunity to give his side the lead from the penalty spot in the first half.
However, it wasn’t enough to see out the game as a last-gasp equaliser from the visitors ensured that a combative cup tie would be settled by penalty kicks. After nine successful conversions from twelve yards, Thorn goalkeeper Ryan Ward produced the match winning save from Meadowbank’s fifth penalty to send the Thorn through and put the penalty shootout defeat suffered at the hands of Campsie Minerva in the West of Scotland cup in mid-October firmly behind them. Thorn Athletic manager Johnny McEwan could have done without the crippling nerves that come with watching on from the touchline as a week’s worth of preparation comes down to a penalty shootout but highlighted the importance of having a reliable presence between the posts for the spot kicks.
Boss Johnny McEwan said: “It was nervier than it had to be in the end, but the most important thing is that we are through. We had been doing pretty well until a flashpoint in the final ten minutes that seemed to disrupt our concentration and led to us conceding an equaliser.”
McEwan added: “At one nil they were always in the game, but we really should have put the tie to bed much earlier. We missed a penalty and a couple of other gilt-edged opportunities. We were also the walking wounded at the end after having to make all our subs, so it was a nervous time going into the shootout but thankfully Wardy made the save when it mattered and that’s all that matters now.”
Progression into the next round would have been the target at the start of the match for both sides but both teams managed to contribute to a very competitive cup tie despite both having ongoing injury problems. With Meadowbank only able to bring a squad of twelve players to the match and Thorn Athletic having to use all their available substitutes. It’s back to league business for the Thorn on Saturday as they travel to face Dalziel in the Caledonian Premier League, but they do so knowing that they will be in a national cup competition after the festive break and manager Johhny McEwan is content with the progress his side are making as they look to make it five wins in a row on Saturday.
McEwan said: “This is a huge match for us to keep us right in the hunt. The squad is under a bit of pressure but that means guys need to step up to the plate. We are likely to be in Scottish Cup action the first weekend after the festive break so it’s vital we keep the momentum going. Considering what we have been up against the first half of the season with injury and selection problems, we have to be happy with where we are at.”