Scottish Championship

Scottish Championship Irn Bru Challenge Cup III

Eight teams have made it through to the quarter finals of the fizzy pop cup, one Northern Irish side, a Welsh team and six from Scotland, five from the Championship and one from league one. By the end of the weekend, four remained. Crusaders, Inverness, Dumbarton and TNS all saw off their rivals to make it to the semi finals of the who-cares cup. Those of you that have picked up on my somewhat disparaging comments on the tournament won’t be shocked to know that my beloved Dundee United did not make the grade, thus rendering this cup utterly pointless. Let us take a closer look at my disappointment by starting the analysis at Tannadice Park, when Dundee United took on Crusaders, visiting from Northern Ireland.

Dundee United 1-2 Crusaders

Dundee United finally appointed a new manager in former Hearts cup winner Csaba Laszlo. He kept faith with Ray McKinnon’s policy of letting his second stringers play this cup tie, and boy did they let him down. James Keatings had a shot fly over the bar early on, while big defender William Edjenguele saw his header saved by former Burnley goalkeeper Brian Jensen in the first half. Fraser Fyvie captained the Arabs on the day, and celebrated the occasion with a wonderful strike to give the home side a goal ten minutes after the halftime break. The lead lasted for just over ten minutes, with David Cushley taking advantage of some classic Dundee United defending by scoring a free header from a set piece. The game seemed to be heading to extra time, but the Northern Irish side evidently had a flight to catch, and didn’t want a rush to the airport. Gavin Whyte pounced on a long ball from the back, evading a weak United defence to steal the win for the visitors and ensure the few hardy fans that made the journey North East went home satisfied. There were positives to take for the new Dundee United manager, but he has a lot of mistakes to eradicate, and quickly, if United want to bounce back in the league.

The New Saints * 0-0 Queen of the South

I won’t, I won’t dress this up. This tie was dreadful. The Saints had home advantage, Queens had the attacking talents of Stephen Dobbie, James McFadden and Derek Lyle, yet nobody could find the net after 120 minutes. I could depict the games incidental moment, the highlight being QOS being denied a stonewall penalty with three minutes to go, or, I could just relive the penalty shoot out. So, let’s start the analysis at the beginning of the penalty shoot out. TNS missed their first penalty of the shootout, Alan Martin diving to his right to save the low shot. 0-0. Derek Lyle then swaggered up, firing bottom left, only to see his own effort saved. 0-0. Ryan Brobbel walked up for TNS, firing his attempt laughably high over the crossbar. 0-0. Stephen Dobbie was next up, the seasoned pro a near certainty to open the shootout scoring. He failed, pulling his shot wide left. 0-0. Very wide left. Christian Seareant finally broke the games duck, delicately placing his shot down the middle. 1-0. Kyle Jacobs laced up his scoring boots and tucked his shot easily into the bottom left to keep QOS in contention. 1-1. Alex Darlington scored his penalty for The New Saints, although he really shouldn’t have. Alan Martin dived the right way, but somehow dived over the ball to let the attacker score. 2-1. James McFadden rolled back the years to score a cheeky penalty to his left side. 2-2. Wes Fletcher tucked away his penalty with ease. 3-2. Callum Fordyce scored easily the worst penalty of the day, his stunted penalty slowly trickling over the line. The TNS ‘keeper guessed the right way but jumped over the slow-moving ball. 3-3. The shootout went to sudden death, and things went horribly wrong for the Scottish side. In the most crucial penalty of the night, TNS let their goalkeeper, Paul Harrison, take a penalty, and he rifled it in. This was arguably the best penalty of the night. 4-3. Andrew Stirling was tasked with equalising the score, and failed. Harrison saved the penalty, moments after scoring his own, and ran off to join his teammates in mass celebration.

Dumbarton 2-0 Raith

After relegation from the Scottish Championship, Raith have been tearing it up in the lower division, itching for the
chance to brush shoulders with their foes from the past. This did not end well for Raith, who lost to a down on their luck Dumbarton. Tom Walsh fired a corner into the box after 20 minutes. The ball pinged around before Chris McLaughlin toe-poked the ball in to give Dumbarton the lead. Ally Roy dispossessed Raith’s hard-man midfielder Iain Davison before tucking the ball in just minutes after halftime. Raith were evidently infuriated at blowing it to one of the Championships weaker side, and frustrations boiled over briefly as Raith were reduced to ten men. Striker Grieg Spence was sent off for a handball in the box, conceding a penalty in the process. Tom Walsh was assigned the penalty, with the chance of making it 3-0, but saw his effort saved by Graeme Smith in the Raith goal. It was a tough loss to take for Raith, although to their credit they did start three under 20s players, giving them valuable experience against a competitive Dumbarton side.

Inverness 1-0 Falkirk

Two of Scotland’s most below-par sides battled it out for a place in the semi finals of the Irn Bru Cup today, both knowing that a win would be great for their fans who had suffered so much this season. Myles Hippolyte had the best chance of the first half, coming agonisingly close to gifting Falkirk the lead. He saw his shot cleared off the line by former QPR centre back Coll Donaldson. In the second half, Connor Bell struck the game’s only goal, continuing his terrific late form by netting his fifth goal of the season. The game was littered with long shots, many going high and wide, the occasional one being parried wide by both goalkeepers. Falkirk pushed for the win but once again victory alluded them, a feeling all to familiar to ex-Dundee boss Paul Hartley.

Due to the international break, there is no downtown feature, as the top flight games were taking an off-week. Scotland lost to the Netherlands, with racist, homophobic scumbag Malky McKay taking control, and awarding the biggest snake in Scotland, Ryan Jack, a debut in the Pittodrie fixture. League One fixtures played, but Raith were due to play Ayr, with that game being postponed due to Raith playing cup football. As a result, there is also no moving on up feature. As it stands, Dundee FC remain bottom of the top flight while Ayr still lead the third tier.

Well, the good news is this awful cup competition is nearly over, with just three games left to play. With any luck, this Scottish competition with have the Welsh TNS play the Northern Irish Crusaders in the cup final, truly embarrassing the officials who have tried to twist and manipulate this competition. Yes, I am not a fan of this tournament, but in my defence, I didn’t like it before United were eliminated. We return with the Scottish Championship round up in its more traditional sense next weekend, week 13. It will almost certainly be week unlucky for some…

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