Tight matches are often won by a moment of magic. Today’s cup tie between Edinburgh City and Preston Athletic was won by two.
It may sound like an exaggeration to say that Edinburgh City’s Scott Hay won the match on his own, but he was the difference between the teams. Having already scored his sides opening goal in the first half, Hay scored two individual goals in the final 5 minutes to take his side into the third round of the Scottish Cup.
After being reduced to 10 men with only 10 minutes to go, Edinburgh City had their backs up against the wall. Alone and isolated, Hay had spent much of the second half feeding off scraps, but he was about to make his mark.
Having collected a clearance on the half way line, he turned his man and burst forward towards the Preston goal. Despite being chased by a covering defender, Hay cut inside his man before firing a low shot into the bottom right corner from 25 yards.
Only moments later, and from a similar distance, Hay stood over a free kick. With his side leading and with only seconds left, other players perhaps would have considered kicking the ball into the corner in order to waste vital time, but Hay had other ideas. Instead, he bent a curling shot round the wall and into the bottom right corner.
Edinburgh City had edged a first half that contained very few chances. They controlled the middle of the pitch with holders Marat Dag and Liam Hastie providing the base for Matty Downie to push further forward.
Downie looked like City’s biggest threat and his movement, alongside Hay and flying wingers Marcel Jeanm and Samual Nhamburo, were causing Preston problems.
It was the away side that came closest to opening the scoring however. Centre back Marc Reid’s inviting, inswinging free-kick from the left wing was met at the back post by Stewart Johnston. The midfielder sensibly aimed his header across the goal and into the ground, but his effort struck the post.
Preston were left to rue their missed chance minutes later when Hay opened the scoring, though the credit for the goal should go to Nhamburo. His superb low cross from the left wing put the ball on a plate for Hay, who didn’t even have to break stride to tuck the ball into the net.
Preston hadn’t created many chances in the first half. Ryan Flanagan hadn’t received the service that his obvious height would have benefited from and Jamie Cochrane, although working tirelessly, found the ball to be eluding him.
That all changed after 65 minutes. A perfectly weighted ball by Greg Binnie split the City defence, it found David Porcher whose shot at goal could only be parried clear by goalkeeper Kyle Ainslie. The rebound fell to Cochrane in front of goal and the striker did well to dispatch a low volley into the net.
Preston were back in the game and for the first time City were looking rattled, their control of proceedings slipping. Credit must be given to Preston’s dynamic midfield duo of Johnston and Binnie, who between them were doing the work of three men. They set the tempo for what was to be a frenetic end to the game.
Tensions boiled over with only 15 minutes to go when a challenge in midfield sparked a confrontation between both sides. In the middle of the scrum, a Preston player went down and as a result City’s Jeanm was shown a straight red card.
For City the objective was now to hold on. They dropped deep behind the ball while only Hay remained further up the pitch.
In reality though, they were never under too much pressure and the City defence did well to clear any danger. One of those clearances fell to Hay. The rest he did on his own.
With the final kick of the game he scored his, and his sides, third goal. It wasn’t a bad way for him to complete his hat-trick or, perhaps more importantly, his side’s passage into the third round.