Fourteen ties were played across Scotland yesterday in the William Hill Scottish Cup Fourth Round and former Scottish Cup finalist Andrew Barrowman was in attendance at Firhill as Highland League side Formartine United took on Partick Thistle.
Here, he documents his Scottish Cup experience from a fan's perspective on a day where Partick ran out 4-0 winners.
Barrowman experiences the magic of the cup from the stands
‘Firhill for thrills’ as the age-old Scottish football adage would have it. At least I hoped that would be the case as I made my way along Maryhill Road prior to kick-off.
My last visit to Firhill Stadium in the Scottish Cup came in a Fourth Round tie in 2012 when I was a Dunfermline Athletic player in what was an eventful day to say the least.
In a game which we won 1-0, I scored a first-half header at the back post to help secure the victory.
However it wasn’t all plain sailing for me that day, as I was later sent off by referee Steven McLean after two bookings in quick succession late in the game.
As I took my place in the Jackie Husband Stand, memories of that day came flooding back.
I must admit as I sat watching the player’s warm-up, with the smell of grass in my nose and the sight of the two sets of players preparing themselves physically and mentally to head into battle, I longed to be out on a pitch somewhere going through this same process.
Anyway that’s enough of the reminiscing from this ex-pro, back to the matter in hand.
The ‘Manchester City of the Highland League’ as I heard them being referred to this week, travelled south from the rural Aberdeenshire village of Pitmedden, with a club record 226 strong, vocal army of supporters.
A feat even more remarkable given that Pitmedden itself only has a population of approximately 1,137 and the average attendance at North Lodge Park is never more than 300.
The game itself, in the end, was largely a formality for the ‘Harry Rags’, with the first-half resembling a scene from The Alamo. The Premiership outfit were camped in the opposition’s half and if truth be told it was only a matter of time before they took the lead.
The opening goal finally came in the 10th minute with Chris Erskine getting on the end of knock down after a deep free kick.
The visitors managed to withstand the continued onslaught for a further 20 minutes before conceding two quick fire goals from Steven Lawless and a second of the game for Erskine on the 30th and 31st minutes.
The two Thistle goals in quick succession visibly damaged the body language of the Highland League outfit and you could see the early gusto and determination of the Formartine players waning with every Partick attack.
I experienced this feeling on several occasions during my career and the hope and excitement that the Formartine players would have felt leading up to this game would now be feeling like nothing more than a distant memory.
There was however some light relief for everyone within the stadium, when referee Craig Charleston fell over with no one near him, to be greeted with the loudest cheer of the match.
With the half-time scoreline reading 3-0 to the dominant home side, I made my way down to Firhill's ‘gourmet’ catering facilities with the same conviction as the plentiful Thistle attacks I had just witnessed.
As I stood in line, with my eyes firmly fixed on the prize (steak pie), I reached into my jacket pocket to discover I had in fact left my wallet in the car.
I don’t care how the Formartine players were feeling as they sat inside that away dressing trailing 3-0, it was nowhere near the disappointment I was experiencing at that moment.
With my tail firmly between my legs I made my way back to my seat ready for the second half.
The second-half continued in the same vein as the first, with the play resembling a defence vs. attack drill familiar to many a training ground session. With the three goal cushion behind them Thistle were passing the ball around with ease and much to the frustration of the Formartine players, they quite simply couldn’t get near them.
But for some resolute defending coupled with the odd passage of wasteful play from the Thistle attackers, the scoreline could have been even more emphatic.
We did however eventually see a fourth goal in the 64th minute when Thistle captain Abdul Osman stretched to get on the end of a Lawless cross from the right hand side.
I must give a special mention to the army of Formartine supporters that made the long journey south.
To a man they never stopped singing and willing their team on for the entire 90 minutes.
Every rare foray into the opposition’s half was greeted with a loud cheer of enthusiasm and expectation and the achievement of a mere corner brought a rapturous response.
Despite their team taking a hiding, they even found the decency to be complimentary to the rival Partick natives, with continuous shouts of “what a shiny home support” heard throughout the 90 minutes. Well at least I think that’s what they were singing!
I would also like to mention how lucky I was with the seat I was allocated.
There was I sat in the middle of the Jackie Husband Stand right in front of Messi, Ronaldo, Pele and Maradona!
It was difficult for me to recognise them at first though given it was a cold day and they were all wrapped up in big jackets, hats and scarves but it was undoubtedly them given the manner in which they criticised and commentated on every single touch by a Thistle player.
Football really does evoke strong emotions from people at times.
So my reacquaintance with the Scottish Cup didn’t provide me with another giant killing folklore story to be spoken about for years to come, neither will it make the back pages of any newspapers come Monday morning.
Nevertheless, this fairly straightforward tie still possessed plenty of the nostalgic magic that we have come to love about this historic competition.
Partick Thistle march on, one step closer to their Hampden showpiece while the players, staff and supporters of Formartine United will have made memories that will last a lifetime.
The magic of the Scottish Cup lives on. Bring on the next round!