THE dream had to come to an end at some point for Brora Rangers and it finally did yesterday, with the Highland League team going down 4-0 to Kilmarnock in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup at Rugby Park.
This was the furthest that Brora had ever reached in the competition, with their previous best being the third round in the 1980s. But with scalps against League One sides East Fife and Stranraer under their belt already this season, there was a sense amongst the 400-odd fans who embarked on a 500 mile round trip from the north of Scotland to support their team that an upset certainly was not an impossibility.
It was a scrappy start to the game making it impossible to gauge which of the pair was the Premiership team and for almost the entire first half, Kilmarnock were unimpressive. The few half-chances they created were wasted, firstly by Gary Dicker and then by Kris Boyd, before Boyd did manage to get the ball in the net only for it to be disallowed for offside.
Although Brora failed to create any clear-cut chances, they more than held their own and were far from overwhelmed by the occasion.
However, just a few minutes before half-time, Kilmarnock made their breakthrough, with Aaron Tshibola, who is on loan from Aston Villa, tapping in from close range to put the Premiership team ahead. It was the first goal that Brora had conceded in the competition.
In fairness to the Highland League side, they did not lose their fight despite going a goal down but Killie started to dominate in the second half with Boyd scoring their second in the 59th minute, Eamonn Brophy their third in the 77th minute and Stephen O’Donnell sealing the deal with Killie’s fourth in the 83rd minute.
Brora manager Ross Tokley admitted to being disappointed at seeing their cup journey come to an end but he could not have been more positive about his players’ performance against Kilmarnock. “I’m very proud of the boys – I didn’t think it was a 4-0 game and if we had kept it 0-0 until half-time it could have been different,” he said. “They scored a good goal just before the break and we were a little bit deflated. We maybe didn’t create as much as I would have liked but we were competitive. It has been a great journey and we will learn from playing against Kilmarnock. We have a lot of good memories from this run.”
Meanwhile, Kilmarnock manager Steve Clark was satisfied with the result and with his side just two games away from a cup final and Kilmarnock the form side in Scotland, there is much to look forward to. “We have to give Brora a lot of credit – they put up a very good fight but for us, it’s very good to have kept a clean sheet and to have won at home again,” he said. “You never know what the draw is going to bring so we’ll just have to see who comes out the pot.”