Miracles do happen. Just not very often to the Ants. But in August 2003 we qualified from our League Cup section - a particularly difficult one - with maximum points.
Since the inception of the Sectional League Cup in 1968/69, the Ants had grown accustomed to being grouped with much bigger, wealthier clubs, often at the height of their power. If it wasn't Cambuslang Rangers and Rutherglen Glencairn, or Shotts Bon Accord and Bellshill Athletic, it was Pollok, Arthurlie and Benburb. We had never qualified - never come close - often finishing bottom of our section with a miserable haul of points and an unhealthy goal deficit.
For a few seasons, from 1998/99 to 2004/05, we were placed in a really daunting seven-club Section 9 with some of the giants of Junior football. In 2003 this section contained SIX clubs from higher divisions. Arthurlie, Johnstone Burgh, Neilston Juniors and Pollok all had Super League Premier Division status, while Benburb and Renfrew operated in Super League Division One. The Ants, by contrast, were newly promoted from Central District League Division Two to Division One.
On paper we should have had no chance...
Left, Never Mind The Polloks, Here's Raymond Donaghy cutting out another attack, while above Kevin Ford scores the Ants second goal at Arthurlie's Dunterlie Park, leaving a red-faced goalkeeper stranded off his line.
Here is the final Section 9 table, showing the Ants with maximum points. No other club ever achieved this during the lifetime of this over-sized section. Pollok, as runners-up, also qualified for the knock-out stage.
The Ants avoided the supplementary play-off round and went straight into the quarter-finals, where they had to play Kilsyth Rangers away from home on Wednesday 27th August. The match was a real thriller, with pacy end-to-end football and plenty of goals. Ford put the Ants ahead, but a Campbell double (the second a brilliant solo effort) saw Kilsyth
take the lead. Lennox then equalised for the Ants... 2-2 and everything to play for. The turning point came when Frearson was upended rounding the Kilsyth 'keeper and no penalty was awarded. Kilsyth scored two late goals from Hughes and Early to win 4-2.
Section 9 runners-up Pollok actually won the competition, although their road to victory was certainly not for the faint-hearted. They had three penalty shoot-outs in the knock-out rounds, defeating Shotts Bon Accord, Larkhall Thistle, Maryhill (their only proper win), and finally Kilsyth Rangers. In the Firhill final Pollok were actually losing 0-1 to Kilsyth until, deep into time added, they secured an equaliser, then won the penalty decider 5-3! The gods of football must have been on their side.
(including quarter final)
Greg Frearson (right) congratulates Dennis Barclay on scoring yet another goal against some Big-Time Charlies.