United go the distance, and come out on top!

United 2-2 Third Lanark (United win 4-2 on pens AET)

United Saturday Team vs Third Lanark? In the cup? Déjà vu, surely? At Toryglen? Again? You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d been in a terrible accident, tumbled through a wormhole and travelled back in time but no, this was indeed reality. Thomsons Trophy this time. After positive starts by both teams, it took a Third Lanark midfielder’s attempt to replicate China’s stunning 40yard screamer a fortnight ago, watching on as it threatened the car-park, to bring this game sharply into focus as unique in its own right. The Somalian had made it look so effortless last time out. Speaking of China, there would very different storylines for the stand-out performers a fortnight ago, for both teams.

Harry Fraser and China all had decisive roles to play.,

Adding to the startling similarities, Davy Thomson picked up where he left off a fortnight ago. His intelligence and control creates so much and United looked dangerous every time he was involved. Harry dispatched his 11th goal of the season, profiting after Mohamed Mna had picked the pocket of a Third Lanark defender. The lead lasted all but minutes as a freekick well-taken levelled the score on the half hour mark. A good save from Fraser soon after prevented another freekick sneaking inside his post.

Nobody’s getting ahead of themselves here, but Davy’s name is literally on the trophy. He robbed a defender of an ill-judged, short goal-kick and his drive into the box saw him hauled down and a penalty awarded. Gerry Quinn lives for penalties. Up he stepped and his 5th of the season was confidently arrowed past the goalkeeper like all those before it. 2-1 United.

Clearances awaited United in the second half. Plenty of them. Third Lanark's desperation grew and they played more direct as the second half wore on. Whilst each of the United back-four excelled, absorbing and repelling waves of pressure, none did more so than Bobby whose anticipation was impeccable and his calculated distribution was a big factor in United’s success in managing the flow of the game. United had chances to kill the tie. The law of averages says, on another day, Mna surely would have but not long after Hawraz replaced Davy after the hour mark, in the blink of an eye, everything changed...

China lunged in to a tackle on the halfway line. In the referee’s eyes he stamped down on the opponent and a straight red card was shown. The resulting freekick was launched high into United’s box and the referee whistled again. A penalty this time! Nobody’s convinced Kwaby was guilty of holding anyone. He’s a big guy and hard to run around. Fraser got a hand to the penalty but couldn’t keep it out. He’d do better later though, when it really counted. 

With 10 men United had to endure. A mixture of magnificent goalkeeping and heroic defending saw them through to a 2-2 draw after 90mins. Well-deserved albeit not pretty. After a quick phone call the referee confirmed another 30mins was still to be played, not penalties as first announced.

United offered little in attack in extra time. Kwaby limping off, replaced by Joe, added to a siege mentality. Pot-shots pinged high and wide of Fraser’s goal and his palms were stung more than once. United deserved a lot of credit for their stoic defensive work and earned a huge slice of luck, surviving a guilt-edged chance in the dying seconds of extra time, as a Third Lanark shot rolled agonisingly wide.

And so to penalty kicks. Christmas in March for Gerry. Proving his first was no fluke, he pinged his second penalty of the day beyond the goalkeeper to set the tone for United. Chris Malone followed suit and Fraser took revenge, saving Third Lanark’s second attempt diving to his left. Paul Georgie pressed home United’s advantage and Hawraz capped an accomplished debut with another well-taken spot kick. Joe was poised and ready but was happily unneeded when Third Lanark’s match-winner a fortnight ago dragged his effort wide, handing victory to United. What a rollercoaster of a game!

Semi-finals, you say? We’ll have some of that.

United: Fraser, Gerry, Kwaby (Joe 100'), Bobby, Paul G, Davy T (Hawraz 65'), Chris M, China, Kevin, Harry, Mohamed Mna

Goals: Harry, Gerry (pen)

Yellow: Kevin

Red: China

PoTM: Bobby