0p - 0Full Time
If fortune is meant to favour the brave then someone forgot to read the script at Pittodrie on Tuesday evening. Paul Hartley’s men performed wonders on the pitch to match Aberdeen for 120 minutes: a side tipped to be ‘the best of the rest’ in the SPFL Premiership this season. But in a cruel twist of fate, the Wasps were to suffer the agony of defeat on penalties after a Michael Doyle miss allowed Mark Reynolds to smash home the winner and send his relieved side through to the next round of Scottish Communities League Cup.
Hartley made one change to the side that beat Cowdenbeath last weekend – Jason Marr replaced the ineligible Declan McManus – as the Wasps switched to three centre backs in a 5-4-1 formation. Aberdeen played a full strength side with Jamie Langfield returning from suspension in goals for Aberdeen.
Alloa started the brighter of the two sides and almost took a shock lead. A combination of some excellent skill and a long searching pass from Stephen Simmons put Kevin Cawley in on goal but Dons defender Mark Reynolds did well to deal with the danger.
The home side had their first chance of the match when McCord tripped the lively Niall McGinn on the edge of the box but Pawlett’s kick was straight at Scott Bain. Aberdeen began to take control and had a sustained period of pressure that led to a double chance.
First from a corner, Russell Anderson headed the ball back across the face of goal and it was met by the onrushing Reynolds but he couldn’t keep his header down. More sustained pressure from the Dons saw the ball break to Pawlett on the edge of the area and his stinging drive produced a cracking one hand save from Bain in the Alloa goal.
The Alloa back three of Ben Gordon, Jason Marr and Daryll Meggatt took it in turns to make some vital blocks and tackles as Aberdeen tried to crank up the heat towards the end of the first half. Alloa then hit their hosts on the counter attack and some great work from Cawley and Simmons produced their first corner of the match on 32 minutes. McCord’s kick found Ben Gordon free in the area 12 yards out and his looping header looked destined for the top corner but Langfield got across to tip onto the crossbar to deny Alloa a glorious lead.
Stephen Simmons and Graeme Holmes then began to win the midfield battle to take the sting out of the home side’s momentum. This restricted them to a few long range Pawlett efforts that were high and wide on both occasions. Pawlett then carved out one final chance for the Dons at the end of the first half when he wriggled free from Doyle down the left but his cut back was brilliantly cut out by the sliding challenge of Marr with Calvin Zola waiting in the box. Aberdeen came out all guns blazing in the second half and they immediately had a penalty claim after McGinn went down under a firm challenge from Marr in the area but the referee correctly waved it away after the Wasps stopper won the ball. Aberdeen huffed and puffed for a spell with loads of possession but they struggled to breakdown a determined Alloa side who grew in confidence as the half went on. Kirk got on the end of another superb long range pass from Simmons and won his side a free kick on the hour mark. McCord took a clever set piece short to Cawley who then dummied the ball to Simmons but his shot whistled just past the post. Former Alloa loanee Nicky Low came on to replace the injured Willo Flood and he managed to test Bain from range on a number of occasions without success. A nasty collision between Daryll Meggatt and Johnny Hayes saw the Dons forward stretchered off after a long delay in the match. This did Alloa no favours as the Dons got their composure back after play resumed and McGinn again threatened Bain’s goal from range but this time was off target. As we entered the final fifteen minutes of the match, surprisingly it was Alloa who looked the more likely to score a winner as Hartley introduced Eddie Ferns in place of Andy Kirk. This allowed Alloa to get further up the pitch and attack Aberdeen at will on the counter attack as the game became stretched. Ferns caused all sorts of problems in behind with his pace and he linked up brilliantly with Holmes to create space but his effort was blocked before Simmons follow up effort was deflected clear for a corner. Alloa ended the ninety minutes on top with a trio of chances firstly Meggatt’s 20-yard free kick was blocked before Cawley burst through but his cutback went harmlessly across goal. That man Ferns threatened once again when he beat Reynolds down the right and whipped in a great cross but Anderson did well to cut out the ball. The game went to extra time and it was the very least the Wasps deserved. Derek McInnes must have had a few choice words for his players at full time because they looked a different proposition in the first half of extra time. Low stung the palms of Bain from long range and he could only spill the ball straight out in front of him but Ben Gordon spared his blushes with a brilliant clearance as Zola followed up. The Alloa back line were put under incredible scrutiny throughout extra time but first Meggatt then Marr both denied the home fans a late winner with superb last ditch tackles. Alloa had the final chance in open play when Ferns got inside Anderson on the right wing but his vicious cross was just too high for the onrushing Kevin Cawley. So to penalties and the first ten spot kicks were all converted as Holmes, Ferns, McCord, Gordon and then former Dons star Darren Young all scored to take the shootout to sudden death. But there was to be no fairytale ending for the Wasps when Michael Doyle’s kick was brilliantly saved by Langfield down to his left before Reynolds followed up with the winner to break Alloa hearts. A heroic display from Paul Hartley’s men and one that will stand them in good stead for the remainder of the season in the SPFL Championship.
Match Report – Graeme Lafferty, Alloa Advertiser
It was heartache for “The Wasps” for the second time last night as Paul Hartley’s side lost out at Pittodrie eventually 6 – 5 on penalties with another “Young Wasps” team having lost earlier in the evening 4 – 2 to East Stirlingshire on penalties in the local Stirlingshire Cup. Paul Hartley’s side pushed their Premier league opponents all the way in the match, gaining confidence as the game went on and having chances to win on the evening. However after ninety minutes and a further 30 minutes extra time the match went to penalties, from which Derek McInnes side progressed to Thursdays Third Round draw.
Penalty Shoot Out
1 – 0 Graeme Holmes
1 – 1 Niall McGinn
2 – 1 Eddie Ferns
2 – 2 Nicky Low
3 – 2 Ryan McCord
3 – 3 Peter Pawlett
4 – 3 Ben Gordon
4 – 4 Ryan Jack
5 – 4 Darren Young
5 – 5 Scott Vernon
5 – 5 Michael Doyle (Miss)
5 – 6 Mark Reynolds
paul hartley at pittodrie
We created some good opportunities at times and I was proud of the players. This is the highest level for our guys, we are part time and I only get to work with my players two nights a week. Some of them had to take an afternoon off of their work and will be back there tomorrow morning so that shows you the kind of commitment they have. We pushed Aberdeen all the way and we had a clean sheet again. Our three centre backs were great even although we changed our game plan a little bit. Aberdeen had us watched three or four times in the build up to the game, so we switched to a back three just to nullify that advantage and we matched Aberdeen all the way in terms of fitness and ability at times. I think when it goes to penalties then it is a wee bit of a lottery at times. I can have no complaints though, all the penalties were good then Langfield makes a good save. In penalties we always have a hero and sometimes a villain and it just wasn’t to be for us. I thought overall we were fantastic. The group of players were great as a unit, we defended well and then attacked well. Now we need to keep that going for the rest of the season. We could have had a big upset tonight but it just wasn’t to be. We have to pick ourselves up for Queen of the South on Saturday and do it all over again because we have to do that if we want to stay in the division. The game on Saturday is reason enough for the players to pick themselves back up. This tie is over and done with now and we have to look forward to going there to Palmerston and trying to get three points.