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The Active Nations 2009 Journey
THE JUNIOR CUP AFTERMATH
As the Talbot faithful streamed from Rugby Park just after their heroes had clinched a record Scottish Cup Final win over Clydebank, little thought was put to the fact that the "Boys from Beechwood" would be taking part in their biggest endeavor in the club's entire history. This was Talbot's centenary year and they had celebrated in the only way known to them by taking their equivalent of the national trophy and due to this feat they were welcomed into the senior version.
The close season came and went and the season was in its infant stage when the Talbot Army's thoughts turned to the first round draw in September. When the draw came around the phones and internet was buzzing to the news that Talbot had drawn Highland League side Fort William at home.
Before the match the SFA had sent a representative to Beechwood to furnish the committee about changes to the ground so to accommodate the rulings of the governing body. By the time the game came around an army of volunteers had put everything up to scratch, and now it was only a matter of time before Talbot's first senior opposition came calling.
The Fort's manager Calum MacLean more or less signed his teams death warrant when after the draw he told Daily Record reporter Kevin McGoldrick that when the teams came out the hat he thought he had drawn Auchinleck Tablet.
He said: "We have heard there have been comments in the local papers in Ayrshire from some people stating that Auchinleck could win by double figures which is a touch disrespectful.
"Our record isn't great but we are a senior Highland League side playing a junior team so it should be interesting.
"They aren't the biggest name in Scottish football so we won't fear them - in fact when I heard we had drawn them in the Cup I thought they were called Auchinleck Tablet.
"I've had them watched and I know they have a good record in the junior version of the competition so we will give them every respect, just as we do with every opponent we face. Our journey to Ayrshire will start at 8.30am but we have players travelling here from Inverness so they will need to get up two hours earlier. We're all really looking forward to it.
"The bookies have done their homework but they're not always right."
On the 26th of September Talbot added another piece of history to their records as both sides headed onto the hallowed turf of "God's Little Acre". There was disappointment shown by the home support as the Talbot were forced into wearing their light blue away kit as the Fort's played in yellow and black and their away kit was all black. However it was pointed out that 100years ago Talbot took to Beechwood in light blue and white, their original colours, and this seemed to appease the disgruntled punters. With the SFA ruling that every team had to have a substitute keeper on the bench and two under 21's the Talbot had introduced the sprightly looking Stuart McIntosh as back up keeper much to the fans delight.
(Talbot players after the Fort William match)
The visitors came out the traps first and Andy Ferguson rattled the bar in 8 seconds before McIntosh and Gillespie came close. This rattled Talbot into action and Fort's good opening was short lived. Talbot were soon pressing for an opener with Boyle being thwarted by the keeper three times. However the visitors cause was dealt a sickening blow when Bamber was sent of in 14 minutes by referee Ian Craig who deemed his tackle on White was reckless. After this it was all Talbot. Davie Gillies opened the scoring in 19 minutes with a superb volley off the underside of the crossbar. Three minutes later John Boyle added number two with a half volley. The third goal came in the 30th minute when Sean McIlroy hammered home a penalty after a hand ball, which ended the first half scoring.
The second half started with Boyle adding his second in 52 minutes as he drilled the ball past Campbell. On the hour mark McIlroy scored from close range while substitute Danny McKelvie grabbed number 6 in the 62nd minute.
In true storybook endings Talbot introduced 42 year old veteran striker Stevie Mallen to the fray and in the space of 10 minutes he had scored Talbot's 7th and received his marching orders after lashing out at an opponent. Shortly after Fort's Andy Martin was red carded.
After the match Tucker Sloan told the Scotsman on Sunday's Gary Sutherland.
"We're delighted to be in the hat for the next round,But it was a good effort from Fort William. I think they take a lot of credit."
Scorer of Talbot's first ever senior goal when approached by the Daily Records, Craig Swan added."I'd like to get a senior team in the competition and beat them."I'm a Rangers fan so I'd also fancy playing at Ibrox. That would be the ultimate.
OFF TO THE HIGHLANDS
With the SFL Division Three clubs now thrown into the draw the Talbot fans were a bit disappointed to be drawing another Highland side, this time in the shape of Huntly a side that had finished mid table the season previous. Huntly themselves were bitterly disappointed to be facing a Junior side, on the 24th October they locked horns at Christie Park. The official attendance for the match was 488 but Talbot had already sent up an expeditionary force the night previous who had taken over the Huntly Social Club and when the team arrived at the park they were swamped with drunken fans who were giving the club anthem laldy.
The game was played in horrendous driving wind and rain and it was the Talbot making all the headway. In the 37th minute they took the lead when Bryan Slavin looped a header into the net. The second half Talbot missed a raft a chances, but their cause was helped when Kleczkowski was red carded in the 79th minute. With the clock running down Talbot were dealt a sucker punch in the 90th minute when Lombardi hammered a ball under Latta's legs and past Strain to finish the game.
(Australia bound Sean McIlroy causes havoc in the Huntly defence)
THE DREAM ENDS IN HONOUR
Talbot's reward for the win over Huntly was an away trip to 2nd Division promotion candidates Stirling Albion. It was a game that stirred up a lot of interest in the village and by kick off time around 800 had made the journey to Forthbank boosting the attendance to 1185 with the Talbot Army recording Forthbank's second biggest away support for that entire season. By kick off time fog had descended around the Stirling area making visibility difficult during the match and at one point during the second half it was thought the game wouldn't see the final whistle.
However to great cheers from the travelling support both teams took to the field. After a sombre note which was a minutes silence for ex-Stirling manager and Killie legend Frank Beattie game got underway. Talbot went straight for the jugular and keeper Christie had to claw a McIlroy cross off the top of Boyle's head as he was ready to connect. Minutes later McIlroy blazed a Slavin knock down over the bar from six yards.
Unfortunately in the home sides first attack Liam Corr headed home a David O'Brien cross with the Talbot defence nowhere in sight. This seemed to spur the Beanos on and Adam Strain made smart saves from Corr and McKenna Talbot's woes were to continue in the 34th minute when influential striker John Boyle was badly injured and was replaced by Davie Gillies. A minute later Forthbank erupted when on the 35th minute Ross Forsyth was adjudged to have handled in the box and much to the delight of the travelling hordes Sean McIlroy hammered the ball high into the net from the spot.
(Captain Bryan Slavin wins another midfield battle)
Talbot battled on until half time holding the SFL club at bay, and with the fog swirling around the field of play it looked like the match might not end. Unfortunately on the 64th minute it did as far as Talbot were concerned. The home side had won a corner in the 64th minute and like the first goal Talbot lost their opponents in the box and Forsyth powered O'Brien's corner into the net.
(James Latta keeps a watchfull eye on a Stirling attack)
All credit to the Junior side who threw everything at the Beano's and in the last ten minutes of the match they should have grabbed an equaliser when Gillies saw a shot just creep past the post and after a goalmouth scramble McIlroy hit the upright. However time was not kind to the Talbot and when the final whistle blew the Talbot Army applauded their heroes from the park.
The dream was over but the memories will for ever linger!