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Been BEEN THERE, SEEN IT, BUNNET there, SEEN IT, BUNNET; AYR UTD 1 ST JOHNSTONE 2; Veteran fan Jim savours magic of the Cup again.. at least for a wee while.

Byline: ALAN ROBERTSON'S ROAD TO HAMPDEN

Forty-three years ago this month Jim O'Neil crowed inside Celtic Park as "wee Gordon Cramond" inflicted a sweet last-16 stunner.

Sitting on the seat inside Somerset Park with his name inscribed on it, the 84-year-old yesterday watched as Aaron Muirhead scuppered Ayr's hopes of another.

Callum Hendry beamed with pride in front of the assembled Press as he laid claim to Saints' equaliser - even though today's scores pages will read "Muirhead og".

A yellow followed by a straight red inside the ensuing 10 minutes meant the Ayr defender disappeared midway through the first half. And United's hopes went with him as Hendry headed home another on a day that failed to live up to the high of that 1-1 against a Hoops side starring Kenny Dalglish & Co.

"I was ready to collapse," laughed O'Neil as he recalled the moment Cramond cracked home with two minutes left.

"I thought I'd won the jackpot. It was bedlam.

"For the last 73 years, I've hardly missed a game. I think I'll have seen more games at Somerset than anybody.

"I've been going regularly since I was 12 years old. Even before that, because I lived no far from Somerset Park, me and my pals used to go and stand at the turnstiles asking: 'Mister, gonnae lift me over'?" Legendary keeper Hugh Sproat was between the sticks that day in the east end of Glasgow.

Sure enough, cup days are a family affair, with Hugh's younger sister Julie helping out behind the counter in the club shop yesterday.

"There is one but I maybe don't want to say," Julie her sibling's cup days stand out.

"We were playing St Mirren here, Hugh was in nets and he came out to try to header the ball away, made an absolute mess of it, they scored and that was why we lost."

The club mascot, a panda with "Pandamonium 1" on his back, appears from behind a floor-to-ceiling mirrored door at the rear of the shop.

Handing over the keys to Julie, they blew a kiss to one another before the kids nearby cottoned on they had a superstar in their midst.

"The shop has been open every day this week and longer hours selling tickets," said Jeanne Kerr, in between serving customers. "I love cup week."

So too does former Ayr midfielder Jim McSherry who the Wee Windaes pub only a mile from Somerset that he's had for the last 17 years.

"I better not mention Killie," laughed McSherry, also a well-kent face at Rugby Park.

"We got beat in the semi-final against a great Celtic team in the early 70s. Three-one.

"Jimmy Johnstone was magnificent. I can remember the picture - six of us chasing him, we all stopped. It was like Keystone Cops."

After Liverpool fielded a team of kids - that still won - in the FA Cup last week, the significance of this cup is not lost on Jim. "What would Bill Shankly, who is up on the wall there, and Bob Paisley say about what Liverpool are doing now?" he added.

"Surely they have 26 players that they could have played half the guys, there was no reason to play a youth team. The Scottish Cup is wonderful."

While he was behind the bar, his grandson Daniel was at Somerset after Ayr went out of their way to get his wee pal Thomas along as a mascot.

A minute in and an announcement went out over the Tannoy for the owner of a black Ford C-Max to shift their motor. The lights had been left on.

Here's hoping it wasn't a home fan as the sight of Aaron Drinan rolling a gorgeous Grant Gillespie through pass into the corner from 10 yards four minutes in was worthy of a flat car battery.

Storm Ciara was making its presence felt at Somerset, battering the corrugated iron stand before catching David Wotherspoon's 18th-minute cross from the left to take it away from keeper Ross Doohan.

Hendry rose for it then jogged off to celebrate while the stattos were busy crediting Muirhead.

So began an eight-minute monstrosity for Muirhead, going into the book for catching Hendry in the 23rd then seeing red for a lunge on Liam Craig three minutes later.

Walking down the tunnel, he'd have heard the groans from those sitting above him as Tommy Wright's side turned a one-man advantage into a one-goal lead inside a minute.

Drey Wright darted down the right before whipping a cross to the back post where Hendry was waiting to head home.

Luke McCowan's fifth round was finished after just 28 minutes, defender Sam Roscoe replacing him as Ayr spent the rest of the half repelling Saints' advances.

Jamie Adams graced the grass at Somerset again for the half-time draw, although the 1549 home fans must have wished his reappearance from retirement was not so fleeting.

Doohan's netting would have struggled to stop a Hendry free-kick had he failed to paw it away in 47 minutes.

From a stretched arm to a stretched leg, the United keeper then thrust out a foot to stop Jordan Houston's back pass trickling into the corner.

Wotherspoon rattled over from distance before Stevie May clipped the top of the post but the away fans camped behind Doohan's goal didn't seem to mind.

It simply gave them a chance to play keep away with the ball while belting out: "Don't you know pump it up, Saints will win the Cup."

STEVEN McLEAN: Was a popular man with Ayr fans after calling a succession of fouls tough conditions. But Muirhead gave no choice with the a tackle that never to be made in the middle of the park. Rightly ignored late Saints spotkick appeal when Isaiah Jones tumbled. 5/10 MANman ooff tthhee maattcchh CALLUM HENDRY: Was having none of it when told Aaron Muirhead had been credited with his first and the striker rewarded his old man Colin's decision to take in this cup tie.

Starting for the first time in three games, his goal suggested he'd never been away. Top show. 8/10

CAPTION(S):

saint your goal Hendry takes credit for leveller

HONEST MAN Jim ONeil, 84, has followed his beloved Ayr Utd for decades

no half measures Jeanne Kerr and Julie Sproat (below right) and Jim McSherry (right). Main pic, Aaron Muirhead clashes with Anthony Ralston as he sees red
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:ALAN ROBERTSON'S ROAD TO HAMPDEN
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 9, 2020
Words:1067
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