Rovers agreed to give up home advantage in this South Region Challenge Cup tie but the switch to the perfect 3G surface at Queen of the South’s Palmerston Park produced probably their best footballing performance of the season. A striker master class from Alan McMath, who helped himself to his second hat-trick of the season, proved to be the difference between the teams but in truth Peebles Rovers were commanding all over the park in a very satisfying afternoon’s work.
Heston Rovers are flying high in the South of Scotland league but seemed taken aback by the intensity of the start from Peebles who attacked in waves from the first whistle. McMath gave a taste of his intensions for the afternoon as he drifted across the edge of the box before
letting fly with a left foot shot which cannoned off the inside of the far post but there was no follow up and Heston cleared the danger.
Player-manager Ger Rossi was next to try his luck with a low, powerful shot from just outside the box – but the home ‘keeper held it well. Heston had a rare foray up the other end but the striker delayed his shot allowing Raymond Fleming to get a timely block in.
The action was soon at the other end though as the returning Jason Newell got on the end of a cross but he failed to trouble the ‘keeper. Fellow defender Robert Sterricks then produced a powerful run into the box but his goal bound shot was blocked by the home defence.
All this pressure really had to pay off and it was no surprise when Rovers took Rovers took the lead in the 24th minute. Gregor Lamb played a terrific first-time through ball for McMath who bore down on the ‘keeper before blasting the ball high into the net for a well-deserved lead.
McMath then returned the favour with a through ball for Lamb but under pressure from a last gasp defensive lunge, fired his shot just over the bar from the edge of the box.
Heston finally managed to get a foothold in the game around the half hour mark and a quick ball over the top of the Peebles defence saw Ben McGinley tested for the first time. Soon after, the home side forced a corner and the low delivery caught the Peebles defence out and the ball bounced off the unfortunate David
Lindsay to pull the home side level. Heston had the upper hand from here until half time but failed to create any meaningful chances and the teams headed for the break on level terms.
Heston must have had a stern talking to at half time and they came out with fresh drive at the start of the second half and from an early corner could have taken the lead but two quick-fire efforts were cleared off the line by a steadfast Peebles defence.
This appeared to galvanise the away side that then too control of the game with Ross lamb playing in his brother Gregor with a reverse pass which was cleared for a corner. Lindsay swung the ball in and Newell was on hand to fire a close range header into the net to put Peebles back in front on 52 minutes.
Quick thinking from Rossi saw him rob a home defender of the ball which he threaded through to McMath but his resultant shot was well blocked. A cross into the box was then laid back by Rossi to Gregor Lamb but his shot narrowly missed the post. Rovers’ intense pressure soon paid off though with a smart one-touch passing sequence ending with Jamie McKay playing in a low cross for McMath to stroke into the net after 58 minutes and give Peebles some daylight.
Rossi had a long-range effort for the top corner but the keeper was on hand to turn it away. Another rare Heston attack saw a good headed effort well saved by McGinley but normal service was resumed as McMath controlled a clearance and carved a chance out for himself which the keeper had to be alert to stop.
Another piece of smart defending from Fleming stifled a Heston attack and started another well-constructed Peebles move which ended with substitute Lee Zavaroni hitting the outside of the post. Ross Lamb then struck a long
range effort low to the far post but the keeper scrambled across his box and saved well.
Right on the 90 minute mark, Peebles produced a spell of fantastic one-touch passing with Saul Schulz-Keith speeding away to swap passes with Rossi before unselfishly rolling the ball to McMath who made no mistake from close range to complete his hat-trick.
At 4-1 up going into injury time, Rovers were cruising into the next round but a bizarre last couple of minutes saw Heston pull one back with a rare piece of slack defending before a soft penalty for the home side saw them cut the deficit to one with the last kick of the ball.
The final 4-3 score-line was flattering for the home side though with Peebles dominant for the vast majority of the match, producing some lovely periods of controlled, passing football along the way. This was a great team performance from Rovers who go into the hat for the 3rd round draw