EoS PREMIER DIVISION
KEVIN JANIAK reports from Yarrow Park
STEVE MCQUEEN didn’t attempt to jump the boundary fence on a motorbike, the committee did not dig any tunnels and there wasn’t a Nazi in sight, but this was still very much The Great Escape.
Going into the must-win game against big-spending Tynecastle, Selkirk had gone 12 matches without a victory. And both Preston Athletic and Heriot-Watt University had to either lose or draw for the Souters to stay up.
But the Yarrow Park men were victorious in dramatic style and their rivals could only muster 2-2 and 3-3 draws respectively – the Harry Houdini job keeping Selkirk up on goal difference.
They needed to step up to the mark. And one man did – striker Des Sutherland producing a stunning hat-trick to take all three points.
And if the manner of Selkirk’s victory wasn’t enough to give Selkirk chairman Jim Moody a funny turn, the way things panned out in Prestonpans and Riccarton certainly got the blood pumping.
It has been a turbulent year for Selkirk. A good start was nullified after they were forced to play two of their games again following an error in their teamsheets – this led to Moody quitting his post on the league’s executive committee. The club also sacked manager Paul Brownlee after a run of bad results.
A delighted Moody told TheSouthern: “It’s a fabulous result for the club. Dessie has put in a fantastic shift all year, his goals have helped us get into the position where we were able to be where we are now. He has never stopped, he’s a real wee buzzbomb.
“And the two main instigators in us losing our six points were Tynecastle and Preston Athletic. We beat Tynie today, so we have beaten them in both games and Preston are going down. Justice is served – what more can a chairman ask for?
“The Premier Division is where we should be. We are a Premier Division set-up and that is what we strive and aim for.
“Although it would be nice to do it now and again before the last day of the season, I think the players know I’ve got a dicky ticker and they do things like this just to ensure my circulation is kept pumping.”
It certainly was a thrilling afternoon.
The first half saw both sides miss great chances, with home keeper John Dodds pulling off a couple of good saves and William Mercer being the main instigator for the home side at the other end with some superb runs.
But two minutes before the break, Tynie’s number one Ross McMullen came rushing out of his box and obstructed Sutherland, injuring himself in the process and picking up a yellow card. Sutherland took the resultant free kick himself, and his swerving shot found its way to the net via the left post. At half-time, both Preston and Heriot-Watt were drawing 1-1 in their games and it all looked possible.
But two second-half carbon copy goals – Paul Devlin corners being headed in by towering defender John Williams in the 54th and 62nd minutes – meant Selkirk were trailing. And what was worse, news came through that Preston had gone ahead.
The Pennypit result stayed the same when Sutherland levelled things at Yarrow Park with a penalty, following Andy Hardie being upended in the box.
And when Sutherland’s flying header met with Lee Stephen’s cross to take Selkirk ahead in the 80th minute, the celebrations were certainly muted because as things stood, the Souters were still going down.
Heriot-Watt were losing 3-1 at this point so all eyes were on the East of Scotland latest scores website, praying for Edinburgh City to pull Preston back to 2-2.
This they did in the 89th minute. And amid the cheers, frantic calls were sent out to the players to hold onto the lead. This led to Tynecastle battering the Selkirk defence for the last few agonising minutes.
The referee’s full-time whistle was met with relief, but celebrations were on hold – Heriot-Watt had got it back to 3-3. But when the news came in of the final whistles being sounded, scenes of unbelieving joy were played out on the pitch.
Sutherland told us: “Getting the hat-trick was immense for myself, but it pales into insignificance compared to the fact that Selkirk are staying up. We have all worked incredibly hard in the past few months, but have struggled.
“For it to happen like this today just takes your breath away.”
The Selkirk players had enough breath left to sing the theme tune to The Great Escape as they floated off the field.
Moody had one final message to the rest of the Premier Division – while giving a vote of confidence in manager Bryan Templeton.
He said: “We wouldn’t even have been in this position if we had not been docked the six points. Before that, we were in a cup final and were running strong.
“I know that Bryan will have us in a cup final next season and we will be knocking on the door at the top of the league.”
Selkirk: J. Dodds, L. Stephen, B. Milven, R. McManus, E. Pritchard, A. Hardie, W. Mercer, G. Gass, D. Sutherland, J. Gibson and T. Craggs. Subs: S. Hardie, S. Mackenzie, R. Wilkie and D. Main.