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Tynecastle 86: Hearts record was left in tatters after famous Montrose cup win

Wallace Mercer was left raging after Montrose went back up the road with a famous victory against Hearts.
Wallace Mercer was left raging after Montrose went back up the road with a famous victory against Hearts.

Part-time Montrose FC pulled off one of Scottish football’s biggest shocks in a League Cup classic against Hearts 35 years ago.

Here was a Hearts side which was unbeaten at home in 15 months and came within minutes of beating Celtic to the Premier Division in 1985-86.

A Hearts side which had scored in every game at home during that same period before throwing away the title on the final day following a 2-0 defeat to Dundee.

Hearts fans look on stunned as Albert Kidd celebrates his strike for Dundee on the final day of the 1985-86 season.

Under the guidance of manager Ian Stewart, Montrose won their first championship, the old second division in 1985.

They survived relegation to Scottish football’s third tier by three points while Hearts were on the 27 game unbeaten run which took them to the brink of the title.

Hearts started the 1986-87 top-flight campaign unbeaten after three games in the league which included back-to back wins at Tynecastle.

The stage was set, therefore, for a sure-fire win for Premier Division Hearts, who were at full strength for the League Cup second round tie on August 19 1986.

Montrose were third in the First Division after three games and Stewart made a promise that his side would have “a real go” at Hearts’ unbeaten record.

Hearts were huge favourites to progress and most teams would have simply tried to keep the score down but Montrose had other ideas.

The matchday programme warned Montrose were “capable of producing the shock results against the big clubs of the Premier Division”.

Sandy Clark, Neil Berry and John Colquhoun missed chances to give Hearts a first half lead before the away side’s resolve was rewarded on 41 minutes.

Winger Innes MacDonald sent a cross into the Hearts box which was headed clear by Sandy Clark into the path of Alan Lyons who struck from 25 yards.

Only a stunning last-gasp tackle from Craig Levein on Ian Paterson denied Montrose a second just a couple of minutes into the second half.

Montrose pressed hard and were rewarded on 57 minutes when Ian Paterson pounced on a defensive mistake by Kenny Black to set up the second.

Mark Bennett collected Paterson’s neat pass and had time to compose himself before guiding the ball past Henry Smith.

Hearts became desperate in the closing stages but could not overcome the dogged resistance which included a tremendous performance from goalkeeper Ray Charles.

Alex MacDonald.

At full-time the Hearts manager Alex MacDonald offered no excuses and said Montrose were worthy winners before he got it in the neck from his chairman.

“It was one of the most famous results for a provincial club,” said Stewart.

“Hearts’ record under Alex MacDonald was magnificent and for our players to go to Tynecastle and win without conceding a goal was an incredible performance.”

Stewart was part of the Montrose team which was 90 seconds away from a Scottish Cup semi-final before they lost to Hearts over three matches in 1976.

Was revenge a dish best served cold?

Ian Stewart.

“I played against Hearts in 1970 and 1976 but Alex MacDonald’s 1986 team were the top club in Scotland and should have won the title,” he said.

“Tynecastle was a fortress at that time.

“I remember coming off the pitch at full-time after celebrating and Alex described our performance as the best from a lower league team that he had seen.

“He was gracious in defeat and asked me to join him for a chat in his office which was interrupted when his chairman Wallace Mercer gave him an ear-bashing!

“I would have liked to have defeated Hearts during my playing days but I’ll never forget managing the team on that sunny evening at Tynecastle.

Hearts chairman Wallace Mercer was unimpressed when his team out of the League Cup in 1986.

“The celebrations afterwards at the Cramond Brig Hotel near the River Almond which went on into the wee small hours were a sight to behold!

“This was a bigger triumph by far and I wished I could have played that night.

“Unforgettable scenes.

“Montrose FC made an immense contribution to my life, not only as a football player and manager but as a person.”

Part-time Montrose headed off back up the road leaving a stunned Tynecastle to ponder on just what has taken place there that night.

The measure of Montrose’s upsetting of the form book was reflected in a payment from the sponsors of £900 for scoring twice away from home against a seeded club.

Alan Lyons was the Montrose hero.

Alan Lyons was a firm favourite with the fans during his eight-year spell and recalled how Montrose were given “little or no chance of doing anything”.

“Hearts as you would imagine had lots of possession but we defended well with Ray Charles in goal and John Sheran at the heart of our defence both brilliant,” he said.

“We played well on the counter and I scored a half volley from just outside the box to go in one up at half-time.

“Second half was much the same and Mark Bennett scored a second and we held on for a famous victory.

“Overall we played very well with myself picking up man of the match.”

Ken Brown joined Montrose from Forfar after eight years at Station Park and became a rock at the heart of the defence alongside Sheran.

Ken Brown was brilliant at the back to keep the goal threat of Clark and Robertson quiet at Tynecastle.

“John had a great game that night,” he said.

“I had little to do except help John Robertson and Sandy Clark back to their feet after John had dealt with them!

“Tynecastle has to be my favourite away ground as I also won there in a cup game when I was with Forfar.”

Montrose FC historian Steve Doyle from Carlisle was among the away crowd on August 19 1986 when the Gable Endies famously won at Tynecastle.

Montrose FC historian Steve Doyle.

“I was sure my watch had stopped well before the final whistle and I was still in shock well before I got to Abington half way back home,” he said.

“It was an incredible result and even though I’ve been through loads of highs and lows with the Mo it lives in the memory forever the way lads played.

“Alan Lyons, Mark Bennett, John Sheran, Ken Brown plus of course keeper Ray Charles were outstanding although every player gave 100% for the cause.

“Hearts probably had about 80% possession but the Mo did what no other top tier side did that season and won at Tynecastle.”

The Montrose dream of further glory against Premier Division opponents was dashed when Dundee proved too good in the third round at Dens Park.

The Dark Blues won 4-0 and set up a quarter-final against Rangers who would go on to win the competition with victory against Old Firm rivals Celtic at Hampden.

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