Brora Rangers’ impressive Scottish Cup run came to an end as they were defeated 4-0 by Premiership side Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
The Cattachs put on a brave showing in their first ever appearance in the last-16 of the tournament, however their run of 402 minutes without conceding in this year’s competition was cruelly ended by Aaron Tshibola’s close-range finish three minutes before half time.
Kris Boyd, Eamonn Brophy and Stephen O’Donnell added further goals as fitness told in the second half, but it was a day to savour for the Sutherland outfit who were backed by an impressive 413 supporters who made the long journey south.
Ross Tokely made one change from the side that defeated Inverurie Locos 4-1 in the Breedon Highland League Cup the previous week, with Kyle MacLeod making way for Zander Sutherland up front.
It was the Cattachs’ fifth tie of the competition, having scored 12 goals without conceding in victories against Girvan, Civil Service Strollers and League 1 sides Stranraer and East Fife. Their only previous meeting with Kilmarnock was in 1972, when the Ayrshire side triumphed 4-0 at Dudgeon Park during a pre-season tour of the Highlands.
Brora could not have picked a trickier time to face Killie, with Steve Clarke’s side fresh from defeating champions Celtic 1-0 the previous weekend and firm favourites to clock up a sixth straight home victory.
Killie had a decent early chance on 10 minutes when Joe Malin was caught underneath Jordan Jones’ delivery, with Stephen O’Donnell’s cutback eventually finding Gary Dicker who sidefooted over the bar.
Brora were holding firm and enjoyed some neat spells on the counter-attack, with their first effort at goal coming on 16 minutes when Scott Graham’s free kick struck the wall, with the follow up delivery from Ally MacDonald down the left flank clutched by Killie’s debutant goalkeeper Leo Fasan.
The Cattachs continued to show promise, with Mark Nicolson’s cross picking out Steven Mackay who was unable to direct his header goalwards.
Although the visitors were not creating clear-cut chances, they did well to limit Kilmarnock’s threat, with Kris Boyd lobbing a shot harmlessly over, before Kirk Broadfoot nodded over from a corner.
The hosts thought they had broken the deadlock on 35 minutes when Jones’ threaded pass found Boyd who clipped the ball into the net, however the attacker was flagged for offside.
Just as it looked like Brora would hold firm until the interval, Killie grabbed the lead on 42 minutes when Greg Kiltie waltzed past the visitors’ defence, with his cutback evading Malin to leave Tshibola with an easy tap-in at the far post to finally end Brora’s Scottish Cup resolve.
Despite the setback Brora responded well after the break, with Dicker nearly turning Sutherland’s menacing corner into his own net at the far post.
Killie all but ended the contest with a second goal on 58 minutes however, when Jamie Duff’s pass was intercepted by Dicker who quickly released Boyd through on goal, and the striker clinically struck past Malin from 16 yards.
Both sides had opportunities from distance, with Malin making a fine beaten save from Eamonn Brophy’s shot before at the other end Martin MacLean shot straight at Fasan.
Tokely made a double switch with just over 20 minutes left, with Nicolson and Mackay making way for Paul Brindle and James Pickles, before MacLeod replaced Sutherland.
Killie added a third with 13 minutes left however, with substitute Brophy lashing the ball past Malin with an impressive strike from 20 yards, before O’Donnell drilled home to make it 4-0 on 83 minutes to complete the scoring.
Brora had a late chance to snatch a consolation when the lively Brindle came within inches of connecting with John Pickles’ low delivery in a decent flurry of pressure from the visitors, but it was an occasion for the Cattachs to remember in spite of the scoreline.