Former Aberdeen striker Darren Mackie will forever rue the one that got away when he thinks of his side’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Queen of the South.
Jimmy Calderwood’s Dons team faced the First Division side at Hampden on April 12, 2008 and were favourites in the eyes of almost everyone.
Calderwood’s Dons team had come through the group stages of the Uefa Cup before exiting to Bayern Munich in the last 32. Having lost a League Cup semi-final to Dundee United they were determined to make amends in the Scottish Cup and arrived at the National Stadium having knocked Celtic out in the quarter-final replay at Celtic Park no less.
No-one could have predicted the drama which unfolded.
Three times Queens led, three times the Dons equalised but when former Don John Stewart, one of four ex-Aberdeen players in the Doonhamers line-up, scored his side’s fourth on the hour mark it would prove to be the winner as a remarkable afternoon in Glasgow ended in disbelief and dismay for everyone associated with Aberdeen.
The agony of exiting the cup was bad enough but it was the pain of knowing what missing out on a place in the final – and the chance to win a trophy – which hurts Mackie more.
He said: “I truly believe had we won that game we would have won the Scottish Cup final that season and I think that’s maybe why losing that semi-final hurt as much as it did. We knew we had let a fantastic chance to win a trophy slip away.
“We played Rangers at Pittodrie in the last league game of the season and comfortably won 2-0.
“By the time the final came around they were dead on their feet due to the number of games they had played because of reaching the Uefa Cup final.
“Queens showed that by pushing them all the way in the final but it was hard to take for us as we knew we should have been there.”
The game itself remains little more than a blur but that is no surprise. Mackie watched all seven goals from the sidelines before being sent on to try to find an eighth. Given the furious flurry at both goals it is no surprise Mackie struggles to recall it all.
His overriding feeling, however, is one of disappointment.
He said: “I have mixed feelings about that day and bad memories too.
“I remember being a substitute for the game and was unhappy at being put on the bench. I felt I had been playing well in the run-up to the game but the manager decided to go with Chris Maguire up front instead and I came on for the last half hour when we were 4-3 down.
“The game seemed to fly by in a blur and it’s the moments when I was on the pitch that I remember most. Zander Diamond hit the crossbar and the post while Barry Nicholson had a good chance late on to make it 4-4.”
By the time the final whistle blew the game had become a Scottish Cup classic but as far as Aberdeen were concerned it was for all the wrong reasons.
It was not just because of the seven goals, but the loss of shape and all semblance of composure.
Mackie believes the reason for that is quite simple.
He said: “Everybody expected us to win in 2008 and all the pressure was on us. Win or lose Queen of the South would have been lauded for having reaching the semi-final in the first place and that gave them the freedom to go and play without any fear. In contrast we had all the pressure and we never handled it.”
As with the previous round against Stenhousemuir, the ghosts of Scottish Cup exits past should hopefully serve as a timely lesson for the class of 2019 as the two teams prepare to meet again at Pittodrie on Sunday where a place in the quarter-final is at stake.