Forres Mechanics – the Highland League champions, affectionately known as the Can Cans were seen as a potential big banana skin for Ally McCoist’s Third Division Rangers and they nearly lived up to that billing as they gave Rangers a hard-fought game which they were lucky to come away from with a win.
The pitch pre-game was immaculate and with the fans filling up three sides of the crowd, the anticipation was for a proper traditional cup game and they were not disappointed with goals, cards and chances.
Kal Naismith’s 15th minute strike was the difference between the sides but had it not being for Nathan Sharps red card in the second half, Forres might have taken more from the game.
The first half started with Forres Mechanics claiming a penalty with Ross Perry accused of handball, but the referee waved away their claims, instead giving Rangers the free kick.
Ranger’s first chance of the match fell to Lee McCulloch on three minutes who found himself through on goal where his shot was saved by Stuart Knight.
With both teams battling hard in the middle, with plenty of big tackles it looked as if Rangers would struggle early on to get a goal, but a great cross ball on 15 minutes was set up by McCulloch to Kal Naismith who from six yards neatly placed the ball into the corner of the goal past Knight.
Forres were now on the back foot and a clumsy tackle by Kyle Scott on the edge of the box on McCulloch gave Rangers the perfect chance to extent their lead. McCulloch took the resulting free kick, but his shot towards the bottom corner was palmed away by Knight out for a free kick.
The Mechanics first big chance of the game fell for Scott Moore on 28 minutes as he slid in at the back post and only narrowly missed the great cross ball from a team-mate.
Big Nathan Sharp had been marshaling the Forres defence very well for the duration of the first half and nearly got them an equaliser on 41 minutes from a Simon Allan corner. The ball was whipped in towards the back post where Sharp jumped well and
headed back across goal where Alexander was ready to scoop the ball away from danger.
Rangers had the first opportunity of the second half with young Fraser Aird having a shot at goal from 20 yards out which went wide. Rangers had another long-range shot from the edge of the area with again Aird taking a pop at goal but this time it forced a save from the bottom corner off Stuart Knight.
The Can Cans first big chance of the second half fell to Kyle Scott who found himself with plenty of space a couple of yards from goal as a McMullan free kick picked him neatly out. However his stretched effort could only force a save from Alexander who punched it out for a corner.
A Simon Allan free kick to Scott Lawrie saw the forward attempt an acrobatic jumping half volley which went also went narrowly wide.
Crawford Allan sent off Forres Mechanics Nathan Sharp on 67 minutes for a hand ball just inside the Forres half. It was a second yellow for Sharp who had got an earlier yellow in the first half for a late tackle. It was a sad end to a day in which the big defender had performed very well.
However going down to ten men seemed to spur the Mechanics on more as they went in search of an equaliser which would take them to a money spinning replay at Ibrox.
Ross McPherson was tripped on the edge of the Rangers box and was given a free kick by Allan. Simon Allan stepped up and his shot deflected off Lee McCulloch and out for a corner. The resulting corner was whipped in, but well saved by Alexander.
The end of the game saw plenty of long balls sent in but to no avail as the Rangers defence stood firm.
Rangers in the end were lucky to come away with the win but the Can Cans could be more than pleased as they put in a performance which the whole of Forres and the Highland League could be proud off.
After the game Forres Mechanics manager Charlie Rowley gave his thoughts on the game: “Got a very disappointed group in there, for the last 30 minutes any neutral wouldn’t have thought we were down to ten men. I thought we were in the ascendancy, we only had one man up front but I can tell you I am very proud of my players.”
Ranger’s manager Ally McCoist couldn’t put the performance down to having a team of young players: “It might be a reason but it’s certainly not an excuse, we should be playing better than that. We had a group of young boys, you could point to the fact we had a lot of the boys from the SPL players out but I’m not accepting that. I am very disappointed at the way we played after Wednesday night.”
Forres Mechanics: Stuart Knight, Graham Fraser, Simon Allan, Graeme Grant, Nathan Sharp, Ross McPherson, Martin McMullan, Kevin Duguid (Ryan McIntosh), Scott Lawrie, Kyle Scott, Scott Moore (Matthew Davidson)
Subs not used: Christopher Stuart, Fraser Bremner, Steven Fraser.
Rangers: Neil Alexander, Anestis Areyriou (Kevin Kyle), Emilson Cribari, Ross Perry, Lee Wallace, Lee McCulloch, Sebastien Faure, Kyle Hutton, Kal Naismith, Lewis McLeod, Fraser Aird (Robbie Crawford)
Subs not used: Scott Gallacher, Chris Hegarty, Barrie McKay.
Referee: Crawford Allan