AS he and his team prepared to board the team bus home on Saturday evening, Michael Tidser was left to rue “mistakes” that he felt blew Kelty Hearts’ Scottish Cup hopes off course at the seaside.
Despite giving as good as they got for an hour against their opponents from a division above, three goals inside the final half an hour saw Ayr United progress to round five at Somerset Park.
The Honest Men, who were drawn to face Rangers at Ibrox, won through thanks to goals from Roy Syla, and substitutes Ahkeem Rose and Mark McKenzie, in the first-ever meeting of the teams.
The final scoreline was harsh on the New Central Park outfit, who enjoyed plenty of the ball, particularly before Syla’s opener, and missed a great opportunity through Alfie Bavidge moments before it.
Syla’s effort, a low strike from the edge of the penalty box, came after experienced centre back, Jason Thomson, couldn’t clear a long kick from home keeper Charlie Albinson effectively while under pressure from Anton Dowds.
Dowds and Paul Smith continued to harry Thomson, and subsequently Adam Corbett, before the latter won the ball and rolled it into Syla’s path.
“I thought for large spells we were really good in the game, without creating anything clear-cut,” Tidser said.
“I know Bav’s got a chance at the back post, but if you make a mistake, you get punished at this level. I’ve played 250 games at this level, so I know what it’s like.
“But, listen, I can’t be too critical of the lads. I’ve said that. There was a lot of young lads out there who have not played against Championship teams, so I thought they showed real composure, and a wee bit of character, to try and control the game for spells.
“I don’t think 3-0 is a reflection of the game. As I said, a mistake, and then the game stretches, but you just take your medicine and get on with it.”
There was a sense that the first goal in this tie would be critical and, once the managerless Honest Men got it, it proved difficult for Kelty to try and get back into it.
The visitors, aiming to reach the last 16 for the second time – they did two years ago, when they memorably sent holders St Johnstone out at this stage – immediately pitched Brody Paterson and Brad McKay in for their debuts.
The pair, signed on loan from Hartlepool United and Falkirk respectively, enjoyed encouraging bows in maroon, with ex-Dunfermline man McKay in the right spot to throw his body in the way to deny Dowds and Smith, twice, with Kyle Gourlay in goal also producing a super block to thwart Dowds from close in range in the aftermath of the latter two.
Although Logan Chalmers curled over, captain Sean McGinty cleared the bar with a far post header, and Jamie Murphy turned a Paddy Reading centre wide, Ayr looked lethargic in spells.
Under the interim charge of Davie White, after former Pars star, Lee Bullen, left his role of head coach ahead of the game, the Championship’s side’s punters were becoming frustrated as the opening half wore on, with the ‘Maroon Machine’ enjoying plenty of possession.
Teenage pair Lewis O’Donnell and Reuben McAllister were particularly impressive in midfield, always showing for the ball and keeping their team ticking over, but Kelty’s only real effort came when Stefan McCluskey sent a rasping drive not too far over from 20 yards.
Chalmers forced Gourlay into action early in the second period, pushing a shot over the bar after Paterson had done well to block the Ayr man’s initial effort, before Kelty had a huge opportunity.
Corbett did well on the right to send the ball across goal and Bavidge, who has scored four goals for the club so far, sent the ball wide from around six yards.
It was a big moment and, minutes later, Kelty were punished when Syla broke the deadlock.
Craig Johnston flicked wide from a corner as the visitors tried to respond, but they had Gourlay to thank for keeping them in it when he did well to push away a Chalmers effort as went one-on-one with the keeper.
However, with 11 minutes left, Rose – who had been on the pitch for around three minutes – netted Ayr’s second with a fine finish on the turn inside the box, before fellow substitute McKenzie curled in a third in stoppage time.
Player / manager Tidser, who wasn’t involved in the squad, acknowledged his team had played well in the opening hour of the game, continuing: “You’ve seen us enough this season. That’s the way we try and play, and it was no different coming here.
“Again, and I’m reiterating it, it’s mistakes. Obviously, Jason’s our most experienced player, he makes a mistake, and then doesn’t recover from it.
“They get the first goal, they get their noses in front, and it’s hard enough trying to come here and win a game, never mind being a goal behind.
“It’s all part of the process of learning and trying to get better.”
Paterson commented: “It’s a tough one to take from a team perspective.
“I thought we were in control of the game for large spells but we just lacked the final ball or the finish at the end of it to put Ayr to bed.”
McKay added: “What better game to come into than a tough opposition, a full-time team in the league above? People say it’s a free hit but we came here with full belief.
“I thought first half we were excellent. We just maybe lacked that wee bit cutting edge in the final third, and maybe the decisiveness to really believe that we can go and score and create a chance. That’ll come.”