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Brora Rangers hold out hope that shock Scottish Cup win over Hearts will strengthen case to join SPFL

By Alasdair Fraser

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Brora Rangers’ board, management and players are united in the hope that Tuesday night’s earth-shattering victory over Hearts can propel the club to national league status.

An incredible show of spirit, grit and defiance enabled the Sutherland part-timers to pull off one of the greatest shocks in Scottish Cup history.

Hearts, with a weekly wage bill that might easily fund Brora for a couple of seasons, should by rights have rolled into the village and made light work of securing a third-round home tie against Stranraer.

The Edinburgh giants were at full pelt, 16 points clear in the Championship, while Brora had spent seven months of 2020 and much of 2021 in cold storage during the pandemic.

The lack of match readiness, with just one competitive game in early January, five training sessions and a bounce match against Buckie Thistle, should have depleted already slender chances of an upset.

The Cattachs, though, set about tearing up the script.

Manager Steven Mackay (left) and striker Jordan MacRae celebrate Tuesday’s wonderful 2–1 triumph over Hearts at the final whistle. Picture: Ken Macpherson
Manager Steven Mackay (left) and striker Jordan MacRae celebrate Tuesday’s wonderful 2–1 triumph over Hearts at the final whistle. Picture: Ken Macpherson

It took great depths of energy and desire, organisation and courage in throwing bodies in where it hurt against every Hearts incursion, but wonderful finishes from Jordan MacRae and Martin Maclean sparked wild scenes of celebration.

A noisy, socially-distanced gathering on the wee hill outside the ground could barely believe their eyes as undoubtedly the greatest result in the club’s 142-year history unfolded.

Amid joy at full-time, manager Steven Mackay and goalscorers Jordan MacRae and Martin Maclean showed a touch of class in dedicating the victory to the late Sheena Manson, who passed away last month.

The tributes to an 89-year-old they “loved to bits” were heartfelt and genuine, placing the club’s tea lady and tireless volunteer of more than 50 years’ service in a deserved spotlight.

Underlying the emotion, though, was a spike of grievance. Brora were denied a play-off opportunity by the SPFL last March, despite promotion and relegation being awarded elsewhere.

A 14-10-10-10 reconstruction vote also went against the Highland champions and Lowland counterparts Kelty Hearts. Meetings next week will consider a plan to create a 12-10-10-16 format embracing Rangers and Celtic colts teams and four non-league additions.

Manager Steven Mackay said: “Over the last few years, we’ve produced very credible results nationally.

“We’ve beaten Stranraer, East Fife and gone to Morton and drawn.

“We lost 3–1 to Hibs in the League Cup at Easter Road, but gave a great account of ourselves, so it is frustrating that we still haven’t gotten the nod.

“A result of this magnitude will have people sitting up and taking notice of Brora Rangers, and perhaps showing us a little more respect.

“Results like the Hearts game just strengthen our case.”

Chairman William Powrie, as driven and ambitious as they come, echoed those sentiments while goalscorer MacRae made it clear the appetite was just as strong among playing staff.

The striker said: “I feel the cup win sends a wee message to the authorities – we’re ready for the step up.

“We feel a bit hard done by after last year. If we had gone up, we wouldn’t just be making up the numbers.

“I feel we could compete, but it just felt like they didn’t really care about us in the leagues below the SPFL.”

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