Junior side Darvel pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Scottish Cup history by dumping out Aberdeen in the fourth round, to leave the Premiership side’s manager Jim Goodwin clinging on to his job.
The West of Scotland League Premier Division champions took the lead in the 19th minute of the fourth-round tie through a deflected strike by Jordan Kirkpatrick, who was part of Goodwin’s Alloa Athletic side that won promotion to the Championship in 2018.
An anxious Aberdeen side were denied at least three times by keeper Chris Truesdale in the second half but Darvel, from the sixth tier of Scottish football, offered much more than grit and determination to see the game out for a famous victory in the biggest night in their history.
Pressure had piled on Goodwin after the 5-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle last Wednesday night and it will be difficult for the Irishman to survive this calamity.
Darvel’s manager Mick Kennedy wanted to take advantage of any Aberdeen fragility and his side certainly did that and now face Falkirk at home in the fifth round.
“What an occasion for the club,” Kennedy told BBC Scotland. “I have believed in the guys all week. I have been drumming it into the team, they need to believe in themselves and trust each other. That is the culture at the club, the togetherness, love and respect and we have driven that all week. When you believe in each other it is remarkable what you can achieve.”
It was all set up for a famous night in the Ayrshire town which has a population of only 4,000. There was around 3,500 inside the ground, with 700 wearing the red of the Granite City men.
Ryan Duncan, making his second start, posed an early threat for the visitors on a more than decent surface, but missing the target with a couple of efforts.
Darvel were edging their way into the game and in the 11th minute a deflected drive from Craig Truesdale tested Dons keeper Joe Lewis, before the lively home attacker saw another two shots from distance fly wide.
It was more good work from Truesdale which led to the opening goal. Pittodrie defender Hayden Coulson failed to properly clear his cross from the left and when the ball fell to Kirkpatrick, the midfielder’s shot on the turn took a touch off Coulson and flew low past Lewis before bedlam ensued among the ecstatic home supporters.
“I didn’t even think it was the best of strikes,” Kirkpatrick said. “One of those ones where you hope it hits the back of the net and it does. It just shows you with our standard that we can step up.”
Aberdeen fought back and Darvel were forced into some diligent defending. In the 35th minute Stewart headed a Duncan free-kick over Truesdale’s crossbar but the visitors went up the tunnel at the break in a state of some anxiety and Goodwin facing the most important 45 minutes of his tenure at Pittodrie.
Darvel remained in their shape and repelled attacks but there was always the possibility of fatigue playing a part.
In the 52nd minute the busy Vicente Besuijen flashed a drive over the bar from 25 yards before Darvel midfielder Ian McShane hammered a shot at Lewis from distance at the other end. Four minutes later, it took a fine block from keeper Truesdale’s foot to deny Duncan’s close-range shot when the home side, for once, had offered an opportunity.
Aberdeen’s Jonny Hayes replaced Coulson and the Pittodrie men tried to increase the tempo but Darvel were proving resolute with Truesdale’s making a good reaction save from Luís ‘Duk’ Lopes who latched on to a ball flashed across the six-yard box.
In the 74th minute Patrick Myslovic had the ball in the net from a Leighton Clarkson square ball but the offside flag was up with no VAR to confirm or deny.
Keeper Truesdale made yet another great save at point-blank range from Duk as Aberdeen pressed for the leveller but it was to be Darvel’s night with the fate of Goodwin now in question.