A north-east amateur team are dreaming of Hampden after a remarkable Scottish Cup run.
Rothie Rovers have blazed a trail for the north in reaching the last-16 of the Scottish Amateur Cup.
Stunning away wins over BSFC (5-2), Syngenta from Stirling (3-2), Newport from Fife (1-0) and Daziel HSFPs from Motherwell (1-0) took them into the fifth round.
In the last-32 Rothie faced Oban Saints at home. Rovers were leading 1-0 but conceded a last-gasp equaliser leaving them a tough trip to the west coast.
Oban started strongly in the replay but a string of fine saves from goalie Lewis Milne kept the score to 1-0 and, with 15 minutes left, Rothie equalised through Mark Thomson.
That forced extra time, and in the first period Ryan Walker made it 2-1 before Keith Walker hit the crossbar as Rothie looked to kill the game.
Remarkably, despite having two players sent off, Oban levelled with the last kick of the ball.
But Rothie showed composure to net nine of 10 penalties. Then keeper Milne made himself the hero by saving the 20th spot-kick of the shoot-out to give Rovers a 9-8 win.
In the last-16, they will face Alba Thistle from Paisley. If successful, they will be just two games from the final at Hampden.
Manager Kevin Beaton said: “It’s good to fly the flag for the north. We’re the only team north of Stirling left in the cup, and we’ve had lots of supporting messages from other clubs. It’s good the effort is recognised.
“We’re away again in the sixth round in Paisley against Alba Thistle.
“They are in the same league as Oban Saints, so we’ll do our homework and give it our best shot.
“The standard in the central belt seems to be a bit higher than the amateur level up here.
“But we give our guys a system to play, and between that and hard work and a bit of luck on the day then we can pull off a shock result and keep going.
“But the team are delighted, they have enjoyed the run so far and just want to keep it going. In theory, they’re only three games from Hampden.
“It’s a feat that not many professional players get to achieve, let alone an amateur team from the village of Rothienorman in Aberdeenshire.
“It’s good for the club because a lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes from our chairman Brian Cormack.
“He has facilities for us that are second to none and it’s a whole club effort.”
The run is Rothie’s best in the Scottish Amateur Cup.
Boss Beaton, 34, has been at the club for 10 years – seven as a player and three as manager.
He added: “In every round we have won away from home so we’ve done it the hard way, but it is great for the team. The experience they are gaining is invaluable.
“I fell into the role of manager really for a bit of stability when Ian Bruce left.
“Then we took Asher Mathers back as assistant manager. He was my manager when I first joined Rothie but stepped down due to work commitments.
“He has come back and his experience has been invaluable because I’m only 34.
“I have really enjoyed it and it’s been a great learning curve for me and the players.”