YOU’D have been forgiven for thinking you had somehow stumbled upon a modern day rerun the Battle of Somme on Saturday.

In the swirling wind and rain, and on an increasingly battered Beechwood pitch, tackles flew in, blows were landed and neither gave the other an inch. The idea of trench warfare seemed rather tame in comparison.

Some football occasionally broke out but there’s no doubt this enthralling South Challenge Cup tie was more about the battle off the ball than on it.

Iain Diack’s troops eventually lost to an increasingly combative Hill of Beath Hawthorn with Darren Cummings and Conor Langton the unlucky pair in red to fail to hit the target in the deciding shootout. The visitors scored four out of five.

In time, this will also be remembered as a missed opportunity for Sachie who had started the game in the best possible fashion.

Such is the rarity with which Diack has been able to name his full contingent lately that it was almost surprising to see every place on the Sauchie bench taken by an able body. Not that this stopped the gaffer from naming himself as part of a strong looking lineup.

Once again, Ross Crawford and Conor Langton – who had only been passed to play on a technicality – took their place either side of him.

It was the former who had the game’s first real chance when he latched onto a wonderful through ball from Ant McTaggart. Crawford’s angled drive forced Stuart Hall into action and just seconds later he turned provider, but this time it was Diack who squandered the chance at the back post.

McTaggart had a go himself as he tested Hall with a beautifully struck volley as the hosts flew out of the blocks.

Hill of Beath had arrived in the Wee County undefeated since November, but Kevin Fotheringham’s side clearly struggled in the opening half with Sauchie’s fluid formation.

With Diack using all of his experience to find spaces between the midfield and attack, the Reds looked the most likely to grab this cup tie by the scruff of the neck.

A flash of brilliance set Langton, who was dangerous throughout, raring down the left and his cross eventually landed at the feet of Mark Sharp, who tamely found Hall’s midriff.

Hill of Beath were growing increasingly frustrated as the half wore on and had yet to test Darren Dolan. Their most testing effort was arguably Sauchie’s doing and it took a hacked clearance from Stevie Dolan underneath the crossbar to ensure the sides went into the break level.

Cliched as it may be, the interval arrived at the worst possible time for Sauchie. For whatever reason, their levels dropped drastically in the opening minutes of the second half and they were duly punished.

While Terry Hewitt could rightly feel aggrieved at the initial awarding of a free kick, the Reds had plenty of time to clear their lines and regroup before Rikki Dair arrived unmarked to nod home from a subsequent corner.

Tensions flared: Hewitt was at the heart of things and Diack, too, was fortunate to escape any sort of punishment for an incident off the ball.

Thankfully, Donaldson seemed to be the coolest man in Clackmannanshire when he drove through the Hill of Beath defence, picked up Diack’s clever cutback, and prodded the ball over Hall to level shortly after.

The composure shown by Donaldson was uncharacteristic of a second half that descended into outright warfare. Unsurprisingly, with the tackles becoming increasingly reckless, the actual football dissipated as extra time inevitably arrived.

Extra time was fraught with nasty challenges, clashes off the ball, and a couple of big chances for Sauchie, but ultimately it was penalties that decided the sides’ fate.

Hill of Beath kept their nerve as Sauchie missed twice to bring the battle to a painful end for the hosts.

SAUCHIE: D Dolan, Houston, S Dolan (Cummings 85), Cross, Hewitt (Taylor 100), McTaggart, Donaldson (Millar 66), Sharp, Crawford, Diack (Finlayson 69). Langton. UNUSED SUBS: Conville, Cairney, McKeown.