LARGS Thistle must do it the hard way if they are to prevent a bit of Junior footballing history being made.

Never in 133 years of the Scottish Junior Cup have the same two teams met in the final as in the previous season but already you would have to think holders Auchinleck Talbot have substantially more than one foot in this year’s Macron sponsored Final following Saturday’s 4-1 first leg crushing of semi-final opponents Lochee United up in their own backyard.

The same however cannot be said about the beaten finalists last time out, Hurlford United, finding Premiership rivals Largs proving to be anything but the same walkovers as the Taysiders.

Indeed, a 700-strong crowd at the first game would say the evidence from their 2-2 Barrfields draw points to both teams having everything yet to play for when they come to lock horns again at Blair Park.

Theesel undoubtedly had the edge first half but their lacking the conviction to build on this promising start allowed Hurlford to show their own qualities after the break and it looked at one stage like Darren Henderson’s men would have a 2-1 lead to add to the advantage of playing at home next week until towering Largs stopper Nikky Jamieson - later named Man of the Match – earned parity with a disputed equalising goal.

His team boss Stuart Davidson admitted afterwards, “To be perfectly honest I fully expected today ‘s game was going to be tight seeing as all our previous meetings this season have panned out that way.

“Nothing has changed in that respect as I always felt we would need to set our stall out to win through at Hurlford and I’m only disappointed not to have our noses in front going into the second leg.

“We could have kicked on at 1-0 up and put ourselves in a much better position but instead we dropped off the pace and stopped winning our headers which enabled their players to get up a head of steam and put pressure on our defence.

“To be then trailing 2-1 was unfair on our guys and getting back on level terms was the very least they deserved.”

The home team, with ex-Falkirk midfielder Mark Millar pulling the strings, were dominant territorially in the early stages but without ever troubling Ford goalkeeper Ally Brown yet he was to be picking the ball out of his net just 15 minutes in after a corner taken by Millar found tall centre back team-mate Crag Little rising criminally unchallenged to power home a header for 1-0.

Millar then tested Brown with a rasping left-foot shot which the Hurlford No.1 held at the second time of asking as Largs striker Scott Adam came racing in to try and pounce on the initial rebound.

Hurlford’s first attempt of any note arrived in 34 minutes when Liam Caddis fired over the junction of crossbar and post yet they duly levelled just one minute later after Calum Watt headed down a high cross and Paul “Taz” McKenzie wheeled to half-hit a shot goalwards that trundled past Largs keeper Jamie McGowan’s outstretched arm and went in off the post.

More was seen of the visitors as an attacking force when the second half got underway and the woodwork kept out a Watt effort prior to McGowan diving low to keep out a Liam Caddis drive prior to saving a netbound Michael Reilly header.

But the keeper’s somewhat spectacular parry of Ford substitute Lewis Morrison’s header, at the expense of a corner in 69 minutes, came at even more of a cost as a move straight from the training ground saw Sam Liddington whip over a driven cross for Caddis to meet near post and powerfully head into the far corner of the net.

Largs were visibly rocked and only the strong defensive work of Jamieson and Little prevented them yielding up further goals as Hurlford applied the screw however the game was to controversially turn on its head again in 81 minutes

Largs gaffer Davidson had urged his tall centre-backs forward at a set-piece that was cleared out left and they were still inside the penalty box when Lewis McMaster’s firing the ball back from whence it came evoked an untidy scramble that sparked loud and concerted hand-ball claims from Hurlford’s defenders against Little.

Everyone appeared to stop but referee Stephen Brown’s whistle did not blow, and the split-second’s hesitation was all Jamieson needed to slide in and direct a low shot beyond Brown for 2-2.

The goalscorer said after the match: “The ball was running loose, and I think my long legs helped me get to it before a couple of the Hurlford players and send it goalwards.

“A draw was probably the correct result because it felt like a game of two halves out there with us having the better of the first 45 minutes and Hurlford the second.

“People might think we’ve lost our chance, but this team can play a lot better than we showed today and there are players coming back from injury who can make a big difference.”

Hurlford manager Darren Henderson was pleased with his side’s battling performance but not so enamoured with the match officials.

He said: "I didn’t have the best of views at the handball incident myself but it’s not just coincidence that has caused every one of my players to shout for it and they are furious at not getting the decision.

“But it’s not as if I can give them Mr Brown's interpretation because my approach after the final whistle to ask in a very civil manner for his take on things has been met by him pointing a finger in my face and shouting for me to go away.

“Losing a goal so late on is disappointing but I’d have bitten your hand off for 2-2 before the game so I cannot really complain about the result."

The one-sided semi-final outcome up at Thomson Park did not look to be on the cards when the teams went in at half time with the scoreline reading 0-0.

Hitman Graham Wilson opened the floodgates for the visiting Ayrshiremen whose advantage was doubled by a Dwayne Hyslop score before Connor Birse pulled a goal back and raised hopes of Lochee staging a recovery.

But Talbot went straight upfield to score again through Stevie Wilson before Sean McIlroy added a fourth goal in the final minute.