AUCHINLECK Talbot face a "mammoth task" if they are to continue in their quest to claim a 15th Scottish Junior Cup title.

That was how Beechwood Park boss Tommy Sloan described the situation after his side fell to a 2-0 defeat at home to East Ayrshire rivals Darvel in the first leg of their semi-final on Friday.

But while Talbot are down, they will certainly not be counting themselves out just yet.

A big crowd turned out to Beechwood on Friday, April 12, night to watch the two West of Scotland Football League heavyweights do battle in the historic competition.

Talbot saw off Darvel in the competition's third round last year, but the early stages on Friday suggested a repeat of last season's 3-1 win may not be on the cards.

Darvel had the best of the opening stages with only last ditch defending and an in-form Aiden Glavin between the sticks for Talbot keeping them out.

But the hosts' rearguard was broken down on 38 minutes when Jordan Moore, who was part of the Cumnock squad who won the competition last year, broke through and slotted into the back of the home side's net.

Sloan's side came back into the match in the second 45, but were dealt a hammer blow shortly after the hour mark when they conceded a penalty following a clumsy challenge on the edge of the 18-yard box.

It was former Talbot man Graham Wilson who stepped up for Darvel and he kept his cool to send Glavin the wrong way from the spot.

The home side mounted some late pressure from set pieces but were unable to find a breakthrough and now have it all to do at Recreation Park on Friday, April 19.

Speaking to the Scottish Junior FA (SJFA) media team after the match, boss Sloan was left ruing a lack of cutting edge in the fixture.

Cumnock Chronicle: Auchinleck Talbot were defeated 2-0 by Darvel in their Scottish Junior Cup semi-final first leg.Credit: Craig McGhee

He said: “It’s not a great start. We’ll go there and do the best we can next week – hopefully we can start the game well and maybe get it back.

“I don’t think we tested Andy [Leishman, Darvel's former Talbot goalkeeper] enough.

“There was a lot of good build up play, but maybe the last wee bit wasn’t there tonight, which is disappointing."

And Sloan, who knows about all there is to know about winning the competition, feels the lack of experience within his side may have played a role in the defeat.

Only three players who started the match on Friday were part of the Talbot squad who last won the tournament in 2022 - Gareth Armonstrong, Jamie Glasgow and Neill McPherson.

Darvel, in fact, had two members of that squad in their own line-up in Leishman and Wilson - with plenty of experience across different levels also littered across the squad.

Sloan continued: “It’s a big occasion, we’ve got a young team, I’m going away not too disappointed – in the results, yes, but not in the performance.”

“When you go behind, they’ve got a lot of experience and it becomes really difficult."

The Talbot boss now admits it will be a huge challenge to overcome their opponents this week and earn a cup final spot - but he insisted all hope is not yet lost.

"Once the penalty went in, it’s a mammoth task after that," he added.

“We stayed in the game right to the end. We had a few close things but it just wasn’t our night.

“Hopefully we can score next week. When you don’t score you’ve got no excuse. We lacked a wee bit of quality at the end.

“We’re still looking forward to it (the next leg). We’re still in with a wee shout yet.”

Friday night's second leg gets under way at Recreation Park at 7.30pm.