LIKENING the Champions League final to its ETHX Energy Scottish Junior Cup equivalent may seem a bit like comparing Mila Kunis to Dot Cotton, but there were two striking similarities between events in Milan on Saturday night and what unfolded in Kilmarnock yesterday; both games started late and both needed a penalty shoot-out to decide the outcome.

And just as Real Madrid had done the previous night, it was Beith, in their first ever final in this competition, who demonstrated the requisite character and composure from 12 yards to get their hands on the trophy. It wasn’t quite a wait of Hibernian proportions but, having been on the go in their current form since 1938, the euphoria that erupted once Richie Burke had slotted in the final kick told the story of a club and a town that must have wondered if it was ever going to be their day.

Beith has a population of around 6000 and it seemed like most of them had travelled down the road to Rugby Park for the day, the majority bedecked in black and white and roaring for The Mighty. They saw their team take a second-half lead, be pegged back by an equaliser with his first touch from the evergreen Robbie Winters, before emerging triumphant via the shoot-out in which Stephen “Big Shay” Grindlay, in his first season in the Junior ranks, was the hero with two key saves.

The good folk of Beith had given the team such a rousing send-off prior to the game that manager Johnny Millar admitted, perhaps only half-joking, that they didn’t dare return there without the trophy in their grasp.

“We had a great send-off from the town and we didn’t want to go back there as losers,” said Millar who also won the cup twice as a player. “They gave us some backing all afternoon. Once we missed the first penalty I feared the worst but Big Shay came up with the goods. I expected him to save a couple, if I’m being honest. That’s what I said to the boys, “You score the penalties and Big Shay will save a couple” and that’s the way it worked out. There will be a big party now. We might get home in time for the Kilbirnie game on Wednesday.”

Penalty shoot-outs in the modern era are often settled by research as much as by skill but Grindlay, the long-serving former Dumbarton goalkeeper, still preferred to do things the old-fashioned way. “I had been thinking of penalties all last night,” he revealed. “When we were told there would be no extra time, I thought it had a right good chance of going to penalties. I had a feeling I would save a couple so I’m happy that I managed to do it. I had a wee sheet of paper with information on it and it’s nice to have that knowledge but I decided to go with that advice on only one of the penalties and it was David Winters’ which I saved. The rest was instinct.”

For a while it began to look as if Robbie Winters was going to be the story of the day. The well-travelled striker, now 41 years old, had started on the bench but emerged after 71 minutes with Pollok a goal behind. Within 30 seconds he had equalised with his first touch after brother David’s shot had pranged against the post. Robbie later succeeded where David had failed by also scoring in the shoot-out but it would prove only a temporary stay of execution with Burke stepping up next to send the trophy to Beith.

Pollok, who began as favourites, will surely come to regret not capitalising on their first-half dominance when they created a handful of chances but failed to take any of them. Carlo Monti, once of Morton and Dundee, was at the heart of the first two, crossing for Kieran McAleenan whose header drifted narrowly wide while a corner that landed on Chris Walker’s head also ended similarly off target. The best Pollok chance of the first half, however, fell to David Winters. A long ball forward found the ex-Dundee United and Livingston forward racing free of the Beith defence but he couldn’t get the ball properly in his stride and John Sheridan recovered to nick it off his toe.

Beith, in contrast, were struggling to impose themselves on the contest at this point. It took until the 30th minute before they had fashioned a chance of note and even then Paul Frize’s shot lacked the sufficient venom to trouble Jordan Longmuir in goal. Emboldened by Pollock’s profligacy they tried again before the break, Kenny McLean’s volley requiring Longmuir to thrust up a palm to push it over.

Beith continued to knock at the door and, as Pollok faltered, it eventually opened for them. It was a terrific individual goal from Darren Christie who wriggled away from Walker before fizzing a shot across the goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net.

“It was just good to score in front of all my mates in that far corner,” said Christie. “There was a full bus of them there and my mum with my wee girl as well so it was great to score on that side.”

With an hour played Beith were in the ascendancy and only a terrific stop from Longmuir denied Andrew Reid a few minutes later. Robbie Winters’ subsequent intervention took it to penalties where the team from Ayrshire emerged triumphant. Call it Sunshine on Beith.