Spartans’ Donal Henretty’s two first-half goals were enough to secure the Ainslie Park side a 2-0 win over Edinburgh University in the first round of the William Hill Scottish Cup at Peffermill.
The veteran player notched a brace within eight minutes to seal his side’s passage into the second round, but was quick to offer a strong appraisal for the battling students who more than proved a match for their Lowland League opponents.
Henretty said: “We’re pleased with the result but I’m not so sure about the performance. Edinburgh Uni are always a hard team to play against and never give up. Other teams at 2-0 down at half-time might not have come out with the same enthusiasm as them, but they battled hard.
“I don’t think there was a huge amount of chances and it was right in the balance even until the 90th minute. We’ll take whoever we get in the next round, the Scottish Cup is a great thing having been involved with it over the years and we want to push on.”
Former Edinburgh Uni player Jack Beesley had the first attempt on target of the afternoon as the Spartans No. 7 cut inside from the left before unleashing a right-footed effort which was straight into the arms of goalkeeper Liam Valentine. However, the hosts’ Kohei Habata’s willingness to run with the ball was proving dangerous for the Spartans rearguard and he tested Scott Bennett from 25 yards with a well-struck effort.
The Uni did have the ball in the net after 20 minutes when Habata had time and space to turn and thread his pass through to Calum Murray who prodded the ball into the back of the net via the left post, but the referee’s assistant on the far side had already raised his flag to signal offside.
Finn Daniels was really impressive in the heart of the Uni midfield but it was the visitors who bypassed the best opportunity after half an hour when Beesley and Henretty combined to put the ball on a plate for team-mate McLeod, but somehow the experienced frontman fired high over the top from little more than three yards.
Spartans did, however, grab the lead after 37 minutes when Beesley’s in-swinging corner picked out Henretty, who had made a run to the near post to evade his marker and head the ball beyond Valentine.
John Grant almost doubled Spartans’ lead just a moment later as his shot flashed across the Uni goal before Henretty struck his second with a clever finish from ten yards.
With their Scottish Cup dream hanging in the balance, Uni returned to the field after the interval on the front foot and Paul Sutherland’s 35 yard free-kick signalled their intent early on as Bennett was at full stretch to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Beesley’s deliveries from the wide areas were causing panic in the Uni penalty area and the visitors really should have been three to the good as his ball across the six yard box failed to be converted despite several Spartans players waiting to pounce.
Daniel Main and McLeod both passed up further opportunities to add to Spartans lead and despite some late pressure from the Uni, they didn’t test Bennett nearly enough in the second 45 to warrant at the very least a replay.
Uni manager Dorian Ogunro was full of praise for his players despite exiting the competition.
He said: “I thought we played very good football and think for the first 25 minutes we were on top. We had some good opportunities to get a goal and then we just got a bit sloppy. But once Spartans got their goal, it gave them that confidence but generally I’m very happy with how my team performed as they are a top Lowland League side.”
Edinburgh University: Valentine, MacFarlane, Sutherland, Ward, Flett, Daniels (Whelan 72), Ross, L Murray (Oswald 78), C Murray, Nikolaidis (Patterson 60), Habata. Subs: Aitken, Frain, Coleman, Hainey.
Spartans: Bennett, Cennerazzo, Blaikie, Main, Mackinnon, Grant, Beesley (Anderson 74), Whatley, Henretty, McLeod, Brown. Subs: Ross, Muhsin, Bremner, Atkinson, Carswell.