JASON STEVENS came on as a substitute for Leith Athletic midway through the second half and with the game evenly poised grabbed two goals to help the First Division team beat Premier Division opposition in the first round of the King Cup.
Stevens brought a penetrating option on the left side of the park and his pace caused immediate problems for the Lothian defence who, at that stage, were pushing forward in search of an equaliser having been shocked on 32 minutes when Lewis Tracey scored against the run of play.
Lothian started on the offensive and were virtually camped in and around the Leith penalty box for the opening half an hour. Matt Costello headed wide from a good position, Alan McDonagh blasted a shot into the side netting and Lloyd Dignan had an effort well saved by the impressive Iain Gordon. Costello then directed a corner from Ross Elliot wide of the target and Craig Stevenson, whose trickery caused the Leith defence some headaches, hit the side netting before Richie Wilkes was denied by another fine save from Gordon.
However Leith took the lead when a long through ball saw Kyle Boggie and goalkeeper Kevin Swain challenge for the ball on the edge of the Lothian penalty area. The ball broke to Tracey who calmly lifted a 25 yard shot into the unguarded net. This proved to be Leith’s only goal attempt in the first half.
After the break Leith came more into the game. Stephen Barrie hit a shot over the bar before Chris Beaton and Tracey brought out good saves from Swain. Lothian had opportunities to equalise with Elliot, Dignan and Stevenson all going close.
However, Lothian had a part in their own downfall when Swain gave the ball to Wilkes under pressure. Greig Tulloch robbed the defender and passed to Stevens who wasted no time in firing the ball under Swain.
Lothian had concrete appeals for a penalty turned down when Stevenson was brought down by Neil Lowson eight yards from goal but the referee waved play on much to the annoyance of the Lothian players and management.
Leith sealed their place in the second round in the closing minutes of stoppage time when Jack Combe scampered down the right wing and crossed for Stevens to sweep the ball home.
Afterwards, a delighted Stevens was nonetheless quick to downplay his contribution to the result. “To be fair we were already one-nil up when I came on thanks to a good team effort from the boys who had worked very hard.
“When we were in the Premier Division last season I thought that we were unlucky to get relegated. I think that a few of the younger players have grown a lot and we have come together to form a good squad.
“For my first goal I just saw the target, put my head down and put my foot through the ball and hoped for the best. I was just lucky that it went under the hand of their goalie and it was good to see it going in.”
Derek Riddel, the Leith manager, said: “The bookmakers suggested that we were the underdogs but to come out and win 3-0 against one of the best teams this season is great for us although the scoreline does flatter us.
“We were very poor in the first half and I was disappointed with our performance but in the second half we really upped our game and we were excellent. We were definitely the better team.”
Grant Carnie, the Lothian boss, reflected on his team’s display by saying: “I thought that from the start of the game we imposed ourselves really well.
“We passed Leith off the park, especially in the first half, but they had one shot at goal and scored when we switched off at the back. We were then chasing the game. The score shows 3-0 to Leith although I thought that was a flattering scorline.”
Leith Athletic: Gordon, C Barrie, Hall, Lowson, Tainsh, Cairns, S Barrie( Stevens 67), Hume, Boggie (Tulloch 67, Combe 80), Beaton, Tracey. Subs: Cornago, Thom.
Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale: Swain, Crawford, Dignan, Wilkes, Costello, Hawkins, Connolly (Anderson 76), Elliot, Stevenson, McDonagh, Lee. Subs: McColl, MacDonald.