Cup qualification puts the focus for Spartans on league

Jamie Lauder, left, scored Leith Athletic's winning penalty
Jamie Lauder, left, scored Leith Athletic's winning penalty
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Spartans EOS manager Alex Cunningham was delighted to see his side wrap up qualification for the knockout stages of the East of Scotland Qualifying League.

Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Civil Service Strollers in Section A, coupled with Eyemouth United’s stalemate with Burntisland, ensures progress to the quarter-finals for both Capital sides.

“It’s good to get qualification sealed early doors, and that’s no disrespect to the competition, but it means our sole focus can be on Saturday’s league opener with Stirling University,” said Cunningham.

“We had a good pre-season, it’s a young team but the new signings have settled in well so Saturday should be a good test for us.”

Matthew Cunningham gave Spartans the lead after 38 minutes following good work from Lucasz Rusin. The second half was a very tight affair with both sides creating a few decent opportunities. However, with ten minutes left, Spartans’ Seb Pyda was ordered off for a dangerous foul. Strollers capitalised on their extra-man advantage when Scott Ritchie headed in the equaliser with four minutes to spare.

Meanwhile, in Section B, there was a resounding 5-0 victory for Easthouses Lily as they booked their qualification alongside section winners Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale. A Kenny McMillan hat-trick and two further goals from Graeme Young sealed an impressive win.

“We were absolutely superb in the first half going in at half time 4-0,” said a thrilled Lily boss Dave McQueenie. “It was a very good team performance against a team who always work hard and I was also thrilled for the new boys in getting their goals.”

Lothian were already assured of qualification with maximum points from their opening two games. Kevin Twaddle’s side will be in a confident frame of mind as they look ahead to this weekend’s Scottish Cup preliminary round-tie with Burntisland Shipyard at Saughton Enclosure, a match which Twaddle has labelled as ‘massive for everyone connected with the club’.

They concluded their Qualifying League campaign with a 4-2 win over Heriot-Watt University at Riccarton, their goals coming from Connor McGregor, Sean Wringe, Louis Swanson and Scott Moffat after Watt had taken a 2-1 interval lead through Elliot Sutherland and Chris Donnelly.

Elsewhere, Craigroyston’s hopes were ended as they slumped to a 3-1 defeat by Ormiston at St Marks Park. Second-half goals from Dean Woods, Sean Miller and David Ross completed an impressive comeback for the East Lothian side after Jason Young had given Craigroyston a 25th-minute lead, only to be red-carded moments later for violent conduct.

Tynecastle have qualified for the knockout stages despite a 3-2 reverse to Section E winners Duns. That result means that Ormiston exit the competition on goal difference with Tynecastle progressing as the best runner-up.

East of Scotland Qualifying Leagues.

Teams through to knockout stages

Section A: Spartans EOS, Civil Service Strollers

Section B: Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale, Easthouses Lily Miners Welfare.

Section C: Coldstream.

Section D: Leith Athletic.

Section E: Duns, Tynecastle (Best Runner-up).

In the Central Taxis Premier Division, Leith Athletic gained three points with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Coldstream thanks to a Jamie Lauder penalty at Meadowbank 3G.

Athletic manager Derek Riddel was thrilled his side managed to maintain their 100 per cent start to the season, believing his side should have scored more against the Border outfit.

“We were exceptional in the first half and I couldn’t fault the players, apart from some questionable finishing perhaps. Jamie Lauder was excellent in the middle for us, with most of our attacks being started by his excellent range of passing. Chris Barrie and Lewis Martin have also made excellent starts for us.”