Cups become the focus as Spartans’ title hopes killed off

Ross Allum fires in an effort at goal for Spartans. Pic: Scott Louden
Ross Allum fires in an effort at goal for Spartans. Pic: Scott Louden
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Spartans manager Dougie Samuel insists the club will do all they can to ensure they end this season with a trophy for their endeavours.

Striker Chris Geddes effectively extinguished the Ainslie Park side’s Lowland League title challenge for another year as Stirling University became only the second side to leave the Capital with all three points this term.

Spartans now trail leaders East Kilbride by ten points having played a game more and, with just seven league fixtures remaining, Samuel accepts their best bet for silverware this season now lies elsewhere.

The club will meet either Hawick Royal Albert or Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale in next month’s Football Nation Qualifying Cup final and also have an East of Scotland Cup semi-final clash with SPFL League Two side and city rivals Edinburgh City to come.

“We’ll keep working as hard as we can to try and put something in the cabinet before the end of the year,” Samuel said. “Realistically, they [East Kilbride] would have to collapse to lose the league title but they deserve it. They put a phenomenal first half of the season together and produced a record-breaking run so we can’t control what happens at other clubs.”

On the defeat to Shelley Kerr’s students, Samuel said: “It was a frustrating day for us. I don’t think either side created much in the way of clear-cut chances. But, I think with the goal efforts we did create, we probably deserved a point from the game.

“I thought we finished the first half strong so I think half-time came at the wrong time for us. We started the second half well but fair play to Stirling they worked really hard. They’re a disciplined and organised side.

“With 15 minutes to go, we put our attacking players on in an effort to win the game and it’s probably cost us a point. If I’d kept things a bit tighter we would have taken at least a point but we’re going for three – we’re at home so we want to win. We’ve had a fantastic home record for the last couple of years so it’s disappointing but it’s not the end of the world.

“I’ve watched Chris Geddes for ten years now so I’ve seen him do it when I managed the Uni [Edinburgh] team and while I’ve been here at Spartans. He can be out of the game for so long and then pop up at the right time to win the game.”

Dan Ward, who was one of three changes Samuel made to his starting line-up following last weekend’s stalemate at Edinburgh University, met Andy Mair’s cross after 15 minutes but he couldn’t keep his shot under the crossbar.

The driving wind and rain wasn’t conducive to passing football and it took the visitors until the half-hour mark to register their first real test on the Spartans goal – Lewis Bonar’s low, driven shot calling Blair Carswell into action.

Ryan Marshall then expertly turned Ross Allum’s net-bound drive around the post before the former Edinburgh City striker headed straight into the arms of the Stirling No.1.

Scott Maxwell’s clever link-up play with Allum should have resulted in the opener on the stroke of half-time but the former curled his effort a couple of inches wide of Marshall’s right-hand post.

Chances were at a premium after the interval although Allum did spurn a gilt-edged chance 12 minutes from time as he collected a David Greenhill pass before slipping the ball beyond the far post with just Marshall to beat.

And that miss proved costly as Geddes showed terrific composure inside the penalty box before sending an angled shot in via the crossbar with just two minutes left to play.

Spartans: Carswell, Herd, Maxwell (Hay 79), Ward (Beesley 70), Thomson, Greenhill, Brown, Mair, Allum, Stevenson (Dishington 84), Townsley. Subs: Gilpin, Comrie, Murray, Gabiola.

Stirling University: Marshall, Jones, Cuff, Ashe, Nixon, Leigh, Bonar (Jamieson 65), Hunter, Geddes, McAfferty, Kellock. Subs: Brown, Miller, Kane, Faulds, Mailer, Moyes.