It doesn’t take too many guesses these days to pick the Spartans match winner.
And, for the seventh consecutive week, Keith McLeod popped up to give the Ainslie Park club a 3-2 victory over Whitehill Welfare in the second round of the South Challenge Cup.
The 35-year-old netted his side’s third and decisive goal 15 minutes from time – scoring for the seventh consecutive game – to deny the Rosewell club, who had taken a 2-1 lead into the break and had more than held their own through a spirited display.
However, defender Danny Main equalised with a fine header to double his own advantage before ‘Cloudy’ showed terrific composure to go around Bryan Young and finish from a tight angle.
Main, who gave his side the lead midway through the first half, said: “We know that we weren’t at the races in the first half and we said at half-time that we had to improve if we were to get anything from the match.
“I’ve scored three for the season now and was just happy to be in the right place at the right time. It’s always a big game when we play Whitehill as the rivalry goes back several years.”
The visitors started the brighter with Andrew Kidd heavily involved in the heart of the midfield. It was McLeod, however, who had first view of goal from just inside the penalty area, the No. 10 delaying his effort a fraction too long before Willie Bremner’s follow-up was blocked by Young in the Whitehill goal. John Grant then struck an effort from distance which had Young stretching to claim the ball before, at the opposing end, Aaron Somerville slipped past his marker and fired in a shot which Spartans keeper Scott Bennett did well to block with his feet.
The opening goal arrived after 22 minutes when John Hall was adjudged to have impeded Gary Cennerazzo, and, from the resulting free-kick, the ball was knocked down from Kevin Motion’s cross into the path of Main who provided an astute finish.
Whitehill, though, were level almost immediately as Somerville’s pass broke into the path of Steven Manson, who in turn sent Kidd in the clear and the No. 8 converted into the bottom left corner to make it 1-1. The visitors deservedly edged ahead two minutes before the interval when Kidd’s corner could only be cleared as far as Kerr Dodds, who had taken up his position just outside the Spartans penalty area, and he sent the ball through a ruck of players and into the net.
Main was the thorn in the heart of the Whitehill defence once again though as he rose to glance Motion’s terrific delivery to draw the home side level with 64 minutes on the clock – only minutes after Whitehill central defender Willie Kidd limped off with an injury.
The visitors appeared to lack the craft they had applied in the opening 45 while opponents Spartans grew in confidence as the match wore on.
McLeod had been well marshalled for the majority of the afternoon, but spun his marker in the 75th minute to race through from Motion’s flick and, with Young only managing to narrow the angle for the player, there was still a big enough gap for McLeod to roll the ball into the empty net.
Whitehill boss Mickey Lawson, said: “I think the turning point was when we lost Willie Kidd who had to come off and then we lost John (Hall) who had gone to centre-half. So it might have been different had we kept our best two defensive players in the air on. We’ve got no complaints.”
Spartans: Bennett, Cennerazzo, Main, O’Donnell, MacKinnon, Motion, Grant, Whatley, Bremner (Anderson 68), McLeod, Brown. Subs: Blaikie, Beacher, Beesley, Gilpin.
Whitehill Welfare: Young, Hall (Finnie 86), Sproule, Bruce, W Kidd (Martin 61), McGlashan, Manson, A Kidd, Dodds, Somerville, McLaughlin (McIntosh 80). Subs: Noon, Dolan.