Spartans midfielder Mark Whatley was relieved to finally break his goalscoring duck after netting the opener in his side’s 2-0 Lowland League victory over opponents Whitehill Welfare at Ainslie Park.
The 23-year-old turned in a tremendous individual performance in the centre of the park, but admitted in the aftermath that there was no one more relieved than himself to see the net bulge after half an hour.
Whatley said: “I’ve had quite a few misses the first couple of games of the season so personally, it’s good to get the goal but it’s also a big win for us and to get the three points.
“At the start it was really tight and there was perhaps a lack of quality from the two teams considering the pitch, but I think we got a goal at the right time. The quality of the games so far has been a lot higher than last season so it’s much better to play in.”
Whatley was quick to turn his attentions to Saturday’s Scottish Cup derby clash with East of Scotland Premier Division outfit, Edinburgh University at Peffermill, a tie that will see Spartans manager Dougie Samuel return to his old stomping ground.
He added: “We want to get off to a good start and you never know where the Scottish Cup can lead you. There will probably be a bit of spice to the game with the connections between the two clubs, but we need to make sure we come out on top.”
The home side appeared in control from the very first minute, content to move the ball at pace on a surface that permits free-flowing football.
John Grant, who was another star performer for Spartans, headed into the path of Keith McLeod, but the striker lashed at his effort as the ball trundled wide of the far post.
Daniel Main then threaded a neat pass into the feet of Whatley, who was quick to turn his marker in the Whitehill box before the ball appeared to get trapped between the No. 8’s feet and the chance was gone.
Spartans defender Alasdair Mackinnon then appeared a tad too forceful with his challenge on Jordan Finnie in his own penalty box, but referee Brian Colvin wasn’t interested in the Whitehill player’s plea for a penalty.
Kevin Motion’s delivery into the heart of the Whitehill defence was then powerfully met by Daniel Main, but Ryan McGurk was up to the task with a fantastic point-blank save.
However, he was faultless only moments later as tremendous control and pace up the right side from Grant paid dividends when the No. 6 cut the ball back for Whatley to fire high into the net from four yards.
The visitors created almost nothing of note in the opening half and returned to the field after the break to find themselves two-down after 57 minutes. Grant was again the architect as his cross from the right picked out winger Alan Brown who had sneaked in at the back post, and despite McGurk’s efforts to keep the ball out, Brown’s header had enough power to make it 2-0 as a lively home support celebrated.
Both McLeod and Whatley squandered further opportunities to increase their lead but in truth, the outcome of a home victory was never in jeopardy whatsoever.
Former Spartans manager, Mike Lawson, now back at the helm of Whitehill, was less than impressed with his side’s showing and admitted there were some choice words directed at his players at full-time.
He said: “We’ve got no excuses for that performance. We are going through a bit of a confidence crisis at the moment and there were a few home truths said after the match. We can play a lot better than that as some of the guys couldn’t pass the ball five yards.”
Spartans: Bennett, Mackinnon, Cennerazzo, Main, O’Donnell, Grant, Brown (Beesley 84), Whatley, Henretty (Bremner 84), McLeod, Motion. Subs: Anderson, Rusin, Sivewright.
Whitehill Welfare: McGurk, Hall, Thom, Robertson, W Kidd, Dodds, Manson (Sproule 75), A Kidd, McIntosh, Somerville (Noon 70), Finnie (Shearer 62). Subs: McLaughlin, McGlashan.