Ally MacKinnon reckons he and his Spartans team-mates are ready to make the step up from the Lowland League into the SPFL – and on the evidence of Saturday’s William Hill Scottish Cup win over League 2 Clyde, he’s not wrong.
Spartans, currently second in their league, overcame Barry Ferguson’s men 2-0 in front of a raucous crowd at Ainslie Park to deservedly take their place in this afternoon’s fourth round draw. The hosts were superior to their counterparts all over the pitch and never really looked in danger of losing the tie, which was sealed by two Kevin Motion penalties.
“There wasn’t a massive difference between Clyde and some of the teams we play in the Lowland League,” said MacKinnon, who had a superb game at the heart of Spartans’ defence. “You could see that they had been coached very well by Barry Ferguson, but there wasn’t a massive difference that worries me. Certainly with the players we’ve got and the players they’ve got, we showed there isn’t a massive gulf.
“The Lowland League is the priority this season. We want to be in the League 2 as quickly as possible, and with this team, you can see the momentum rolling on. The results we’re getting now, we feel we’re ready for the step up.”
Clyde came into this match on a five-game unbeaten run and had two strikers in red-hot form in Kevin Watt and Scott McManus, but neither was able to make a tangible impact. That was down to some adroit defending from MacKinnon and his fellow centre-back and captain Kevin Sivewright, who, as two stockier defenders dealt with their nippier opponents with aplomb.
The only downside for Spartans was the stoppage-time red card dished out to Sivewright, who was sent off by card-happy referee Steven Kirkland for complaining about a horrible lunge by Clyde’s David Gray on John Grant. Sivewright had been booked earlier in the match and took his protestations, in Kirkland’s eyes, too far as he sought more than a yellow card for Gray’s serious foul play.
“It’s the thing that kind of marred the game really,” added MacKinnon. “He doesn’t deserve it at all. Kevin goes in to diffuse the situation and he gets a second yellow. I really feel for him.”
Clyde, bedecked in an acrid all-pink shirt that resembled something you’d expect to leak out of a nuclear power plant, were lambasted by their former Rangers star Ferguson for their poor display. The Bully Wee’s manager was furious with Ryan Frances, who felled Jack Beesley on 14 minutes for the first penalty, and even more so with Craig Halkett, the man he brought on for Frances at half-time, who dangled a lazy leg in the path of Willie Bremner to concede the second and decisive spot-kick on 73 minutes.
“If you take the two mistakes out of the game, it’s got 0-0 written all over it,” Ferguson said. “They’ve never had any chances and we never created any chances, but the two centre-backs have been given all the chances they are going to get ... I mean, two challenges, two ridiculous challenges.”
“That wasn’t my team out there. There was no fight about them. I’ve said to them, ‘See when I was having an absolutely crap game, at least I showed I was desperate to win.’ I never saw that from any of them out there, and that’s the difference.”
Ferguson didn’t cover himself in glory either when he decided to have a verbal exchange with disgruntled Clyde fans behind his dug-out. His obscenities were reported to Kirkland by his linesman and he was promptly sent behind the railings next to the dugout as the game ebbed away from his team.
His counterpart in the Spartans technical area, Dougie Samuel, deserves the last word for piloting his high-flyers, who are undefeated since August, into the fourth round for the third time in Spartans’ history. “We needed to do lots of things to get through the tie and top of that list was to defend well and we did that,” he said. “For me as a manager, it’s my first time in the fourth round. We’re going well and that’s our third clean sheet in a row. There’s certainly a wee bit of momentum building, but there’s a long, long way to go this season and our number-one priority is to try and retain the Lowland League title. This is a lovely distraction, but our number-one focus is to win our league.”
Spartans: Swain; Nixon, Sivewright, MacKinnon, Cennerazzo; Beesley (Henretty 88), Grant, Stevenson, Motion (Douglas 75); Bremner; McLeod (Brown 66). Subs not used: Carswell, Bruce, Beacher, Thomson.
Clyde: Martin; Durie, McQueen, Frances (Halkett 46), McIlduff; Gray, O’Donnell (Gibson 59), Sinclair (Ferguson 46), Smith; Watt, McManus. Subs not used: Barclay, Murray, McLeish, McGhee.
Referee: Steven Kirkland.