Spartans boss hails defence’s part in excellent run

David Greenhill rushes to congratulate Spartans team-mate Keith Murray on his goal. Pic: Neil Hanna
David Greenhill rushes to congratulate Spartans team-mate Keith Murray on his goal. Pic: Neil Hanna
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Dougie Samuel singled his defence out for praise as Spartans continued their terrific form of late with a comfortable 3-1 victory over city rivals Civil Service Strollers.

A trio of first-half strikes from Jamie Dishington, Keith Murray and Jack Beesley, the latter’s coming from the penalty spot, had the hosts out of sight by the interval. And, although Shaun Turnbull’s header with little more than ten minutes remaining restored some pride to the lacklustre visitors, head coach Samuel pointed out that Turnbull’s effort was just the second time his backline has been breached in their last six outings.

“They’ve maybe not had the credit they deserve as we’ve got one of the best defensive records in the league,” Samuel explained.

“We’ve got Towner (Chris Townsley) and Eddie (Malone) out just now so Blair (Tolmie) and Paul (Thomson) are getting the chance to play a few games together and I think Blair’s form in recent weeks has been first class.

“I thought we were very good in the first half, but we let our standards drop after the break. We’re in decent form just now, we’re scoring goals and not conceding many and that’s obviously a winning combination.

“I thought there was real quality in our goals and we played at a decent tempo and intensity. It was quite tricky with the conditions as the pitch was that bit firmer so we’re delighted to keep our run going.

“We’ve set ourselves a challenge of trying to have a better second half to the campaign compared to the first.”

Civil went into this north Edinburgh derby in decent form themselves despite last weekend’s home defeat to Whitehill Welfare, but looked off the pace from the first whistle.

In fact, they fell behind as early as the fourth minute to a well-executed finish from youngster Dishington. David Greenhill, who has only recently returned to the fray following a six-week lay off with a knee injury, broke down the right-hand side before feeding his overlapping team-mate, who took one touch to steady himself and curled the ball beyond the reach of goalkeeper Stuart Burnside and into the far corner.

Things went from bad to worse for Alex Cunningham’s men as the in-form Murray doubled the home side’s advantage just six minutes later. Beesley took advantage of an exposed Civil defence and from his sumptuous cross the No.9 was on hand to lash the ball home from a couple of yards.

Greenhill almost made it three soon after when a Beesley corner picked out the former Berwick Rangers man at the back post and his piledriver seemed destined to burst the net until Burnside intervened with a great fingertip save.

The match was finished as a contest in the 27th minute when Craig Newall caught Craig Comrie with a trailing leg and Beesley dispatched the resulting spot-kick with ease.

Thomson’s error, though, did allow Ian Ballantyne possession as Civil sought a response and he unselfishly laid on a pass to David Churchill whose first-time effort was punched away by Blair Carswell.

To their credit, Cunningham’s side were far more competitive after the break and, from a deep Churchill corner, there was Turnbull to power home a header which proved little more than a consolation.

“The first 20 minutes completely killed us,” Cunningham said afterwards. “We gave ourselves a mountain to climb as we lost two really bad goals and let them in far too easy. They got a bit of a rollicking at half-time but they certainly improved after the break and I thought we acquitted ourselves well. You can’t just play for 45 minutes, though.”

Spartans: Carswell, Herd, Comrie (Maxwell 63), Thomson, Tolmie, Greenhill, Beesley (Mair 72), Stevenson, Murray, Brown, Dishington. Subs: Rae, Malone, Ward, Gabiola.

Civil Service Strollers: Burnside, Campbell (Laird 46), Brown (Milven 46), Newall, Turnbull, Cunningham, Stewart, Clapperton, Froude, Ballantyne, Churchill. Subs: Kidd, Watson, Trialist.