Spartans’ Carswell recalls hat-trick of penalty saves

Blair Carswell saved three penalties yet still ended up on the losing side as Spartans were defeated 3-2 by Edinburgh City. Pic: Toby Williams
Blair Carswell saved three penalties yet still ended up on the losing side as Spartans were defeated 3-2 by Edinburgh City. Pic: Toby Williams
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The new year may just be a matter of days old, but Saturday, January 2, 2016 will be a day Blair Carswell is likely to remember for a long, long time.

The Spartans goalkeeper assisting Aaron Murrell’s opening goal in their 3-2 Ferrari Packaging Lowland League defeat by Edinburgh City would have been unusual enough.

Carswell revealed that he hadn't studied any of the City players' penalties traits. Pic: Toby Williams

Carswell revealed that he hadn't studied any of the City players' penalties traits. Pic: Toby Williams

However, the former Hearts pro-youth player’s afternoon went from unusual to downright bizarre after half-time as he saved three Edinburgh City penalties in an insane second 45 minutes that also saw three of his team-mates sent off in just over five minutes.

With Spartans 2-1 up, Carswell himself conceded the first penalty for bringing down City striker Ouzy See, before defenders Eddie Malone and Alan Brown committed their own indiscretions in the box, each seeing red afterwards. The young keeper admitted it was a day of firsts for him, although felt his side should have had a free kick before the first spot kick was awarded. “I’ve never been involved in a game like that in my life!” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve saved three penalties in one match, for sure. I thought the one I conceded was a bit harsh as it looked clear that Eddie Malone had been fouled in the build up to it.”

Manager Dougie Samuel felt it was a similar scenario for the third penalty award that saw Brown react and dismissed. “The ref’s got a bit mixed up with the Hovie [Brown] one,” he said. “Having watched it on the film, Hovie’s been fouled in the first instance and that was also the case with Eddie Malone.”

Carswell produced an excellent stop down low to his right to stop Dougie Gair’s penalty, only for Ross Allum to equalise from the resulting corner. The striker then saw Carswell save both of his penalties, the third being awarded immediately after the keeper had kept out City’s second. On top of those heroics, Carswell also made two point blank saves from See and Craig Sutherland respectively as his side clung on with eight men, before Allum struck in the last minute.

“I hadn’t studied their penalty takers or anything like that,” Carswell admitted. “When they got the second and third penalties, I just remember thinking to myself, you’ll just need to save these as well. I tried my best to keep us in the match. Everyone was gutted to have thrown away a two-goal lead, although it was a tough task to get a point when down to eight men. I’m pleased to have kept us in the match but disappointed with the result.”

Samuel made Carswell his first-choice keeper at the start of the season following previous incumbent Kevin Swain’s return to Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale. His manager said after Saturday’s display he wasn’t surprised at how well his young stopper had done, but Carswell isn’t getting carried away. “I feel like I’ve settled into the position well,” he added. “It’s my first season though, so I’m still learning throughout every game I play.”

At the other end of the pitch, his team-mate Aaron Murrell this week penned a two-and-a-half year deal with Dundee Utd, and will remain in North Edinburgh on loan. Carswell is pleased to see Murrell rewarded with such an opportunity.

“I’m delighted for him,” he said. “He’s been scoring goals for fun and I hope he continues to work hard and do well. I’ll make sure, along with the other lads, we prevent him from getting too big time though!”