Donal Henretty, Spartans’ longest serving player, notched his first-ever hat-trick for the Edinburgh club as they overwhelmed a young Tynecastle team, who saw manager Murray Balloch and coach David Bingham leave the club “by mutual consent” after the match.
Henretty – in his 11th season with Spartans – was a constant threat to Tynecastle as the home side played their first match on the new artificial surface at Ainslie Park.
And, along with his free-scoring team-mates, he helped Spartans put on what was undoubtedly their best display of the season in their first home game after 11 matches on the road. “I normally get substituted after I’ve scored two goals,” smiled Henretty. “The surface is brilliant and you know that the bounce is going to be true and that you can hit your passes straight. I was really impressed and this will stand the football club in good stead for the future.”
There was no early indication that the final scoreline was going to be a rout in favour of Spartans because, with over 40 minutes played, the home side only led 1-0 with a goal from their leading scorer, Keith McLeod, who dispatched a first-time volley from 18 yards past Derek Polowyj after good work on the left by Henretty.
Tynecastle had a couple of good efforts with Eddie Mearns flashing a 30-yard shot inches wide then Andrew Munro tested Chris Flockhart with a shot from long range which the goalkeeper held high above his head.
Spartans gradually took control and Gavin Malin shot narrowly wide before Polowyj did well to smother the ball at the feet of Kerr Dodds. The second goal arrived only three minutes before half-time when Daniel O’Donnell set up Henretty who finished with a sizzling first-time angular shot at the back post.
The second half began with Spartans on the ascendancy and when Henretty picked up a loose ball in midfield and drove at the heart of the Tynecastle defence the result was a 20-yard shot which nestled behind Polowyj. Then a McLeod shot was parried by Polowyj and Dodd was on hand to slide the ball over the line. Immediately afterwards Polowyj pulled off a great save to deny Dodds but the custodian could do nothing to prevent Omar Kader netting Spartans’ fifth after a fine solo run in which he left three defenders trailing in his wake.
Kader was instrumental in rewarding Henretty with his hat-trick when his low cross was dummied by McLeod and Henretty hit another first-time shot from 16 yards behind Polowyj. The seventh came with 20 minutes remaining when Jordan Finnie was brought down on the edge of the penalty box and Dean Hoskins fairly smashed the resultant free-kick into the net. With five minutes left, O’Donnell set up McLeod for his second goal of the day and the rout was completed in the final minute when substitute Chris Smith scored with a left foot shot from 20 yards.
Mike Lawson, the Spartans co-manager, said: “The surface was lovely and I think that the moisture on it helped. Despite the scoreline it looked as if Tynecastle also enjoyed playing on it as they tried to pass the ball. We were guilty in the first half of not getting the ball forward quickly enough although we played and concentrated for the whole 90 minutes for the first time this season. It was a good afternoon for us.”
Spartans: Flockhart, O’Donnell, Hoskins, Sivewright, MacKinnon, Malin (Anderson 46), Kader, Manson, Dodds (Smith 68), McLeod, Henretty (Finnie, 68). Subs: Seeley, Fusco.
Tynecastle: Polowyj, Aird (Foster 21), D McAleavy, Hastings, Williams, C McAleavy, Brown, Munro, Spalding (Leslie 46), Arthur, Mearns. Sub: Togneri.
Referee: Alan Hogg.
* TYNECASTLE club chairman Douglas Dalgleish has invited anyone interested in taking up the manager’s role to contact him on 07931 140724.