Spartans defender Gary Cennerazzo admits he and his team-mates were left scratching their heads during the interval of last weekend’s 3-1 Lowland League Cup defeat to Capital rivals Edinburgh City.
Sat around the perimeter of the Ainslie Park dressing-room, the Spartans players were left bemused after failing to make the breakthrough in a first half that opposing manager Gary Jardine described as the “best he’d ever seen” from the current league leaders.
But visitors City were exemplary in soaking up the pressure before using their own attacking prowess to seal all three points in a group that continues to throw up many twists and turns along the way.
Spartans, however, travel up the M9 to Forthbank tomorrow for a crunch encounter with Group B leaders Stirling University fully aware of the task awaiting them at the home of SPFL League Two side, Stirling Albion.
Failing to return to the Capital with all three points will end the club’s hopes of earning automatic qualification for the semi-finals – a place in the last four then reliant on securing the coveted best runners-up spot from the other two sections.
Cennerazzo, who is 24, revealed he found it difficult to comprehend how Spartans had somehow failed to unlock their opponent’s defence in last week’s city derby, but has urged his team-mates to focus on what lies ahead.
He said: “We were all frustrated because we played a fantastic 35 minutes last weekend. We had the chances to score and any other day we would have been well in front. But Dougie (Samuel) has been telling us to look at the positives and we did lose to three cracking goals in the second half.
“We just need to focus on what we did well and take this to Stirling tomorrow. It’s a massive game for us and a side that we have always had a battle with. We know we’ve got to win so we’re just eager to get back out on the park and put a performance in.”
Opponents Stirling are five points clear at the top having won three of their five group matches – one of those victories being a memorable 4-3 triumph at Ainslie Park coming just four days before Christmas – an outcome Cennerazzo says he is desperate to overturn.
“You’re always a bit sour after losing at home so we want to get that result back for them beating us on our own patch,” he explained. “But we have to look at our own records and we’ve been much more solid this year in terms of clean sheets. We obviously let in four against Stirling and three against City last week, but we have been pretty good in that area generally speaking.
“We just need to be more patient tomorrow as we were perhaps trying to force it too much last week and ended up losing a goal on the counter. We all know what we need to do so that is a big incentive in itself. We are confident and training has been good this week so we’re ready to go.”