a PERFECT penalty shootout by Spartans under-14s saw them progress in the Pilmar Smith Cup, but it was a hard-luck tale for Currie Star who exited in the cruelest fashion after the game ended 1-1.
A single missed penalty by Star at Marine Drive saw Spartans secure progression via the shootout 5-4.
A close match was always on the cards, as the South East Region Division Three teams had drawn 3-3 in their league encounter in September, but no-one could envisage that the match would be decided by a matter of inches, as Star’s Philip Blaney was the unlucky player whose well-struck penalty hit the crossbar.
Spartans advance to the semi-finals of the competition, bypassing the second round due to the resignation of North Merchiston BC earlier in the season.
Spartans opened up the Star defence with the first attack of the match. Campbell Imrie dribbled down the right wing and crossed to Connor Stephen, but Stephen’s shot went straight into the hands of Currie goalkeeper Niall Simpson.
After 17 minutes, Imrie’s cross once again found Stephen in the penalty area. This time, his header was blocked by Currie central defender Thomas Bailey, who cleared the ball for a corner. Spartans took the lead from the corner. Jason Scott played the ball deep to Stephane Murray who launched a ball into the penalty area from 30 yards out, his hopeful long pass evading every player and finding the right corner of the net.
Five minutes before the half-time break, Spartans’ Scott Bottomley’s powerful effort from the edge of the penalty area was saved by Simpson.
Simpson was tested again moments after the second half started when Imrie’s shot from 20 yards forced him into a superb save, the keeper diving low to his right to gather the ball.
A minute later, Spartans keeper Forbes Bell rushed out to challenge Marcus Taylor on the right touchline. Bell managed to make the tackle and clear the ball for a throw-in but those on the Star sideline felt he had used his hands. Their appeals, however, were turned down.
Bell was called into action again after 48 minutes and showed his alertness when Scott’s attempted clearance flew towards his own goal after a Star free-kick.
Star grabbed a dramatic equaliser with just three minutes to spare. Taylor’s low cross from the right found Mark McGovern, who shot low past Bell to force the match into extra time.
End-to-end action followed in extra time but both teams found it difficult to create any chances. Ross Howarth’s shot from the edge of the penalty area was saved by Bell in the first half and, in the final minute, Aaron Montgomery’s free-kick nearly won the game for Spartans but Simpson’s low dive meant the game would be concluded by a penalty shootout.
Daniel Mullins ensured Spartans victory as he converted their final penalty into the bottom left corner of the net.
Star manager Tony Catlin said: “We just could not break Spartans down and we did not create enough chances in open play. It is never nice to go out on penalties and the boys are a bit distraught, but they’ll get over it.”
Spartans joint-coach Jimmy Scott said: “Both teams gave 100 per cent. It was an absolutely fantastic game to watch. It is a horrid thing that one of the teams had to go out on penalties.”
Spartans: Forbes Bell, Domenico Pacitti, Daniel Mullins, Jason Scott, Christopher Miller, Connor Stephen, Scott Bottomley, Liam Ballantyne, Greg Mitchell, Stephane Murray, Campbell Imrie, Cameron Wightman, Tomas Cassidy, Ryan Kerr, Aaron Montgomery.
Currie Star: Niall Simpson, Thomas Bailey, Michael Luff, Philip Blaney, Thomas Wedgwood, Donnie Campbell, Murray Wells, Nathan Johnson, Ross Howarth, Jack Blaney, Angus Mitchell, Marcus Taylor, Mark McGovern.