Spartans triumph in brutal weather as McLeod hits again

Sean Muhsin (No.'6) and Mark Whatley (No.'8) celebrate after being heavily involved in setting up yet another goal for Spartans' Keith McLeod (behind Whatley). Picture: Jon Savage
Sean Muhsin (No.'6) and Mark Whatley (No.'8) celebrate after being heavily involved in setting up yet another goal for Spartans' Keith McLeod (behind Whatley). Picture: Jon Savage
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Spartans defeated Edinburgh City 3-1 for a third time this season in Saturday’s Lowland League Cup Section B tie, played in atrocious conditions at Meadowbank.

Driving rain and wind howled from start to finish with both sets of players deserving enormous credit for battling through a match that, at times, was nothing short of a monsoon. Saturated Spartans striker Willie Bremner, who scored his side’s second with a neat header, reinforced just how big a task it was to find any sort of rhythm.

The 22-year-old said: “It was terrible. The wind was so strong so it was just a nightmare. As soon as you put the ball up in the air, it was right back at you. It wasn’t the best performance but we’re pleased to get the win.”

The playing surface was in remarkably good condition considering the circumstances, the wind ultimately proving to be the main hazard.

A terrific delivery from Spartans’ John Grant after only a couple of minutes had City goalkeeper Andrew Stobie on red alert as the ball flashed dangerously close to the far corner of his goal.

Sean Muhsin’s free-kick then picked out Danny Main, but the defender could only guide his effort into the hands of Stobie as Spartans appeared to have adjusted more efficiently than their opponents.

Muhsin then miscued his acrobatic attempt from Grant’s cross which brought the sound of laughter from some of the Spartans contingent housed in the main stand.

With the direction of the wind favouring the visitors in the first half, City were struggling to make any real impression in the Spartans half with only Aaron James’ effort from a free-kick 30 yards from goal offering any sort of threat to Scott Bennett in goal.

However, Spartans were also finding it a challenge in the final third with goalscoring opportunities proving difficult to manufacture – that is until, yes, you guessed it, Keith McLeod struck in the 40th minute.

If there had been some inconsistency in both sides’ play up until now, a majestic move involving Muhsin, Bremner and Mark Whatley, set McLeod up to score from close range – the 35-year-old now having scored in each of his last nine matches.

Bremner then flashed a shot on goal just before the interval which Stobie had to carefully monitor as the ball spun into his arms.

City were almost level seven minutes into the second period as Shaun Harrison tried his luck from fully 40 yards, his free-kick crashing off Bennett’s crossbar. Stobie then did his best to double Spartans’ advantage when after taking the ball around McLeod, his clearance went only as far as Jack Beesley who, with the City No. 1 off his line, struck a first time lob which went narrowly wide.

The home side, with the wind now in their favour, carried more of a threat as the second 45 wore on. It therefore came as a blow to lose a second when Grant’s corner picked out a free Bremner who had all the time in the world to direct his header into the far corner of the net.

However, City responded to provide a glimpse of hope just three minutes later when Harrison turned in a loose ball from substitute Mark McConnell’s corner, but with just seven minutes remaining, Main got across his marker to head in another Grant corner at the near post to take Spartans top of Section B.

City manager Gary Jardine was complimentary to both sets of players for their efforts and refuted suggestions Saturday’s League Cup fixture with Whitehill Welfare is a ‘must win’.

He said: “Fair play to the players as they had to put a lot of effort in. That’s three times we’ve played Spartans and all the games have been close. Spartans scored a good first goal but it was sloppy goals once again for their second and third.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a must win against Whitehill. The teams involved in our group are all going to take points off each other. Had Whitehill won on Saturday then we certainly couldn’t have afforded to lose it, but we’ll look to try and win the game.”

Edinburgh City: Stobie, Donaldson, James, Harrison, Paterson, McFarland, Guthrie (McConnell 70), Gair, Osborne (Stenhouse 70), Vanson, Gibson (Torrance 83). Sub: Pentland.

Spartans: Bennett, O’Donnell, Main, Sivewright, Mackinnon, Muhsin (Anderson 71), Beesley (Henretty 71), Whatley, Bremner, McLeod, Grant. Subs: Motion, Ross, Cennerazzo.