A special day at Ainslie Park but the job is only half done for Spartans

Blair Henderson is mobbed after his 90th minute header from Cammy Russell's free-kick (Pic: Mark Brown/SFC)Blair Henderson is mobbed after his 90th minute header from Cammy Russell's free-kick (Pic: Mark Brown/SFC)
Blair Henderson is mobbed after his 90th minute header from Cammy Russell's free-kick (Pic: Mark Brown/SFC)
Beaming Spartans boss Dougie Samuel hailed his players’ resilience in adversity as their ten-men secured a huge advantage in the first leg of their League Two play-off against Highland League champions Brechin City.

Samuel spoke of his pride after Blair Henderson’s 90th minute header at a packed Ainslie Park secured a 1-0 lead ahead of next Saturday’s trip north. The hosts suffered a double blow in the final eight minutes of the first half after captain and centre back Kevin Waugh was shown a straight red card for denying a goalscoring opportunity, before left back Michael Allan limped off moments later.

“We are absolutely delighted,” said Samuel. “I think when you go in at half-time the majority of people are probably having a conversation saying, ‘let’s just stay in the tie; can we stay in the tie until next week?’. I understand that, I get that, but I always felt with the players we’ve got in our squad that we’d always have a threat on the counter.

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“We carry a goal threat and I thought Blair Henderson’s was fantastic, but I don’t really want to single anyone out because there was so many players that played so well on the day. When your team is disrupted in the way our team was disrupted at the end of the first half, when you lose your captain to a sending-off – I can see why he sent him off – but on another day maybe if he’s not surrounded by eight players then he doesn’t get sent off. We lost our left-back two minutes after that, so I was pleased to get into half-time at nil nil, just calm things down and say a few words to the players, explain how we were going to set up in the second half.

“Against a side that has averaged three goals a game, we would have taken a draw at half-time. It was a funny game, because I think in both boxes, both teams will think that they never got a bounce of the ball, and maybe we got a bit of luck at the end when the ball landed in Blair’s lap but I think the players had earned that, they deserved that.”

Samuel is well aware of the task facing his side in the return fixture, and despite declaring the afternoon as one that “will live long in the memory”, he won’t allow his players to over celebrate.

He continued: “Nobody has beaten them at Brechin all season so that tells you the scale of the task. You will have seen at the end of the game, nobody was over celebrating, we know it’s only half-time. It’s going to be a hell of a game next week at Glebe Park.

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“It’s not about being bah-humbug or trying to steal anybody’s joy, it’s just the job isn’t done. It’s a four-game period where these guys have a chance to achieve a bit of history and do something really, really special, and they know that. They know it’s going to take everything we’ve got to achieve that, so nobody will be over celebrating.

“We will make sure we are best prepared and be ready for an onslaught from Brechin. We know what it means to them because it means the same to us.”