Civil Service Strollers boss Alex Cunningham singled out striker Steven Froude for praise as his team set up a Lowland League Cup quarter-final with with Preston Athletic.
Substitute David Churchill’s astute finish 17 minutes from time was enough to see off an ordinary Dalbeattie Star outfit on Saturday. With their maiden Lowland League campaign now over, this victory prolongs Strollers’ competitve season for another week at the very least.
Strollers will now host relegation-threatened Preston, who were impressive 4-2 winners at Hawick Royal Albert, this weekend with a place in the semi-finals up for grabs.
There were a number of impressive performances from the Christie Gillies Park men but Cunningham felt Froude’s energy and willingness to chase the opposition down was the catalyst to victory.
“I really think Froudey showed what he is capable of out there,” said Cunningham, who led the club to a mid-table finish in the league this season. “He did really well, he leads the line and he really doesn’t get a lot of praise for the hard work he puts in. He does so much chasing but he’s also a really good footballer.
“It was tight at 1-0 so it can go either way. But over the piece the boys deserved the victory. We played really well, stuck in at it and the game-plan worked. We’ve played Dalbeattie three times now this season and they’ve yet to beat us and they finished in the top five so that’s a really good outcome. We’ve also been really solid at the back so it augurs well for this Saturday. I think with us being at home we’ll fancy our chances.”
There was one bone of contention in the home dressing -room afterwards as Cunningham’s son, Matty, spurned a glorious opportunity from six yards moments before team-mate Churchill struck.
“What can I say about Matty’s miss?” Cunningham quipped. “He’s telling me that he made the goal but I’ll need to have a look at that on the video! He’ll not live that one down in the Cunningham household!”
Civil’s Ian Ballantyne pounced on Danny Dunglinson’s wayward pass in the tenth minute to advance through on goal, but despite outfoxing Graham Wright in the visitors’ goal, Dunglinson had sussed out the situation to race back and clear the striker’s net-bound shot off the line.
The Capital side were finding ample space down the Dalbeattie channels and, following a corner from the right, Jack Downie snatched at an effort which flew over the crossbar from just inside the 18-yard box.
Midfielder Matty Cunningham failed to get his head to former Spartans player Andrew Mair’s sumptuous delivery having been picked out at the back post before Downie again failed to hit the target following Froude’s surge into the penalty area.
Visitors Dalbeattie, on the other hand, looked devoid of ideas when in possession and it wasn’t until the second half before they pressurised Stuart Burnside’s goal, playmaker Lewis Sloan miscuing this effort wide following an encouraging run.
Downie tested Wright’s reflexes from distance before Matty Cunningham had his head in his hands having somehow fired wide of the target with the Dalbeattie No.1 out of his goal.
Froude was perhaps lucky to escape without punishment from referee Xander Harrison as the striker steamrollered through Dalbeattie captain Richard Maxwell in an off-the-ball incident.
However, Civil finally got their rewards when Churchill’s angled drive went in off the post.
Civil Service Strollers: Burnside, Newall, Mair, Laird, Smith, Downie, Clapperton (Churchill 62), Cunningham, Boyle (Watson 75), Ballantyne, Froude. Subs: Dingwall, Brown.
Dalbeattie Star: Wright, Wells, Maxwell, Dunglinson (Akubuine 79), Baty, Sloan, McHarrie, Todd, Muir, Slattery (Park 52), Thorburn (Wilson 84). Sub: Cathro.