Spartans first-team coach Derek Riddel believes the exertions of facing Dumbarton and St Mirren finally took their toll as his players succumbed to a 2-1 defeat by Queen’s Park at Hampden.
Despite taking the lead at the national stadium through a well-worked Jamie Dishington effort, Scott Gibson’s header and a Kurtis Roberts wonder finish – all three goals coming in the second half – secured the three points for the Spiders in Betfred Cup Group H.
Riddel admitted some of his players simply ran out of steam in what was their third match against SPFL opposition in just seven days.
On a brighter note, Spartans boss Dougie Samuel was back in the fold having suffered a minor heart attack just a fortnight ago, although he took up his position in the stand.
“The problem we’ve got is we’re not used to facing Dumbarton, St Mirren and Queen’s Park so with all due respect to the teams in our league, we’re never going to have a run like that in such a short space of time,” Riddel said.
“We had a really hard 90 minutes against St Mirren last Tuesday where the players were out on their feet so it maybe had an effect with it being a bigger pitch.
“But I thought we did well to go in front with a really good goal. It was a bit of slack defending for their equaliser but their winner was an absolutely fantastic finish. It was another great experience for the club.
“It’s been a really enjoyable week and we’ve still got Kilmarnock to come tomorrow night. The Lowland League is our bread and butter. We want to retain our title, get into the play-offs and then into SPFL League Two so we can play teams like this week in, week out. We definitely feel we can compete at this level.”
Riddel made three changes to the side that had held St Mirren to a 2-2 stalemate just four days earlier, David Greenhill, Gary Cennerazzo and Jason Stevens making way for Craig Stevenson, Blair Atkinson and Jamie Dishington.
Striker Jack Smith had the first attempt for the visitors after a quarter of an hour, flashing the ball back across goal from a Stevenson corner.
The home side’s Jamie McKernon then evaded challenges of the Spartans defence only to suffer a rush of blood to the head as he miscued wide with just goalkeeper Blair Carswell to beat.
A terrific reverse pass from captain Mikey Herd put Stevenson in the clear and his cutback found Scott Maxwell, whose half volley took a nick off a Queen’s defender and trundled wide.
However, Atkinson grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and the second half was just seven minutes old when his expertly-weighted pass put Dishington in the clear.
The 21-year-old still had a lot to do but showed all the composure in the world to slot the ball beyond Jordan Hart and into the corner of the net.
Spartans’ lead, though, lasted all of three minutes as McKernon’s free kick picked out the head of Gibson who bulleted home the equaliser.
And Gus MacPherson’s men turned the game on its head 15 minutes later as Roberts’ effort fizzed into Carswell’s top-left corner from 20 yards.
The Lowland League champions did, however, have strong appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Duncan Smith in the final minute following Willie Bremner’s tumble in the box.
The Capital side will now turn their attentions to the visit of Premiership outfit Kilmarnock tomorrow.
Queen’s Park: Hart, Lachlan Grant (61), Summers, McKernon, McLauchlan, Gibson, Roberts, McGrory, Osalandor (Mortimer 61), Peters, Miller (Martin 36). Subs: Kindlan, Foy, Sharp, Dunlop.
Spartans: Carswell, Brown, Tolmie, Corbett, Stevenson, Herd, Smith, McFarland (Bremner 65), Maxwell (Nixon 80), Dishington, Atkinson (Stevens 65). Subs: Costello, Cennerazzo, Dawson, Girdwood.
Referee: Duncan Smith.