A Dazzling display from Jack Beesley helped Spartans brush aside an insipid Gretna 2008 side 4-0 and move a step closer to the claiming the inaugural Lowland League title.
The visitors’ back-line simply couldn’t handle the directness of the former Edinburgh University midfielder whose contributions were reflected in the 27-year-old’s first hat-trick for the club – his third strike of the afternoon a majestic free-kick from 25 yards that capped off a superb solo performance.
“I thought the guys were great and really professional,” Beesley said. “Aside from a ten-minute spell in the second half, I thought we controlled the game really well and had a good tempo where they couldn’t really stay with us.
“I think they are a good side, but I think every time we’ve played them we have played really well on the day. It’s my first hat-trick in about six years I think! I’ve had a few chances with free-kicks this season and they’ve all coincidently been on pretty much the same blade of grass so it’s given me plenty practise. I was delighted it went in and sealed the match.”
There was further euphoria among the departing home support when it was announced nearest challengers Stirling University had slipped up on their own patch to a galvanised Whitehill Welfare outfit 2-0 – the gap at the top having stretched to nine points although the students do have a game in hand. Beesley was quick to stress, however, there is no room for complacency in what has proved such a competitive league this term.
He said: “All the league games we’ve got left; Whitehill, Stirling, Dalbeattie, they are all really tough so we’re certainly not taking anything for granted. We just need to take another three points each week if we can.”
Donal Henretty enjoyed a rare start in attack for the home side as Keith McLeod was unavailable through suspension after being sent off in last weekend’s cup final defeat to Whitehill.
However, it wasn’t long before Spartans were on the front foot when they gained the advantage in the 14th minute.
Kevin Motion’s excellent close control enabled the No.11 to wriggle free from the attention of three opponents before his pass inside to Willie Bremner was in turn fed into the feet of Beesley, who took one touch before coolly dispatching the ball under Graham Wright and in from ten yards.
The ball was bulging in the Gretna goalkeeper’s net for a second time just three minutes later and this time it was the architect of the first, Motion, who finished off a fantastically worked move involving Henretty, Bremner and Beesley.
Mark Whatley and Henretty, in particular, passed up further opportunities to extend the home side’s advantage prior to the interval but, in truth, there was never any significant threat of Gretna reducing the deficit in what was an alarmingly poor showing from the Borders men.
The visitors did show some promise during a ten-minute spell of the second half before Spartans regained control.
Beesley cracked the outside of the left post with a swirling drive after receiving the ball on the edge of the penalty area from Motion’s pass before John Grant drove over the crossbar from 20 yards.
Bremner was proving a real handful for the Gretna defence with his surging runs down the channels and it was from his cross that Beesley was left with a simple tap-in after Wright had come but failed to claim the striker’s inviting cross.
It was becoming all too easy for Spartans and Beesley rounded off a perfect afternoon on 69 minutes when he placed his 25 yard free-kick over the Gretna wall and into Wright’s top right-hand corner for a well-deserved hat-trick.
Spartans: Bennett, Brown, Cennerazzo, Sivewright, O’Donnell (Main 75), Grant (Muhsin 70), Beesley, Whatley, Henretty, Bremner, Motion (Anderson 75). Subs: Blaikie, Carswell.
Gretna 2008: Wright, Blake, Rudd, White, Wallace, Rea, Longcake, Earl, Flannery, Slattery, Atkinson. Subs: Inglis, Todd.