Spartans goalkeeper Blair Carswell stepped in for his first-team debut at short notice and more than played his part during Saturday’s Lowland League Cup win over Whitehill.
First-choice stopper Kevin Swain was injured in the warm-up, which meant Carswell was given the nod just minutes before kick-off. And the young stopper put in an impressive performance to ensure Willie Bremner’s second-half header was enough for the visitors.
Despite being unexpectedly thrown into action, the former Hearts youth player wasn’t phased by the prospect of a fiery cup encounter.
“Swainy hurt his ankle in the warm up so I had to get in and get changed pretty quickly,” said Carswell. “It worked out all right, I just turned up and played. There’s not much else you can do – if you get asked to play, you have to play. I wasn’t nervous, I just got on with it and played my normal game. Making saves is what I’m there for.
That was my first game in the first team. I’ve been involved on the bench but it’s good to get a game. It’s good for the young boys to get a chance and if Swainy’s still injured I’ll take the opportunity and play next week if it comes up.”
Carswell was called into action after just five minutes. Whitehill striker Wayne McIntosh capitalised on an error and bore down on goal, but the stand-in keeper stood up well to save, and again to parry Stevie Manson’s follow-up.
Spartans went close at the other end two minutes later. Bremner’s cushioned knock-down teed up Jack Beesley, who saw his shot deflected just wide. Beesley again had sight of goal on 17 minutes, but curled an effort straight into Whitehill keeper Bryan Young’s arms.Young was forced to thwart Beelsey again five minutes later, acrobatically tipping the midfielder’s back post header over the bar.
The hosts thought they had the lead on 27 minutes when McIntosh headed Darren McGlashan’s free-kick past Carswell, but was denied by a dubious off-side call. Mickey Lawson’s side continued to hold the momentum after the break and put Spartans under pressure. A swerving McGlashan effort was tipped wide by Carswell at full stretch on 55 minutes, before Aaron Somerville saw his effort deflected wide. McGlashan’s powerful effort from the resulting corner was well parried again by Carswell.
Spartans looked to have weathered the early second half storm and it seemed that one goal would be enough for either side to win it. That proved to be the case when Dougie Samuel’s side struck 17 minutes from time. Jack Nixon’s throw from the right was flicked on by Errol Douglas, and Bremner ghosted in at the back post to nod home from close range. The lead gave Spartans an increased resolve, and their makeshift central defence didn’t allow Whitehill any genuine opportunities for an equaliser. Manager Dougie Samuel was delighted to prevail when at less than full strength. “We’re delighted with the result having so many players out. We only had ten fit players and lost our goalie in the warm up but I thought young Blair came in and did exceptionally well.”
Opposing boss Mickey Lawson was again lamenting missed chances: “Spartans had the better of the first half but we had the ball in the net and a couple of chances.
“We had six or seven – not glaring – chances and we don’t put them away, and they got a lift from that.”
Whitehill Welfare: Young, Hall, McKenzie (Thom 61), O’Donnell, Kidd, Dodds, Manson, McGlashan, McIntosh (Noon 83), Somerville, Martin (Sproule 73).
Spartans: Carswell, Nixon, Cennerazzo, Grant, Thomson, Stevenson, Brown, Beesley (Dishington 61), Douglas, Bremner, Motion (Hunter 71).