Spartans manager Dougie Samuel says his players will continue to show passion despite admitting their defence of the Lowland League title is over. The champions lost 1-0 to BSC Glasgow on Saturday, a result that leaves them 16 points adrift of East Kilbride at the summit.
Thomas Orr grabbed the only goal of the game in the second half at Ainslie Park despite the hosts dominating for long spells. However, the Capital side lacked that killer instinct in front of goal and paid the price.
Victory for second-placed BSC allowed Stephen Swift’s men to increase their lead over their opponents to ten points, with Spartans dropping to fifth.
The home team’s goal was breached in the 82nd minute when Gary Cennerazzo failed to clear his lines and afforded possession to Hughes, who took one touch before lobbing the ball over the advanced Blair Carswell and into the empty net.
Both Jamie Dishington and Blair Atkinson spurned useful opportunities to give Spartans the lead just minutes before Hughes pounced.
“Ironically we’ve lost a goal when we’re having our best spell of the whole game. We were completely on top,” Samuel said. “It’s about fine margins. We’re hugely disappointed as we created the best chances and played the best football. I think we deserved to win.
“The league is gone. There is too big a gap and too many teams above us. It doesn’t mean we won’t play with the same passion and desire every week. We’ve still got a huge amount of pride and we’re hugely proud that we are the reigning champions. I think it would be naive to think that East Kilbride are going to throw it away now.
“Our biggest problem is we’re not scoring enough goals. There hasn’t been a game this season where I’ve felt the other team has battered us or dominated. In all the tight games we quite easily could have won. I don’t think we’ve had much luck but nobody is feeling sorry for themselves.
“At the end of the day it’s a dressing-room filled with players who have won trophies so there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. We’re not the first team in history to find defending a championship difficult, and we won’t be the last.”
Spartans were dealt an early setback when Alan Brown limped off and had to be replaced by new signing Aaron Scott with the match barely 15 minutes old.
Defender Adam Corbett was first to catch glimpse of the BSC goal eight minutes before the interval but the youngster screwed his shot over from Dishington’s knock down.
Hughes wasn’t too far away with an audacious effort from 30 yards that whistled past the left upright as BSC sought a response.
However, the hosts increased the tempo after the break and, from Dishington’s through ball, Atkinson found himself clear in on goal. However, David Verlaque’s timely intervention deflected the striker’s shot wide for a corner kick.
It was roles reversed as Dishington then blasted wide from a couple of yards from Atkinson’s cutback before Hughes delivered a sucker punch with an astute finish to seal the points.
Meanwhile, Civil Service Strollers leapfrogged their city rivals into fourth after a 3-1 win over bottom-of-the-table Whitehill Welfare.
Scott Wright’s precise finish gave the visitors an unlikely half-time lead at Christie Gillies Park. However, Gary Jardine’s players turned in a ruthless second-half display with David Churchill, Jordan Hopkinson and Steven Froude grabbing the all-important goals. Reece Rintoul was sent off for Whitehill.
Edinburgh University went down 2-1 to East Stirlingshire at East Peffermill.