Spartans boss Dougie Samuel praised his side’s second-half performance as they booked a semi-final place with a 2-0 Football Nation East of Scotland Qualifying Cup third-round victory over Edinburgh University at Peffermill.
Second-half strikes from Dean Horribine and Keith Murray booked Spartans’ place in the next round, Uni finishing the game with ten men after captain Duncan Black was dismissed, and Samuel felt his side deserved to go through after stepping it up after half-time.
“We took a wee bit of time to get going, I think,” he explained. “We’ve not played on grass for a while and the pitch was a bit soft and cut up a bit. At half-time we just asked the guys to settle down a little bit and try and concentrate on putting more balls into the box. In the first half we were a bit passive in the top end of the pitch and almost didn’t want to put crosses in. We asked them to inject a little bit more tempo and I think the ten or 15 minutes after half-time decided the game after we got on top.”
Uni spurned a glorious opportunity to take the lead after five minutes. Some lovely interplay between Peter Mair and Jack Guthrie on the edge of the Spartans box put the former in on goal. The midfielder went for placement rather than power, but Blair Carswell was out quickly to narrow the angle and save well.
Spartans’ first effort of note on the 20-minute mark came via a curling effort from distance by Craig Stevenson, but was easily held by Uni keeper Mark Tait.
Clear opportunities were at a premium for the remainder of the half, with both teams managing to get into threatening areas but lacked a cutting edge. Scott McCrory-Irving’s through ball had Guthrie in on the angle five minutes before the break, but his first-time effort flashed across Carswell and past the far post.
Jamie Dishington’s early second-half volley was on target, but lacked the power to significantly trouble Tait. An equally tame effort at the other end from Mair summed up both sides’ frustrations in front of goal until that point. It was therefore welcome when the breakthrough came two minutes before the hour. The Students failed to clear a Michael Herd cross, with the ball falling for Horribine – his initial volley was blocked, but made no mistake when it landed at his feet again, planting it in Tait’s bottom left right-hand corner to give the visitors the lead.
Ross Patterson’s curling delivery from a deep free-kick almost had Uni level, Carswell managing to backpedal and tip the ball over the bar. He recovered to punch the corner clear and then get down well and save McCrory-Iriving’s low drive.
Spartans had the chance to seal it from the spot when David Greenhill just got a toe to the ball ahead of Black, who cleaned him out and received a second yellow for his troubles. Murray stepped up and dispatched his penalty past Tait to ease Spartans’ through.
Uni coach Dorian Ogunro had no complaints after what he felt was a port game all round. “I thought it was a sh*t football match,” he said emphatically.
“We were both two physically strong teams, with energy. I think first half we had the better of it. We didn’t play that badly, it was just the nature of the game. They came out with a bit more energy second half but overall, whoever scored first was gong to win, and they were a bit sharper in front of goal.”
Edinburgh University: Tait, Patterson, Sutherland, Vila, Black, Maelger, Mair, Rawlinson (Collins 63), Guthrie, McCrory-Irving (Thomson 73), Aitken.
Spartans: Carswell, Saunderson, Stevenson, Malone, Thomson, Herd, Dishington (McNab 69), Greenhill, Murray, Hunter (Mair 78), Horribine (Ward 86).