Spartans manager Dougie Samuel feels the distraction of the upcoming William Hill Scottish Cup fifth-round clash with Berwick Rangers may be contributing to his team’s slump in the Lowland League.
BSC Glasgow were the latest side to depart Ainslie Park with three points as Spartans lost their third consecutive home match, and with only one point from their last four league games, their hopes of catching unbeaten league leaders Edinburgh City appear to be fading fast. City are now 13 points clear of their rivals.
Samuel’s men failed to capitalise on numerous opportunities in the first half and were undone by two set-piece goals either side of the interval with the third goal the result of a classic counter-attack following a Spartans corner.
BSC were compact at the back and exacted revenge for their 2-1 League Cup defeat by Spartans three weeks ago, on a day when Samuel admitted his team just lacked the finishing touch against rigid opponents.
“It’s no coincidence that our recent poor league results have come off the back of the Morton game [2-1 win in Scottish Cup]. Mentally the players have to cope with the expectation and attention that comes with that and with such a big game on the horizon, it will have an effect,” admitted the Spartans manager.
“I don’t think we have taken our eye off the ball, but it’s what you do on the pitch and we will have to go away and work on a few things in training. BSC were excellent defensively and stuck to their game-plan, so fair play to them.
“Kevin Swain hasn’t had to make any major save prior to their second goal. We just found it very hard to get behind their defence at times, but we still managed to create a few opportunities especially in the first half. We felt a little hard done by going in at the break one goal down but it was a fantastic free-kick from them,” said a disappointed Samuel.
“We changed our style a little bit to a more physical approach, and although it worked for us, we have been undone by the set pieces, their second goal has come from another free-kick which we gave away very cheaply.”
With Spartans aiming to become the first non-league club in 55 years to reach the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup when they face Colin Cameron’s League Two side in three weeks, Samuel feels the anticipation of such a historic clash is weighing on his players a little.
“This was very similar to both the Preston and Whitehill defeats in that we created the opportunities, but just didn’t take them.
Spartans handed a debut to on loan Stenhousemuir striker Paul Jon Sludden with Kevin Swain returning in goal in place of Blair Carswell.
Errol Douglas went close early on with a header that BSC keeper Ian Stewart had to tip over, whilst, at the other end, Jordan McKechnie’s low drive went inches wide of Swain’s post.
Willie Bremner made space for himself inside the area on 25 minutes, firing in a close-range shot that was beaten away by Stewart, before McKechnie went close again with a shot from 25 yards that Swain diverted over the bar.
Ross McKinnon put the visitors in front right on the half-time whistle, with a thundering free-kick after Ally MacKinnon was penalised for a foul on the right-hand edge of the box.
The loss of that goal just before the break was a sore one for the hosts to take, and, six minutes into the second half, matters got worse for Spartans when McKinnon floated in a free-kick that was headed back across goal by David Cameron and BSC striker Gary Graham was there to slot the ball home.Jack Beesley replaced Sludden on 64 minutes and the striker almost pulled a goal back for Spartans late on with an effort that went over the bar whilst Jack Beacher hit the side netting, but in spite of the substitutions, Spartans were unable to find a way back into the game.
BSC wrapped the points up on 89 minutes when they broke quickly from a Spartans corner kick, and after Gary O’Donnel’s effort struck the post following a weaving run, Tony Wallace converted the loose ball.
Spartans: Swain, Nixon, Cennerazzo, Trialist, MacKinnon, Thomson (Grant), Brown (Beacher), Bremner, Douglas, McLeod, Sludden (Beesley). Subs: Henretty, Stevenson, Carswell.
BSC Glasgow: Stewart, Home, Gebbie, Brophy, Bronsky, Cameron, O’Hear, McKinnon (O’Donnel), Graham (Johnston), Wallace, McKechnie (O’Connell). Subs: Malone, Mosson, McGinley.