The big games just keep on coming for Lowland League champions Spartans.
The Ainslie Park men have already taken points off of Dumbarton and St Mirren in this season’s Betfred Cup and came close to matching that feat against Queen’s Park at Hampden on Saturday.
Although they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at the national stadium that sees them prop up Group H on two points, Dougie Samuel’s side have fared well against their SPFL League opponents.
However, they are now braced for what is expected to be their toughest test of the competition when Kilmarnock, who finished fifth in the Premiership last season under Steve Clarke, are the visitors to the Capital tonight.
With Killie striker Kris Boyd in a rich vein of form having netted a hat-trick in the 4-2 success at Dumbarton on Saturday, Spartans No.1 Blair Carswell is expecting to have his hands full with the former Scotland and Rangers player.
“I’m expecting to be busy tonight, let’s put it that way,” the 23-year-old quipped. “I’m sure Kilmarnock are likely to be the best team we’ve played in the competition but we’ll just need to see what team they put out. They haven’t qualified for the knockout stages yet so I’m expecting them to put out a strong team.
“It’s been a tough week but a good one and I think we’ve all taken something from it. I’m looking forward to tonight. It will be a big test for us but given our performances against the previous teams in the group, we’ve got nothing to lose.”
Carswell admitted he was disappointed to have left Hampden pointless for their endeavours having seen team-mate Jamie Dishington fire the visitors ahead. And although it took a wonder strike from Kurtis Roberts to secure maximum points for the Spiders 20 minutes from time – Scott Gibson having earlier restored parity for Gus MacPherson’s outfit – Carswell believes the win was there for the taking.
“Losing a goal three minutes after taking the lead was not ideal and that was similar to last Tuesday when we went 2-0 up at St Mirren,” Carswell said. “I think we’re disappointed not to have taken at least a point from the weekend there.
“I managed to get a touch to his [Roberts’ winner] but it was going away from me all the time so you can’t save them all. Against St Mirren I was a lot busier that night so I suppose that is what’s disappointing when you haven’t had that much to do the whole game and you come away with a defeat. It’s just unfortunate.
“We’d never ever spoken about qualifying from the group. Our main aim was to get a point on the board and we managed that in the first game which was very pleasing. So, to then get another one against St Mirren was brilliant. I think that gave us the confidence going to Hampden and I think the fact that we picked up a point last Tuesday probably raised the expectations. But we’ve done ourselves proud so we can’t really have any complaints.”
Carswell continued: “It’s been a really quick turnaround from the end of last season. We’d only been back about three weeks and then it was straight into the Dumbarton game.
“We’ve played at a decent level so we just need to maintain that level of performance for the rest of the season now. We have to make sure we have the correct mindset going into the first league game against Stirling this weekend.
“It’s good to do well in cup competitions but the league is the most important.”