Spartans can’t afford slow starts in race for the title

David Greenhill, right, almost scored
David Greenhill, right, almost scored
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Spartans midfielder Ian McFarland says they must learn to start games better if they are to maintain their Lowland League title challenge this season.

Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Whitehill Welfare, coupled with league leaders BSC Glasgow’s defeat at Civil Service Strollers, their first of the campaign, has left Spartans just a point adrift of their rivals with a game in hand.

In truth, it was a fairly low-key affair at Ainslie Park considering the rivalry between the two clubs but second-half efforts from Blair Tolmie and a Willie Kidd own goal was enough to push the north Edinburgh outfit over the line.

But McFarland, who joined Spartans from rivals Edinburgh City in the summer, insists Dougie Samuel’s men must come out of the traps quicker if they are to be considered genuine title contenders.

“Dougie didn’t have to say too much at half-time as we were all disappointed with ourselves,” McFarland, 22, said. “He obviously had a few things to say but a lot of the talking was done by the players. We just never got going and it would have to be up there as one of the poorest 45 minutes we’ve had this season. We started poor against Vale on Tuesday so that’s something we’re going to have to look at because we can’t afford to do that in this league.

“But it’s great to now have it in our own hands so we need to dig in and knuckle down. We go into two cup games so it’s good to have a bit of a rest in the league. We’re in a good position. I’m not going to lie, I look at the other results and table all the time as it makes me feel better knowing what we have to do.”

A Jamie Dishington pass to Ross Allum saw the striker bring out an instinctive stop from Whitehill No.1 Connar Easton early on but clear-cut chances were at a premium at both ends.

Home goalkeeper Andrew Stobie was relieved to see Jack Wright’s effort from 40 yards sail over the bar after captain Michael Herd was dispossessed following Stobie’s badly miscued kick out.

Dishing ton then almost exposed a gap in the Whitehill defence when his threaded pass picked out the run of Allum but Easton again foiled the former Edinburgh City striker.

The hosts edged in front on the hour mark as Tolmie powered home a Scott Wilson corner and Spartans doubled their advantage just 12 minutes later when Dishington’s cross came off the boot of the unfortunate Kidd and into the bottom corner.

David Greenhill and substitute Blair Atkinson both went close with efforts in the closing minutes but Easton again stood tall to deny the duo.

Whitehill boss Gary Small was disappointed that his players didn’t show more belief in the final third.

“I expected it to be a tougher game than what it was and that’s no disrespect to Spartans,” he said. “I felt the game was just really flat for a local derby with not much happening. Tactically in the first half we were spot on and I felt we were comfortable. But we’ve conceded two poor goals from our point of view.

“It’s grating on me now people saying ‘oh you’re getting really close’ but ultimately we’re coming away again with zero points. It’s frustrating. I’ve said to the players that if any of them have that attitude where they think they’ve done okay against Spartans and that’s enough then they can phone me and I’ll let them go because I’m not interested in that.”

Strollers win over BSC Glasgow was extremely impressive as they prevailed 4-2 at Christie Gillies Park. Jack Downie (2) Stephen Froude and Shaun Turnbull were on target.

At Peffermill, Edinburgh University lost 1-0 to Stirling Uni.