Late goals are fast becoming the speciality for Spartans this season.
However, captain Michael Herd’s strike with three minutes remaining against Stirling University has very much kept the Capital side in the driving seat in this year’s Lowland League title race.
With the seconds ticking down at a rain-soaked Ainslie Park, a wonderfully weighted-pass from substitute Blair Atkinson picked out the lung-bursting run of Herd, whose angled drive nestled in the bottom right corner of the net to win the game.
It’s the second time in three week’s Dougie Samuel’s men have snatched maximum points in the dying embers of a match. Atkinson was the hero against Edusport Academy last month after the youngster’s brace helped Spartans to a 2-1 victory, his second coming three minutes into stoppage time.
And while admitting he would prefer to have the points wrapped up in less dramatic fashion, Samuel complimented his players’ desire to fight until the very last whistle.
“The number of goals that we’ve scored in the last ten minutes of games has been phenomenal,” Samuel explained. “We put four up front again with 15 minutes to go and fortunately it has paid off. The goal was probably the best bit of quality in the whole game. It was a phenomenal run from Herdy, a fantastic weighted pass from Blair and a great finish worthy of winning any game. The players have never given anything up and have kept going all season.”
Spartans could close the gap on league leaders East Kilbride, who were idle on Saturday, to three points with two games in hand when Cumbernauld Colts visit the Capital on Friday night. Kilby are in action at Civil Service Strollers the following day.
But with Colts having already got the better of East Kilbride and BSC Glasgow this season, Samuel acknowledged his side are in for a formidable test.
“Friday’s game will be the biggest game of our season so far,” he said. “I think Cumbernauld are really underrated in our league.
“They’ve had some fantastic results this year and have already beaten East Kilbride and BSC so I’ve got a huge amount of respect for their coaching team and how well they set themselves up.
“They have three or four players who could play for any club in this division.
“We want to try and apply a wee bit pressure and we can do that by winning on Friday night.”
It was the students who came closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half on Saturday as Dominic Slattery’s teasing cross deflected off defender Adam Corbett and hit the post.
Alan Brown was just out of reach from David Greenhill’s cross as the hosts cranked up the pressure in the second half. Jamie Dishington then sent a dipping volley just over the crossbar before Ross Kellock’s low drive was a fraction wide of Blair Carswell’s far post.
However, full-back Herd, who had been deployed in midfield during the second 45, showed great accuracy to send his shot beyond goalkeeper Kevin Walker from 16 yards.
Spartans: Carswell, Herd, Stevenson (Atkinson 81), Tolmie, Corbett, Greenhill, Brown, Dishington, Stevens (Lamarca 63), Bremner, Maxwell (McFarland 72).
Stirling University: Walker, Slattery, Webb, Ashe, Kellock, Hunter, O’Brien (Peden 33), Cowley (Geddes 87), Hall, McCafferty, Lyons. Subs: Mailer, Keane, Brown, Miller, Klijsen.