Spartans chief wants idle Hibs and Hearts fans to roar them to title

Spartans can win their first Lowland League title since 2013/14
Spartans can win their first Lowland League title since 2013/14
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Chairman Craig Graham has called on football fans across the Capital to roar Spartans over the line in their ‘do or die’ clash with East Stirlingshire tomorrow.

The Ainslie Park side will clinch their first Lowland League title in four years with victory over Shire regardless of how nearest challengers East Kilbride, who are a point worse off, fare from their trip to University of Stirling.

Spartans chairman, Craig Graham

Spartans chairman, Craig Graham

It has been a remarkable turnaround for Dougie Samuel’s men who, at one stage, were nine points adrift of the reigning champions. However, Spartans have stuck to their task admirably and won their games in hand to overhaul the South Lanarkshire club with just one game remaining to play.

And, with Capital duo Hibs and Hearts both idle this weekend due to their failure to reach the last four of the Scottish Cup, Graham, pictured inset, is hopeful fans of both clubs will come and lend them all the support they deserve.

“We’d love to see a lot of Edinburgh football fans come out to cheer us on tomorrow in what is such a huge game for the club,” Graham explained. “I’m sure there are a few people who could dig out their Spartans scarves and come and support us. To be fair we usually get a decent turnout when we’ve had these big games in the past so we’re hoping that’s the case again.

“In terms of when we won the Lowland League last time (2013/14), we obviously have that incentive of promotion (to SPFL League Two) this time around. That said, that’s something we’re not even thinking about as we know just how tough a match this is going to be given what’s at stake.”

Spartans would have needed just a solitary point from their final game had they not been pegged back twice at Ochilview and forced to make do with a 2-2 draw last month. The Edinburgh club were on track to pick up all three points when Craig Stevenson’s 88th-minute free-kick restored their advantage only for Derek Ure to level things up again deep into stoppage time.

“When East Stirlingshire scored their last-minute equaliser a couple of weeks ago it was like they’d won the Scottish Cup!” Graham pointed out. “So we know they will be up for it as they will want to finish the season on a high too. It was disappointing not to have won the game but the draw still means it is in our own hands. So it’s a great position for us to be in. If you’d asked us before the start of the season if we needed to win our last game to win the league then we definitely would have taken it. It’s really exciting for everyone at the club.

“It’s been a really tough few weeks playing catch up so I’m just hoping we see the job through. We’ve got a good relationship on and off the park with East Kilbride but I’m sure there will be a few texts exchanged tomorrow morning before the match!”

Club captain Michael Herd was forced off the field midway through the first half of Wednesday night’s 4-0 rout of Dalbeattie Star but he will be given right up until kick-off time to prove his fitness. But Graham was complimentary to the players in red and white for digging deep.

“Getting the early goal on Wednesday certainly helped the nerves because I suppose the last couple of games there has been that wee bit of apprehension,” Graham said. “We’ve always assumed that East Kilbride would win their remaining matches so as long as we match them then that’s fine.”

Elsewhere this weekend Edinburgh University, whose trip to Selkirk on Wednesday night was postponed, welcome Gretna 2008 to East Peffermill. Whitehill Welfare host Gala Fairydean Rovers at Ferguson Park and Civil Service Strollers travel to Edusport Academy.