Spartans boss Dougie Samuel hopes to bring in some new additions during the January transfer window to boost his beleaguered squad after they were held to a north Edinburgh derby draw against Civil Service Strollers.
It proved to be a frustrating afternoon for the reigning champions at Ainslie Park after Stephen MacDonald’s early opener was cancelled out by substitute Jack Downie from the penalty spot in the second half.
That goal ensured Strollers remain hot on the heels of fourth-placed Spartans as Gary Jardine’s side extended their unbeaten run to five matches.
Just a solitary point separates the two Capital clubs in the table heading into the new year and Samuel was left to rue another two-points dropped as they fell further behind league leaders East Kilbride.
“I felt for the players because they gave me everything. I was pleased with their application and performance level,” Samuel admitted afterwards.
“Civil are on a great run just now and are an extremely tough team to break down, but I felt we created the better chances and played the better football over the course of 90 minutes.
“We started brightly which was a positive because too often this season we’ve been slow out the blocks and taken a while to find our stride.
“Too many draws are killing us. We haven’t been clinical enough at the top end of the pitch and put teams away when we’ve been on top.
“The next four league games will shape the second half of our campaign. We need others to drop points, but more importantly we need to put together another long unbeaten run, which we’re more than capable of doing.
“I’m hoping to bring in two or three new faces in January because our squad has been stretched over the past few months.
“Anyone we bring in will be for the long term, someone who we feel can improve our side and give us greater competition for places.”
Supporters of both teams were still taking their seats in the stand when the home side opened the scoring with just 23 seconds on the clock.
Blair Atkinson’s clipped pass made its way out to Stephen MacDonald and the American striker shook off the attentions of Civil skipper Mark McConnell before squeezing a first-time shot past the keeper from the left-hand side of the box.
Defender Blair Tolmie almost increased Spartans dream start to the match in the 20th minute, but his downward header was scrambled behind by keeper Josh Donaldson at his front-post.
MacDonald then passed up a glorious chance on the stroke of half-time after he failed to hit the target following some positive build-up play from winger Alan Brown.
Spartans continued to press forward early in the second half and Atkinson was denied by a great reflex save from Donaldson after finding himself one-on-one with the shot-stopper.
It took until the 80th minute for Strollers to find an equaliser, having failed to capitalise on a few half-chances.
McConnell and MacDonald were enjoying a terrific duel throughout the contest and this time it was the Spartans frontman who was left red-faced after ref Duncan Williams spotted his push on the full-back inside the box.
Despite the best efforts of Carswell, who guessed the right way, Jack Downie’s spot-kick had just enough power behind it to beat the keeper from 12 yards.
For Strollers centre-forward Cammy Muirhead, a share of the spoils signalled a pleasing end to his productive six-month loan spell as he prepares to return to parent club Cowdenbeath.
Asked how beneficial his loan stint has been, the 20-year-old replied: “It’s been worthwhile. I’ve managed to score ten goals since joining the club and I’ve enjoyed working under Gary (Jardine).
“Hopefully I’ve done enough to convince Gary Bollan that I can go back to Cowden and make a real impact during the second part of the season.”
Elsewhere, Abdul Yusuf netted a consolation for Edinburgh University in their 3-1 defeat at home to Kelty Hearts.
Whitehill Welfare’s desperate search for a league win continued after the league’s bottom side shipped two late goals against BSC Glasgow, following James McPartlin’s first-half opener.
Spartans: Carswell, Brown, Cennerazzo, Tolmie, Maxwell (Hand), Greenhill (Tait), Atkinson, McFarland, MacDonald, Dishington, Herd. Unused subs: Costello (GK), Reid, Dawson, Trialist.
Civil Service Strollers: Donaldson, Newall, Mair, McConnell, Waugh, Fee, Churchill (Downie), Faye, Froude, Guthrie (Ballantyne), Muirhead (Hopkinson). Unused subs: Devers, Cunningham.
Referee: Duncan Williams.