Spartans fight back to earn precious point in Lowland League opener

Gary Cennerazzo made it 2-2
Gary Cennerazzo made it 2-2
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Lowland League champions Spartans fought from two goals down to salvage a 2-2 draw against Stirling University at Ainslie Park.

The students had put themselves in the driving seat nine minutes into the second half when Dominic Slattery squeezed in the opening goal with a free-kick from 20 yards.

The visitors looked on course for all three points after Lewis Hunter broke free of the Spartans defence to slide the ball past goalkeeper Blair Carswell with just 20 minutes left to play.

The exertions of this month’s Betfred Cup campaign appeared to have taken its toll on Dougie Samuel’s players, but they rolled their sleeves up and reduced the deficit in the 80th minute when summer signing Jack Smith’s cool finish beat John Allan in the Stirling goal.

And, with just five minutes remaining, Gary Cennerazzo sparked celebrations among the home contingent as the full-back - in his second spell with the club - sent an unstoppable shot into the top corner.

Whitehill Welfare got off to a shaky start as they were comprehensively beaten 4-1 by Edusport Academy at Galabank. The hosts were ahead as early as the third minute when Jean Guy Lucas finished off a fine move as he shot past goalkeeper Ross Jardine.

Things went from bad to worse for Gary Small’s men as Edusport doubled their advantage in the 20th minute. Lucas turned provider this time as he set up a trialist who tapped home at the back post.

It was game over seven minutes later when Liam Coogans darted through on goal and sent Jardine the wrong way for his side’s third of the afternoon.

Coogans went agonisingly close to notching his second with a drive that went just wide of Jardine’s right-hand post ten minutes before the interval.

The visitors had a good amount of possession in the opponents’ half after the interval and gave themselves a glimmer of hope with just over 20 minutes remaining.

Kyle Mitchell made an immediate impact having replaced Scott Lucas just five minutes earlier as he swept in from the tightest of angles to reduce the arrears.

However, Edusport made sure of the three points six minutes later when the ball deflected off Craig Reid and past Jardine into the empty net. Jordan Alexander twice went close to extending the home side’s lead in the closing minutes.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh University got their 2018/19 campaign off to a scintillating start with a 3-0 victory over hosts Gretna 2008 at Raydale Park.

Stuart McNicholas gave the students a tenth-minute lead and then added a second just 11 minutes later.

Abdul Yusuf’s second-half penalty capped off a fine afternoon for the Capital outfit.

Uni boss Dorian Ogunro said: “We deserved the win. We were better than them. But we didn’t play as good as we can. Hopefully that will happen once we have everyone back and fit.”

Elsewhere, Civil Service Strollers and Vale of Leithen played out a goalless draw at Christie Gillies Park.

Both sides had opportunities to earn all three points in what was a hotly-contested affair but Strollers will now turn their attention to Wednesday night’s trip to Stirling University.

Last season’s runners-up, East Kilbride, are off to a flier as they put ten past a sorry Selkirk side at K-Park – Craig Malcolm netting a hat-trick for Kilby in their 10-0 victory.

And newcomers and East of Scotland League champions Kelty Hearts were held to a 2-2 draw against Dalbeattie Star at New Central Park but Cumbernauld Colts picked up maximum points with a 2-1 victory over Gala Fairydean Rovers at Netherdale.