Spartans hope Betfred Cup experience can inspire them to bigger things

Spartans' Craig Stevenson shields the ball from Dumbarton's Ross Perry. Pic: Andrew O'Brien
Spartans' Craig Stevenson shields the ball from Dumbarton's Ross Perry. Pic: Andrew O'Brien
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Spartans defender Gary Cennerazzo believes the experience of playing in the Betfred Cup against full-time clubs can give his team-mates the hunger to achieve their dream of plying their trade in the professional ranks.

The Lowland League champions made an impressive start in their Betfred Cup debut as they held their own against League One side Dumbarton, who were relegated last season from the Championship. It’s only going to get tougher, however, for Dougie Samuel’s men, who were led by first-team coach Derek Riddel with the head coach recovering at home after a period in hospital. Games ahead against Kilmarnock and Premiership newcomers St Mirren – whom they meet away tomorrow – await in Group H.

“Dumbarton are a good team, to get a 0-0 against them is a bonus,” said Cennerazzo. “It’s a good start but it’s only going to get harder. We enjoyed it and the boys performed brilliant; we’ve got to take the positives out of it – there was plenty for the guys to be proud of.

“The boys worked hard last year and the reward is to play these teams in competitive games. To play against St Mirren and Kilmarnock will be fantastic, very difficult but an enjoyable experience. The boys are also looking forward to playing at Hampden (against Queen’s Park). We’re just buzzing to be playing these teams; that’s where Spartans should be in the future, we need to get into the professional leagues.”

Cennerazzo re-signed with the Ainslie Park outfit last week after he returned to the club towards the end of last season on a short-term deal after a season in a half with Czech Republic second tier club FK Varnsdorf, his spell abroad cut short as he returned to Scotland for family reasons last November.

“I was signed until May but there was a lot of problems with the contract. I eventually got released in April and just came in for the last few games with Spartans,” continued the 28-year-old. “The level of the football was great, I just had to come home for family reasons. I had opportunities to sign and stay out there again, I had a chance to sign for Brno in the Premier League but it just didn’t work out. I have decided to stay here this year and we’ll see what happens. I had talks with some teams, but I was speaking to Dougie for a while. I had some good years here a few years ago and it was always a good option for me. I sat down and thought about it, I’ve got my own business now, I run my own wine company [Bellissimo Vino] and felt it was the right option for me to come back here. I know the team and the fans; I love it here. I just want to enjoy my football again, I’ve only played four games in ten months so it’s been frustrating. It’s just nice to be back playing competitive games again.”

Neither side were able to force a save out of their opponents goalkeeper in drab opening period which had the look of an exhibition match.

Sons striker Iain Russell did have the ball in Blair Carswell’s net only to be ruled out for offside, while new Spartans striker Jack Smith came closest for the hosts as he looked to open his account for the club following his move from BSC Glasgow.

Carswell was brought into action for the first time with 20 minutes remaining as Craig Barr headed goalwards from Ross Forbes’ corner-kick.

Cennerazzo then had his goalkeeper to thank after a short back pass, as substitute Andy Little nipped in but Carswell rushed off his line quickly to make the save.

A bonus point was on offer via a penalty shoot-out, with Sons keeper Grant Adam making two saves to secure the extra point for Dumbarton.

Spartans: Carswell, Herd (Bremner), Brown, Cennerazzo, Corbett, Greenhill (Stevens), Dishington, McFarland, Smith (Atkinson), Maxwell, Stevenson.

Dumbarton: Adam, Dyer, Dowie, Perry, Carswell, Hutton, Forbes, R Barr (Paton), Russell (Little), Thomson (Gallagher), C Barr.