Spartans hope win knocks Edinburgh City off stride

Spartans' No.5 Ally MacKinnon tries to force the ball over the line. Pic: Ian Georgeson
Spartans' No.5 Ally MacKinnon tries to force the ball over the line. Pic: Ian Georgeson
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Spartans boss Dougie Samuel hopes Edinburgh City’s confidence has taken even a dent after his side’s 2-1 Lowland League Cup win at Ainslie Park on Saturday.

Goals in the first half from Errol Douglas and Jack Beesley turned the game around after John Dunn’s early opener for the visitors. While Samuel previously admitted that the league title is City’s to lose, he felt the cup win could possibly sow the smallest seed of doubt in City minds when league action resumes in the new year.

“As far as this week was concerned it was important that we bounced back after defeat against Preston,” said Samuel. “If possible, we tried to put a slight dent – an ever so slight dent – in City’s confidence. It was important for us to get a positive result against them, as much for our own sense of well being but also hopefully to try and inflict a little bit of damage on them mentally.

“We had a few objectives though. We freshened it up a little bit and brought people in who maybe hadn’t started for a wee while and I’m pleased for them – Hovie [Alan Brown], Thommo [Iain Thomson], Errol [Douglas] and [Jack] Beacher, because they all contributed. They all played their part and that was really pleasing as it maybe gives us the confidence that we have got the strength and depth in the squad.”

This game started similarly to the league encounter between the pair back in August, with City out of the traps quickly, The sense of déjà vu increased when they also managed to score with their first real attack on six minutes. John Dunn – continuing the similarities by again opening the scoring in this fixture – took the ball beautifully on the turn before volleying past Kevin Swain after Spartans had failed to clear.

Gary Jardine’s side were pressing Spartans well and it took 21 minutes for the hosts to first trouble Andrew Stobie in the City goal. Errol Douglas drove at left-back Gordon Donaldson, throwing in a couple of step-overs before his powerful drive was beaten away by Stobie. It was a different result from a similar situation five minutes later. Douglas rolled his man on the angle of the box before drilling the ball into the far corner to restore parity.

City responded by almost restoring their advantage two minutes later. Shaun Harrison’s header from a corner was sailing in at the back post, only for Craig Stevenson to leap up on the goal-line and nod the ball to safety.

They were regretting the midfielder’s intervention even more on 43 minutes when Spartans completed the comeback and took the lead. Jack Beacher played his namesake Beesley in behind, and the wide man rode one challenge before opening up his body and sliding the ball past the advancing Stobie into the corner.

If those watching on were expecting a second-half onslaught from City in an attempt to level things up, then it never materialised. Spartans were far more efficient in possession and probably should have added to their lead after the break. Ally MacKinnon’s point-blank volley following a corner was well parried by Stobie on 54 minutes, while the same player had a somewhat tamer effort hacked off the line two minutes later.

Beesley was in on goal again on 69 minutes and tried to give Stobie the eyes by going near post, but the City keeper read his intentions well and produced a smart stop. Substitute Willie Bremner had the ball in the net with 15 minutes remaining, but was adjudged to have pushed Donaldson before heading home.

Any chance of a late City leveller was ended when they were reduced to ten men six minutes from time, Ian McFarland harshly receiving a second yellow following a challenge with Gary Cennerazzo.

City boss Gary Jardine wasn’t overly despondent, and insisted there were positives he could take from defeat. “You do learn more in defeat. I think we can take a lot out of it. We started very well, wanting to play, but then started playing a game of chance, playing off the cuff rather than the simple, basic football we’ve played since the start of the season.”

Jardine felt McFarland was a bit hard done by to have been dismissed. “Both the first booking and the sending off were harsh, but we get one look at it and I’m 50 metres away so I couldn’t say for sure. It’s disappointing as he’s only had three or four fouls in the game.”

Spartans: Swain, Stewart (Bremner 65), Cennerazzo, Sivewright, MacKinnon, Thomson (Grant, 68), Beesley, Stevenson, Douglas, Beacher (Nixon 82), Brown.

Edinburgh City: Stobie, Harrison, Donaldson, Vanson, (Deniran 56), Torrance (Osborne 76), Mbu, McFarland, Gair, Allum, Dunn, MacDonald (Gibson 17).