Striker Jason Stevens agrees his move to Spartans at the tail-end of last year has far exceeded his expectations.
It wasn’t that long ago the 26-year-old was doing his utmost to stave off the threat of relegation at Vale of Leithen, when he was plucked by Ainslie Park boss Dougie Samuel to join Spartans’ Lowland League title charge – a feat they managed in April when they were crowned champions for the first time in four years.
Despite the disappointment at failing to secure promotion to SPFL League Two following defeat to Highland League champions Cove Rangers in the Pyramid Play-off first round, Stevens insists things have gone from strength to strength having played – and scored – in Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw with Premiership newcomers St Mirren in the Betfred Cup.
Stevens gave the Lowland League champions a shock sixth-minute lead in Paisley and Scott Maxwell doubled the visitors’ advantage ten minutes into the second half. And although Alan Stubbs’ men fought back to earn a share of the spoils before claiming the extra bonus point with a 5-3 win on penalties, Steven insists he and his team-mates are ready to pull off another shock against Queen’s Park at Hampden tomorrow.
“I only joined Spartans at the end of last year so to win the league and then be involved in the Betfred Cup this season, it’s been a great experience and I’ve really enjoyed it so far,” he explained.
“We put in a great performance last weekend against Dumbarton (0-0) and I think that carried into Tuesday night’s game at St Mirren. There’s such a great team spirit around the dressing-room but you’ve got to approach these sorts of games believing you can get a result, otherwise there’s no point. We’re a team that wants to win, that’s the bottom line.
“I think our mentality from last year has carried on this season. We’re undefeated in pre-season so far and hopefully that might get inside the other Lowland League teams’ heads that they’re going to have to play at another level if they want to do well against us. That can only be a positive.”
Stevens would cap off a memorable week if he were to find the net at the national stadium tomorrow. Spartans currently sit third on two points in Group H ahead of their trip west.
“I’ve never played at Hampden so I’m hoping I’ve done enough to stay in the team,” Stevens said. “We’ll go there and try and replicate what we’ve done in our previous group matches.
“We’ve taken a lot of confidence so we just need another performance. I think we’ve got every right to go there and think we can take some points. It’s just a shame we haven’t been able to take any bonus points from the penalty shootouts against St Mirren and Dumbarton.
“The other night was one of the toughest tests I’ve had in my career. You’ve got to enjoy it because if you look back and think the occasion has got the better of you then you’ll only regret that.
“I took my chance when it came along so I was delighted to score. Against the bigger teams you have to take you chances when they come and fortunately for me it went in.
“My dad’s side of the family are big Sheffield United fans so it will be good to go down there and talk about playing against the likes of (St Mirren’s) Ryan Flynn who was a big player for them. I’ll make sure I take the matchday programme down with me too and I think I’ll go home to some happy faces.”