Spartans goal hero Alan Brown has revealed it was a move straight from the training ground that secured the club’s place in this season’s Football Nation Qualifying Cup final.
The versatile midfielder’s 94th-minute strike sparked wild celebrations on the visitors’ bench at K-Park as the Capital side edged out runaway Lowland League leaders and cup holders East Kilbride 2-1 in South Lanarkshire – Spartans gaining some revenge for the 4-1 defeat in last year’s final.
An additional 30 minutes seemed inevitable until Brown’s last-gasp intervention, Kilby having equalised in the 90th minute through Bernard Coll. David Greenhill had given Dougie Samuel’s men a deserved lead with a fine angled shot with little more than 14 minutes remaining.
And, it was Greenhill who was instrumental in teeing up the 30-year-old for the winner, the former Berwick Rangers and East Stirlingshire man’s incisive pass finding Brown who set up a final showdown with divisional rivals Hawick Royal Albert or East of Scotland outfit Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale.
“It was just instinct, I saw a gap for me to run in and Davie has picked out a great pass, he does it all the time in training so I knew exactly where he was going to put it so I just had to slot it home,” a jubilant Brown said. “It’s hard to explain when you’re in that moment you don’t think about anything else apart from putting the ball in the back of the net.
“It’s a great feeling to score the winner. We worked so hard for 90 minutes. I thought we were outstanding and didn’t put a foot wrong. We worked as a unit. But to lose a goal when we did, it plants a seed of doubt in your mind.
“The last two games we’ve played East Kilbride we’ve beaten them now, home and away, so there’s no reason why we can’t match them. What’s let us down at the start of the season was dropping points against the teams that we went in as favourites.
“But we don’t have any divine right to go and win the trophy. They (Hawick or Lothian) will want to win it as much as we do so we’ve got to prepare properly.”
Goal-scoring opportunities were at a premium during a laboured first half, Dan Ward’s cross-cum shot a quarter of an hour in having to be turned away by Jacob Kean in the home side’s goal.
At the other end, former Livingston midfielder Kieran Gibbons’ deflected effort from 30 yards was never likely to trouble Kean’s opposite number Blair Carswell who gathered with ease.
That’s as good as it got in the opening 45 but Sean Winter tested the Spartans goal within 60 seconds of the restart.
Jamie Dishington’s dipping volley flew past Kean’s right-hand post as the visitors cranked up the pressure and substitute Scott Maxwell, who had earlier replaced the injured Keith Murray, saw his shot on the turn palmed away after Ward’s lung-bursting run from midfield.
With Kilby’s defence now under siege, Greenhill collected a pass inside the hosts’ penalty box and he took one touch to control before sending a half-volley in off the far post.
But the Edinburgh side’s joy was short lived as Kilby dealt them a blow in the final minute of normal time, Coll pouncing on a loose ball after Carswell had denied Robbie Crawford’s first-time effort.
However, Brown was on hand to finish beyond Kean with virtually the last kick of the game.
East Kilbride: Kean, Hardie, Coll, Proctor, Russell, Gibbons, Winter, Crawford, McNeil (Victoria 68), Strachan, McLeish (McBride 75). Subs: Currie, Stevenson, Hughes, Millar, McGinley.
Spartans: Carswell, Herd, Tolmie, Thomson, Townsley, Brown, Ward (Comrie 89), Greenhill, Dishington, Mair (Beesley 69), Murray (Maxwell 50). Subs: Gilpin, Gabiola.