Spartans short on confidence as October turns into nightmare

Spartans star Jack Smith despairs as Edusport equalise
Spartans star Jack Smith despairs as Edusport equalise
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Manager Dougie Samuel reckons his Spartans players are short on confidence after they were held to a 1-1 stalemate by Edusport Academy.

The Lowland League champions had taken a first-half lead through Stephen McDonald’s 13th-minute header but paid the price for some slack finishing as the visitors snatched an equaliser with just eight minutes remaining.

Spartans trail leaders Kelty Hearts by four points ahead of their clash at New Central Park this weekend.

And Samuel, who is relishing the opportunity to lock horns with new Kelty manager Barry Ferguson, believes his side’s failure to kill teams off these last past weeks is having a more detrimental effect than he had envisaged.

“I think Saturday probably summed up our October. We’ve played well in the first half in most of our matches and probably could have gone in at half-time two or three up. But we’re just a wee bit short of confidence and we’ve lost our way a bit in terms of seeing games out and finding the win,” Samuel explained.

“You can see that a few players are struggling for confidence but they’ve just got to keep the faith and keep believing in each other. They need to remind themselves that they are the same group that went on such a long unbeaten run last season.

“We’ve not scored many goals in a lot of games. We’ve had ones and twos but not many threes or fours and I just think if we were to get that second goal we’d be able to relax a little more.

“But we’ve got a fantastic opportunity this weekend to inject some momentum into our season with a trip to Kelty. We’ve got that experience so we know we can do it. It’s the same group that got fantastic results earlier in the season in the Betfred Cup.”

Samuel revealed he has made attempts to bring in some fresh faces to try and alleviate some of the pressure on his current squad. However, he admitted it’s unlikely he’ll be able to do any business before the turn of the year.

“We’ve tried in the last fortnight or so to get players in but the Senior clubs we have spoken to don’t want to let anyone go at this moment in time and that we’ll have to wait until January,” Samuel said. “We’re not going to make panic signings but we certainly need to do something to freshen things up.

“The reality right now is we’re not good enough as we’re not putting teams away when we’re on top and we’re being punished for every individual error.”

Edusport enjoyed the early share of possession but the hosts put their noses in front when Craig Stevenson spotted the overlapping Gary Cennerazzo and, from the full-back’s cross, there was McDonald to expertly guide his header back across goal and into the bottom corner.

The goal certainly galvanised the hosts and Stevenson was next to test the visitors’ goal but found his deflected effort loop just a fraction wide of the far post following a fast break on the counter.

Sublime vision from captain Michael Herd then picked out the run of the hard-working Stevenson down the channel, whose pinpoint cross was on a plate for Jack Smith, the striker doing everything right only to see his header somehow stopped on the line by Sotal Pelmard-Bassi in the Edusport goal.

Spartans’ opponents were fast out the blocks after the restart and Scott McGlaughlin’s powerful effort from 20 yards was well watched by Blair Carswell.

Samuel introduced Jason Stevens just after the hour mark and the former Vale of Leithen player showed his intent from the off, linking up play well and taking the game by the scruff of the neck.

However, Edusport were always dangerous on the counter and Carswell again had to be alert to deny Matthew Flynn after the striker had raced clear of the Spartans defence.

But the home side’s goal was eventually breached when Marc Kelly’s cross into the box fell kindly for substitute Jordan Alexandrou and he did the necessaries in placing his shot under Carswell.

McGlaughlin was inches away from winning it for the visitors as his curling shot went a fraction wide while Scott Maxwell also spurned a late opportunity for the hosts.

Elsewhere, Civil Service Strollers pulled off their result of the season so far with a 3-1 victory over East Kilbride at Christie Gillies Park.

Stephen Froude fired Gary Jardine’s men in front getting on the end of David Churchill’s cross.

Things got even better for Strollers who doubled their advantage through a neat finish from Cameron Muirhead.

Craig Malcolm’s header midway through the second gave the visitors’ hope but a second from Muirhead ensured a first league defeat of the season for Kilby.

Whitehill Welfare remain rooted to the bottom following a 3-0 defeat at home to Stirling University but Edinburgh University are up to sixth following their 1-0 success over Cumbernauld Colts at East Peffermill.

Spartans: Carswell, Cennerazzo, Stevenson, Tolmie, Corbett, Greenhill (Atkinson 79), Herd, McFarland, McDonald, Brown (Stevens 62), Smith (Maxwell 62). Subs: Costello, Nixon, Dawson, Dishington.

Edusport Academy: Pelmard-Bassi, Lucas, Oulhaito (Couve 46), Krissian, Abadie, McGlaughlin, Kelly, Sinclair, Flynn, Coogans (Alexandrou 46), Ferguson (Gamble 89). Subs: Kerr, Nanou, Cowie, McCann.