Spartans boss Dougie Samuel has tasked his players with winning silverware this season after booking their place in third round of the South Challenge Cup with a 5-2 second round win over Heriot Watt at Ainslie Park.
An Aaron Murrell double, along with goals from Eddie Malone, Keith Murray and Robbie Ross, ensured a comfortable afternoon for Samuel’s side, despite Adam Woolven’s first- half leveller for the University side, who notched a late consolation through Chris Donnelly.
Samuel hopes the club can taste success after a trophy-less season last year. “I think at this football club we’re expected to win things” he said. “We’re happy to play with that expectation on our shoulders. This year we’ve set the players a challenge of delivering a trophy. Obviously the league is the priority and we need to go on a run to be competitive in that, but we’ve shown we can do.
“We’ve been playing with a lot of experienced players missing and the squad’s been threadbare for most of the year now. Scott Maxwell, Jack Beesley and John Grant haven’t played any football for the first team this year and Ally MacKinnon’s missed a lot of matches. That’s been great for the likes Aaron Murrell and Brad Raiker came in today and did really well.”
The visitors started brightly, and were inches from taking the lead on six minutes. Anton Dowds drove forward and played a one-two with Neil Laurenson, sending a vicious effort crashing against Blair Carswell’s cross bar.
Spartans responded with a goal two minutes later. Davie Greenhill’s initial corner was cleared back to him before he moved it on to Conner Duthie. The Hibs loanee sent in a clipped delivery from the edge of the box right on to Malone’s head, who had the simple task of nodding past Craig Saunders from close range.
Watt didn’t wilt, however, and it took a stunning one-handed save from Carswell from Donnelly’s shot to preserve the hosts’ lead on the 20 minute mark. They got their reward from the resulting corner however, Woolven rising highest to head Michael Connor’s delivery firmly past Carswell.
Spartans begin to dominate possession after that, and it told in spectacular fashion ten minutes before the break. Murrell collected the ball 20 yards out, created space with a step over and sent an unstoppable shot dipping into the top corner. It was almost three shortly after, Suanders managing to tip Greenhill’s soaring attempt on to the crossbar and over. A trip on Duthie in the area by Connor Godsell gave Murrell the chance to notch his second and Spartans’ third before half-time, and the club’s top scorer duly obliged, sending Saunders the wrong way.
It was game over on the hour mark. Substitute Robbie Ross’ through ball dissected the Heriot Watt backline to pick out Murray’s run, who was composed enough side step Saunders and roll the ball into the empty net for 4-1. Ross then turned from provider to scorer, smartly sending a powerful header back across Saunders after Alan Brown’s pint-point driven cross from the right.
Watt rounded the game off with a consolation a minute from time. A mix-up between Carswell and Paul Thomson allowed Donnelly to run the ball into the empty net.
Samuel was pleased to see top-scorer Murrell back on the scoresheet. “It’s great to see Aaron grab a double as he hadn’t scored for a couple of weeks and as a young player that plays on your mind” he added. “You could see he was getting a bit edgy but his first goal was fantastic.”
Spartans: Carswell, Brown, Stevenson, Malone, Thomson, Greenhill, Horribine, Herd (Raiker 35), Murrell (Ross 45), Murray, Duthie (Saunderson 64).
Heriot Watt: Saunders, Godsell, Dunn (Lane 79), Kerr, Woolven, Connor (Maher 64), Laurenson, Higgins, Dowds, Donnelly, Walker (Hamill 64).