Spartans’ veteran cup hero aims to oust Berwick again

St Mirren's John Sutton, left, holds off Donal Henretty of Spartans during their cup run to the fourth round
St Mirren's John Sutton, left, holds off Donal Henretty of Spartans during their cup run to the fourth round
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Spartans striker Donal Henretty netted the winner the last time Spartans met Berwick Rangers in the Scottish Cup nearly a decade ago, and he is hoping history will repeat itself in today’s fifth-round tie at Ainslie Park.

Henretty struck in the 61st minute then the Wee Gers visited the North Edinburgh club’s then home ground, City Park, in the first round. That was enough to book a second-round meeting with Lossiemouth, and the experienced front man admitted he’d be delighted with the same result today.

“I’d definitely take the same outcome,” said Henretty. “A lot’s changed at the club since then, but I’d settle for the same scoreline again.

“Back then I think there was a wee bit of the unknown about us. We were playing at City Park, which wasn’t the most salubrious of places for teams to visit and it was proved that if league clubs came and underestimated us and maybe turned their noses up a bit at the surroundings, then we would catch them cold. At that time we had a very, very fit side – without dumbing that team down – we probably didn’t have the most technically-gifted players. We had a great team and a great spirit and we didn’t let teams settle into games.

“I think we restricted Berwick to a few chances. I think they hit the post late on but, all in all, I think we deserved the victory and it was a great day in the history of the club.”

Spartans went on to reach the fourth round to face then First Division St Mirren. They eventually lost a replay 3-0 at Love Street, but the initial 0-0 draw at home remains – until today – arguably the biggest game in the club’s history, and one Henretty feels they could have won.

“The St Mirren game was fantastic. On that day, we were particularly unlucky not to come away with the victory, and I don’t think anybody could have begrudged us that. Everybody remembers big Jonny Seeley’s chance at the end, which would have produced one of the biggest shocks of all time in the Scottish Cup.

“As for today, I think everyone’s made a big deal of it being 50-odd years since a club like Spartans has reached the quarter-finals, but we haven’t got to that stage yet. The boys in the dressing-room are mindful that we’re stepping up to play Berwick. I’m quite good pals with their coach, Robbie Horn, and for them to get there would make their season as well. It’s not all about Spartans here – we know what we’re up against. They’re the favourites with this huge carrot of going to the quarter-finals as well. For both teams, it would be a phenomenal achievement – I don’t know the last time they made it that far, if at all. There’s not been too much made of that, as it’s mostly been about Spartans, but there’s certainly another team involved in this.”

Henretty believes the unknown factor that helped Spartans nearly ten years ago has certainly gone now.

“I think there’s a bit of prestige goes with the Lowland League – the results are on the BBC website and the coverage from the Evening News is excellent. Ten years ago, you were lucky if you got the scores in The Scotsman, but now it’s really good. Because we’ve won the league, had these cup runs in the past and people can come along in the winter and see us on this surface, the community set-up being fantastic – our name’s out there. I certainly don’t think there’s anything of the unknown for Berwick.”

Henretty said that while he hopes be able to enjoy the build-up to games like today’s again, he may not have many more opportunities to do so.

“I hope you’ve not been speaking to the gaffer and know something I don’t! It’s always in the back of your mind. Guys like myself, Cloudy [Keith McLeod], Danny O’Donnell and Thommo (Iain Thomson) have been so fortunate to have had one of these runs – to have now had three, it’s mind-blowing. You’ve got to play as if you won’t get this chance again.”