Spartans blow big chance to claw back East Kilbride

Craig Stevenson was left feeling frustrated
Craig Stevenson was left feeling frustrated
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Spartans’ Craig Stevenson says he and his team-mates can’t afford any more slip ups if they are to give themselves any chance of being crowned Lowland League champions this season.

The disappointment was etched across the faces of the Ainslie Park side as they made their way down the tunnel following the goalless draw with Edinburgh University – the first time they have dropped points in the league since the beginning of November.

But, perhaps the biggest blow was upon learning league leaders East Kilbride had been held 2-2 by struggling Selkirk – a point that maintains Kilby’s seven-point gap over Dougie Samuel’s men who have played a game more.

“Knowing that East Kilbride also drew makes our result a whole lot worse,” 24-year-old Stevenson said. “We’ve been trying to keep on their tails hoping for them to slip up and when they have, we’ve gone and done the exact same. It’s so frustrating.

“As far as we’re concerned it’s two points dropped. We were on a good run coming here so we’ve got to take the three points. We really have to capitalise when they [East Kilbride] make mistakes. Hopefully we can get back to winning ways against Stirling on Saturday.

“We’ve drawn with Edinburgh Uni home and away now. They’re a hardworking side and difficult to break down and we seem to struggle against them but I don’t know why.”

Ross Allum, who had notched a brace for Spartans in last weekend’s 4-1 win at East Stirlingshire having joined from SPFL League Two side Edinburgh City just 48 hours beforehand, was first to try his luck but the striker miscued his shot wide of goalkeeper Mark Tait’s left-hand post from a couple of yards.

Tait, however, was tested midway through the first half and it was from that man Allum again who this time forced the Uni No.1 into a terrific double save following a David Greenhill pass.

An expertly weighted pass from Uni veteran George Nikolaidis then sent Rafa Calbacho in on goal and the No.11 deftly lifted the ball over the onrushing Blair Carswell only to have his celebrations brought to a halt with the assistant referee on the far side having deemed the winger to have come from an offside position – a decision that incensed Uni boss Dorian Ogunro.

Allum went close again after the break but he was once more denied by the resilient Tait. Jack Hay thought he had broken the deadlock only to see his effort ruled out for offside.

A darting run into the box from Spartans’ Alan Brown almost supplied the opener but Allum’s effort from Brown’s neat lay-off rattled the goal frame.

Substitutes Jack Beesley and Keith Murray combined late on but the latter couldn’t steer his header under the crossbar.

Uni again proved why they boast one of the best defensive records in the league but Ogunro would like to have seen more purpose from his team in the Spartans half.

“I think we could have been a bit more of a threat but I also felt we were fairly comfortable,” he said. “They had a couple of chances but it was more because of our mistakes than them actually creating anything. The boys work really hard so as a unit we’re hard to break down. I definitely would have taken a point if you’d asked me before the game.

“I felt the offside decision was ridiculous and I made that patently clear at the time. It was very disappointing because he finished it well.”

Edinburgh University: Tait, Murray, McMillan, Smith, Verkaik, Nikolaidis, Ritchie, Guthrie, McCrory-Irving, Calbacho (Evans 78). Subs: Davison, McIntosh, Irvine, Matthew, Maskrey.

Spartans: Carswell, Herd, Stevenson, Tolmie (Ward 46), Thomson, Mair (Beesley 80), Brown, Greenhill, Allum, Dishington, Hay (Murray 64). Subs: Gilpin, Comrie, Maxwell.