Spartans manager Dougie Samuel described his club as “blessed” following their William Hill Scottish Cup fourth-round victory over Morton.
A last-minute Jack Beesley goal fired the hosts through after Willie Bremner had cancelled out Andy Barrowman’s first-half opener.
The Ainslie Park men will now take their place in the last 16 – the draw for which will be made at Hampden later today – for the third time in 11 years, having reached this stage in 2004 and 2006.
Samuel felt it was a fitting end to a sad week for the club after the death of 13-year-old Elie McIlwaine, who participated in the Spartans FootTEA programme.
“It might sound corny and it’s not meant to, but we’re blessed – we get to play for a whole community here,” he said. “A lot of negative news comes out of North Edinburgh but there’s a lot of fantastic people in this area and it’s brilliant they can hang their hat on something positive because it’s been a tough week.
“Sadly we lost a young girl last week. It’s been really tough for our youth workers and the community as a whole. She was buried at lunchtime [Saturday] and I couldn’t make the funeral for obvious reasons, but it’s funny how life works out sometimes – you get such a big low to such a big high on the same day.”
Of the match, Samuel conceded that Morton had been well on top until half-time, but he had a sense his players could turn it round as the belief grew after the break.
“In fairness they had the best of the first half with five or six opportunities and Jim [Duffy] will be disappointed they didn’t put us away but we had five or six opportunities in the second half,” Samuel added.
“We had one or two blocks but I didn’t feel that it was constant pressure, I felt it was a more even contest and I had a funny feeling we’d get another chance.
“Willie [Bremner], Beezer [Beesley] and Grinchy [Craig Stevenson] have all got legs, Jack especially has good feet, and I thought he showed great composure in the last minute to put it away.”
Morton found their rhythm immediately in this match and dominated possession early on. Kevin Swain had to produce a fine save to tip Barrowman’s seventh-minute strike over the bar and again had to divert the ball over his own bar when Joe McKee’s deflected effort from distance nearly caught him out in bizarre fashion.
The breakthrough came on 25 minutes. Mark Russell skilfully evaded Jack Nixon on the right before sending in a low drive that was parried by Swain. The ball fell to the on-rushing Barrowman, who turned the ball home via the crossbar.
Such a narrow lead didn’t reflect the visitors’ dominance of the first half, and Spartans began to impose themselves on the game after the interval.
Bremner spurned a great chance when he headed wide from Gary Cennerazzo’s driven cross on the hour. The pair combined in identical fashion five minutes later, but Bremner couldn’t get the decisive touch on the left back’s wicked delivery. Bremner was again denied on 70 minutes when his close- range effort was well blocked by Ricki Lamie.
He finally got his reward two minutes later. Some good hold- up play in the area by Keith McLeod occupied the Morton defenders, who couldn’t clear their lines. The ball fell nicely for Bremner, who drilled it through Jamie McGowan’s legs on the angle for a deserved equaliser.
Sub Errol Douglas should have converted Bremner’s cross with ten minutes left, but headed over from eight yards. The momentum was with Spartans however, and that increased when Stefan McCluskey was dismissed on 81 minutes after a high challenge on Bremner. The No.10 had initially been booked for joining the crowd when celebrating Barrowman’s goal.
The home side took full advantage and won it at the death. Jack Beacher went clear on the left and his low ball found Beesley right in front of goal. He kept his cool to slot the ball past McGowan and claim a historic win for the club.
Long-serving striker Keith McLeod, whose persistence laid on Bremner’s leveller, is a veteran of Scottish Cup ties against senior opposition, and ‘Cloudy’ has Saturday’s result as up there with the best of them.
“Before this, drawing with St Mirren at City Park [in season 2005-06] was probably the best,” he admitted. “That day we could have won it but Saturday is definitely up there with that, undoubtedly. It probably surpasses it. If I was taking a guess at how many proper Scottish Cup ties I’d played in I’d say 16, 17 maybe.
“Genuinely, through the week it’s been going through my head that I’d like to put a good performance in because it could be my last [Scottish Cup] game. I wasn’t expecting to win the match, but football’s a crazy game. You never know what will happen in the next round.”
Morton manager Jim Duffy was feeling contrasting emotions to his Spartans counterpart, but refused to use the red card as an excuse, and was genuine in his congratulations for their Lowland League opponents.
“The initial booking I think was for running into the crowd, but there was about six of them did that, and it’s the Morton end so I’m not quite sure whether that’s a booking,” he said.
“The other one is just two players going in with a high foot. I don’t think it was a booking and it was a bit harsh – there were certainly worse tackles in the game. From that side I think we were a bit harshly done by but I’m not going to use that as an excuse.
“We were still in a situation where we should have done better but you can only congratulate Spartans, I’m not trying to disguise anything.
“I can only look at my team and how we did, or didn’t, perform. It’s about being in the draw – Spartans are in it and we’re not.”
Spartans: Swain, Nixon, Bruce (Brown 43), Cennerazzo, MacKinnon, Stevenson, Beesley, Grant (Douglas 74), Bremner, McLeod (Beacher 85), Motion.
Morton: McGowan, Kilday, Lamie, O’Ware, Crighton, Milojevic, J McCluskey (Allan 86), McKee, Barrowman, S McCluskey, Russell (Orr 74).