Lowland League: Uni’s harsh lesson as Spartans show champion quality

Spartans’ title defence may be over according to manager Dougie Samuel, but his players showed they’ll continue to play like champions after sweeping aside Edinburgh University.

Monday, 28th January 2019, 5:30 am
Spartans midfielder Aaron Scott enjoys a tussle with Edinburgh Universitys Ewan Ritchie. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The Students were no match for the reigning champs at a blustery and very wet Ainslie Park, going down 3-0 as the North Edinburgh club leapfrogged Civil Service Strollers into fourth spot in the table.

A scintillating first-half performance from the home side ensured this game was over as a contest by half-time.

The opening goal arrived in the fifth minute when Jack Smith connected with Jamie Dishington’s cross after nipping in front of the visitors’ backline to slide past keeper Mark Tait.

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The hosts continued to dictate proceedings, but Patrick Baird passed up two rare opportunities for Dorian Ogunro’s men to draw themselves level.

They were made to pay in the 35th minute when sloppy defending allowed Dishington time to win back possession and round the keeper before slotting into an empty net.

Two became three a minute before the interval when Michael Herd’s delivery made its way out to full-back Gary Cennerazzo who rifled home an explosive effort into the roof of the net.

The second half began at a furious pace and Jack Smith’s shot cannoned back off the post as play raged from end-to-end.

Adam Corbett headed narrowly over from a corner as Spartans pressed in search of a fourth goal before Ross Watters narrowly failed to hit the target late on for the Students.

University boss Ogunro cut a frustrated figure after the full-time whistle, but accepted his team were second best in a “one-sided” opening 45 minutes.

He said: “Every game in this league is tough, no matter who you’re playing. From the bottom to the top, every team is competitive.

“I expected us to play well, but we had another off-day which was very annoying. Spartans are the league champions on merit, and we had no given right to go there and pick up three points, but silly errors cost us.

“We want to finish as high up the table as possible. We’re in amongst a cluster of teams in the middle pack and there’s only a couple of points separating sixth place down to around where we are (10th).

“We’ve got to be realistic about what we’re up against, but it would a great achievement because it’s only going to get harder in the coming years for us to sustain our life in the Lowland League.

“The teams that are coming in have huge resources and some top professionals to mount a title challenge.

“We have to remain positive, though, and recognise how well we’ve done well in recent seasons. Naturally, we’ve had to change a lot of our team, but the young boys are competing well.”

Whitehill Welfare were left to rue another missed opportunity in their mission to avoid relegation after being held to a 2-2 draw against Cumbernauld Colts.

Ian Little’s side trailed early on at Ferguson Park through centre-back Scott Davidson’s header from a corner after shot-stopper Ross Jardine did well initially to block a shot.

Whitehill drew level after 25 minutes when Cumbernauld keeper Jordan Pettigrew punched the ball into his own net from an in-swinging corner.

Scott Wright, who recently joined Whitehill from East of Scotland side Blackburn United, then had a penalty kick saved by Pettigrew after 38 minutes.

Wright redeemed himself ten minutes into the second half turning home Fabio Neto’s cross at the back post.

Cumbernauld equalised with 15 minutes remaining when they were awarded a spot-kick after Stephen O’Neill was fouled in the box, which Craig Holmes converted from 12 yards.

Civil Service Strollers’ trip to face Vale of Leithen was postponed due to a frozen pitch.