Lowland League Cup: Goalkeeper Blair Carswell the hero for Spartans
‘Blair’ has been a popular name on the lips of every supporter who has descended on Ainslie Park in recent weeks.
Academy graduate Blair Atkinson was the star of the Spartans show by bagging himself a hat-trick on the final day of the league season last weekend.
Fast forward six days and it was the turn of goalkeeper Blair Carswell to grab the limelight after producing three top-class penalty shoot-out saves to ensure Dougie Samuel’s side marched into the Lowland League Cup quarter-finals at Kelty Hearts’ expense.
The Capital club served up a thrilling encounter with Barry Ferguson’s Fifers on Friday night.
Kelty frontman Stuart Cargill saw his 12th-minute header cannon back off the crossbar and a trio of Spartans players – Atkinson, Scott Maxwell and Alan Brown – were all denied by Maroons shot-stopper Scott Christie as neither team could make the breakthrough after 90 minutes.
Substitute Chris Dodd opened the scoring for the visitors 11 minutes into extra-time when his diving header from Scott McBride’s cross left Carswell rooted to the spot.
Teenager Josh Wishart then levelled the tie at the start of the second period when he flicked Aaron Scott’s free-kick past the keeper into the net.
Last month saw Spartans triumph on spot-kicks against Penicuik Athletic in the Football Nation Qualifying Cup and, with those memories still fresh in the back of his mind, it was left to Carswell to repeat his heroics.
The 23-year-old thwarted Dodd, Scott Dalziel and ex-Spartan Errol Douglas from 12 yards to seal a narrow 3-2 success and keep his side on track to lift some end-of-season silverware.
“It’s always great to contribute towards a win and I was delighted that we managed to get over the line in the end,” said Carswell.
“As a keeper, all you can do is try your best in that type of scenario, but you certainly get a buzz from saving a penalty. I just went with my instinct and picked a side.
“I didn’t have many saves to make within the 120 minutes, but fortunately when it mattered, I was able to pull them off. It’s as good a feeling as scoring a hat-trick!
“We conceded a poor goal, but when we got the equaliser, I was confident we could go on to nick the win in extra-time, if not on penalties.
“I’d say we just deserved it. We had a few boys playing through the pain barrier with various injuries, but I thought some of the under-20s stepped up and did really well.
“It’s always great to see the younger lads make an impact at first-team level. I’ve been there myself in the past and it is difficult at times,but, if you’re good enough, then you’re old enough.
“They should take a huge amount of confidence going into the end of their season and hopefully they will keep on impressing because I’ve no doubt the gaffer will give them their chance going forward.”
Spartans will face Edinburgh University in the last eight after full-back Luke Murray struck the only goal of the match in the Borders to knock Vale of Leithen out of the competition.
Elsewhere, Civil Service Strollers crashed out after losing 4-2 on penalties against East Stirlingshire at Christie Gillies Park, while Whitehill Welfare’s campaign to forget ended on a sombre note as they suffered a 4-0 defeat by BSC Glasgow at the Indodrill Stadium.