Irn Bru Cup: Spartans edged out by Linfield

Posted on Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

Blair Atkinson’s goal a quarter of an hour from full time set up a grandstand finish against Northern Irish Champions Linfield FC in an intriguing Irn Bru Cup 2nd Round tie at Ainslie Park however it was David Healy’s side who held on to progress into the hat next week.

It had been just six weeks since the Ulstermen had taken part in the Champions League and with that, a trip to face Celtic in front of a crowd of some 58,000. Saturday brought them across the M8 to the Scottish Capital and to North Edinburgh where 902 supporters, including 350 visiting supporters enjoyed a day out in the sunshine and an exciting climax to a game that was a lot closer than many pundits anticipated.

Whilst Linfield showed composure in their ability to build from the back and play possession football well in the opening half, it was Spartans who had the first opportunity, Ross Guthrie sending the ball over from long range with a speculative half volley.

Joshua Robinson came close for the tourists in front of his own fans when he sent his shot wide of the post as the visitors dominated the opening stanza.

It was the tale of two penalties that saw the deadlock broken. The first was one that Welsh whistler waved aside claims for as defender Chris Casement looked to have clearly handled in his own box after falling to the ground in a challenge with Ross Guthrie.

The second claim for a spot kick was successful, only for it to be awarded at the other end just two minutes later and in controversial circumstances too. It was another ball-meets-hand or hand-meets-ball debate however Referee Petch deemed it worthy of a penalty, which Louis Rooney stepped up to dispatch, sending Andrew Stobie the wrong way.

HT: Spartans 0-1 Linfield FC

Just three minutes after the break, Linfield doubled their lead. Quick thinking at a free-kick just outside the home box saw the ball find its way into the path of Stephen Lowry who despatched beyond Stobie.

Two goals up and dominating proceedings, Linfield fans were in confident mood of their men adding to the tally. Instead, it was Spartans who rallied and an air of confidence in their play offered hope for the bolstered home support around the ground.

Another loud appeal for a penalty resulted in a similar outcome for Samuel’s side as Ross Allum looked to have been upended, but not before he’d released the ball for David Greenhill who found the side netting with his effort.

With 20 minutes left on the clock, Blair Atkinson replaced Willie Bremner and within three minutes, the youngster made an immediate impact on the game. David Greenhill’s shot from distance looked to be a comfortable save in store for Gareth Deane only for the Linfield keeper to spill and Atkinson to swoop and find the roof of the net with his rebound.

Andrew Stobie was once again called into action as he denied Stephen Fallon with his shoelaces from close range. It was his opposite number who then prevented a likely additional period of play following fine play by David Greenhill and Blair Atkinson in the build up, only for Deane to throw himself in front of a Ross Allum effort and with that, the comeback was curtailed and it was the visitors who will progress into the next round.

Despite the result, Spartans gaffer was full of praise for his side. Speaking post-match Samuel said,

“We didn’t get many breaks during the course of the game. It must be a subconscious thing because it happens too often that the bigger clubs get the decisions. Probably people in our league will laugh at that as they’ll think we get them when they play us! Its swings and roundabouts.

“No-one will remember the penalty shouts if we took our chances. I think that’s the thing – I think we can be pleased that we created lots of opportunities and perhaps enough to take the game into extra time. Our goalkeeper made a couple of good saves, but that’s to be expected. I think if we had managed to take the game into extra-time, no-one would have begrudged us that.

“We are really proud of the fact we’ve got a number of young players who have come through the youth section. Jamie (Dishington), Blair (Atkinson) and now also Adam (Corbett) who has stepped up this year and that was a big learning experience for him today.

“The goal will do Blair’s confidence the world of good. He’s been a boy who has been banging the goals in for our youth section for years and last year he scored 19 on loan at Vale. It’s just about timing for him – there’s no doubt he can play for the first team.

“It’s not often we’ve got people standing outside at 2pm waiting to get in for one of our games! The players and staff have all enjoyed this week. Going up against someone of the pedigree of David Healy, that’s hopefully going to bring out the best in you too, he’s been a class act all day.

“We’d love to obviously play against big teams on a more regular basis – and that’s what matters this season, it’s giving ourselves the chance to do that.”

FT: Spartans 1-2 Linfield FC

Spartans: Stobie, Corbett, Stevenson, Tolmie, Thomson, Greenhill, Dishington, Herd, Allum, Bremner (Atkinson), Guthrie (Maxwell). Subs: Nixon, Wilson, Archibald.

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Next Fixture

club crest
Date: Friday 22nd September
Opponent: Vale of Leithen
Venue: Ainslie Park
Competition: William Hill Scottish Cup 1st Round
Kick off: 7.45pm

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