Lazarus-esque comeback for Spartans as Meekison magic sees off Shire

Posted on Saturday, November 21st, 2020

Spartans pulled off a sensational comeback at Falkirk Stadium with Archie Meekison’s hat-trick the highlight in a Soccer Shop Direct Challenge Cup victory over East Stirlingshire.

The Shire came into the game in fine form sitting second in the league table, whilst the visitors, fielding some of the youngest XIs in recent times, have not been blessed with having Lady Luck on their side to date.

In foul conditions consisting of swirling winds and sweeping rain, this second round clash got underway in one of the clashes of the round between the Lowland League pair.

Spartans were first out of the blocks, looking lively and it was almost an early goal from Archie Meekison who sprung the offside trap however Shire keeper Ian Ure was equal to the task.

Dan Baur leaves his man breakdancing in the rain

Gregor Woods was next to test out the gloves of Ure, however the goalie was up to the task and somehow, Shire made it to the halfway point of the match still on level pegging.

Then, out of the blue and significantly wind assisted, the home side broke out from defence and took the lead in decidedly flukey circumstances (although the scorer will be dining out on this for a while noting it was clearly intentional!). Robbie Young collecting the ball out wide and he launched the ball into the box and it remarkably sailed over the head of Harry Stone and into the top corner of the net. Bonkers!

From the ridiculous to the bizarre next as Spartans found themselves two down within 60 seconds. The ball was launched in behind the Spartans defence, Stone came out to thwart the opportunity but couldn’t hold the proverbial bar of soap under pressure and Young pounced to make it two.

The match has shades of last December about it. Two goals down and staring defeat in the face. Surely not again, right?

When Scott McCrory-Irving put Gregor Woods into the danger zone shortly after, it looked like that lead would be halved, however Ure once again proved to be the nemesis for Spartans.

For once it wasn’t Ure to deny Spartans, it was the woodwork when a free-kick came into the box, only for Michael Bolochoweckyj to find it when he connected with the boot.

HT: East Stirlingshire 2-0 The Spartans

The second half was merely ninety seconds old when the East Stirlingshire ball was being looked out for the next round, but also the match version set for Young’s mantlepiece as he sent a low drive beyond the outstretched Stone to collect a hat-trick and further extend the lead.

Just how could Spartans respond? Not shy with the chances to date and the scoreline perhaps flattering the hosts, could Dougie Samuel’s side find a way back into the game and keep their silverware hopes alive?

Eight minutes into the half, Archie Meekison passed the ball out wide to Jamie Watson before dashing into the box and dutifully despatching his header beyond Ure to narrow the deficit. Consolation or catalyst for the comeback…

On the hour mark, Spartans threw the dice and made a double substitution, with Aaron Murrell and Blair Atkinson coming on for Woods and Baur.

They combined shortly after with some neat play but Murrell just couldn’t dig the ball out from under his feet to get enough purchase on his effort at goal.

Midway through the half, that Shire lead was reduced to a single strike, courtesy of that man Meekison once again.

A Scott Maxwell cross into the box was nodded back across into the path of Meekison who thundered the ball into the back of the net. Game on!

Drama then ensued at the other end of the park when Shire were awarded a penalty. The validity of such was unclear to see from your scribe’s position through the conditions however the decision of the Referee to subsequently penalise Nicky Low for making a double movement and stopping before taking the spot kick saw the ‘goal’ chopped off and the visitors offered a free-kick instead. Sighs of relief within the Spartans ranks.

With time running out, Cameron Dawson was introduced, replacing Scott McCrory-Irving as Spartans looked to at least take the game into extra time. At that they did.

Two minutes into added time, likely to have been added for the time taken for the hosts to retrieve the ball for throw-ins and goal kicks earlier in the half, a deep cross from Scott Maxwell evaded the leaping defender before being sent into the path of Sam Jones to rifle home.

FT: East Stirlingshire 3-3 The Spartans

With half of the opening period of extra time gone, Michael Bolochoweckyj won back possession on the edge of his own box before going on a pilgrimage deep into the Shire half.

The ball then found Cameron Dawson on the edge of the box who laid it off to Blair Atkinson before he passed to Archie Meekison who composed himself then let fly into the bottom corner to give Spartans the lead for the first time in the match.

Archie Meekison slots home his hat-trick winner

Sub striker Atkinson was then replaced by Keir Russell as Spartans put up the shutters to prevent Shire from getting back on level terms. The resilience paid off, even if there were hearts in mouths when former Ainslie Park man Eddie Malone blasted over with the sands of time drifting away.

A tale of two hat-tricks then, with Meekison’s strike proving to be the winner and sending Spartans into the draw for the 3rd Round.

Extra Time Full Time: East Stirlingshire 3-4 The Spartans

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Next Fixture

Date: Saturday 30th September
Opponent: Bonnyrigg Rose
Venue:Ainslie Park
Competition: SPFL 2
Kick off: 3.00pm

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