South Challenge Cup | Spartans head to semis after seeing off Stirling

Posted on Saturday, April 1st, 2023

The Spartans set up a South Challenge Cup semi final with Caledonian Braves after defeating Stirling University 4-2 at Ainslie Park. 

With the teams locked at one win apiece in the Lowland League, Gaffers Samuel and Geddes set out their stalls to advance in the search for silverware.

The hosts started the livelier and there was an early booking for McKinley who left a boot in on Jordan Tapping whilst Cammy Russell was a recipient of an unhelpful clattering challenge in front of the stand.

Spartans took the lead in the 16th minute after a darting run by Jamie Dishington saw him dash into the box, only to be brought crashing to the ground by Ben Fry who came rushing off his line but could only pull him down. Blair Henderson stepped up and sent the goalie the wrong way from the spot.

Stirling responded with some pressure of their own with a couple of corners and possession but there was no penetration to match.

Then, from a set piece, the ball broke and Spartans went on a full throttle defence to attack movement that resulted in the second of the afternoon. 

Bradley Whyte was first to the ball and despite having his ankles taken away from him in a decidedly rash challenge, it was welcomed ‘play on’ from the Referee who allowed the home side to continue progress over half way. 

Whyte’s pass found Blair Henderson in the middle of the park who sent a perfectly weighted ball in the path of Cammy Russell who still had work to do before sending his shot beyond Fry and into the back of the net.  A goal to certainly look out for on the highlights. 

Stirling’s skipper was then booked for some kind of Kung Fu kick challenge on Russell in front of the stand. Unhelpful and after treatment, the Spartans player resumed his place on the park.

The students made one final venture into the home half before the break however it was thwarted by an outstanding sliding tackle by Michael Allan.

HT The Spartans 2-0 Stirling University 

The second half was minutes old before there was a change in the home ranks with Michael Allan replaced by Harvey Swann.

It was the visitors who enjoyed more possession after the break however they couldn’t find a way beyond a resolute back four and Blair Carswell.

Then, in the 57th minute, Spartans further extended their lead. A stricken Stirling defender in his valiant attempts to divert a  Cammy Russell low cross along the face of the goal, could only stick out a foot and send it into his own net. 

Three goals to the good and in cruise control. One hand on the semi and surely no way back for the men in green.

Ahhhh, not so fast, dear reader!  Two goals in three frantic minutes saw the Spartans lead reduced to a solitary strike. 

First up saw a cross not fully cleared and when it fell to substitute Rae at the edge of the box, it was returned, low and hard, into the bottom corner.

Then, a corner from Berry seemed to flash in front of a bevy of bodies in the Spartans box before the ball, Carswell and a couple of attackers who were on top of the keeper all ended up in the net in an untidy pile. 

A bit of squeakybumtime on the menu then for Spartans who had looked comfy for the win just minutes earlier. But then, Stirling aren’t fellow title challengers for nothing either.

A chance for Bradley Whyte in the box saw his shot saved by Fry, and when the rebound fell to Swann, he could only fire his effort over the bar.

With twenty minutes left, Spartans restored light between the sides when Kieran Watson was on hand to bundle the ball over the line from close range after a teasing Cammy Russell corner caused carnage in the box. 

Stirling had another free-kick offered to them after Jordan Tapping collided with his man following a ball launched up the paddock as the visitors looked to set up a grandstand finale. Tapping was hurt in the incident and required treatment. To add insult to the injury, he picked up a caution too.

There were two late replacements from the home side as Sean Brown and Michael Herd both swapped spots with Henderson and Armstrong. 

FT: The Spartans 4-2 Stirling University 

Malt and Hops Man of the Match: Cammy Russell 

Next Fixture

Date: 29/06/24
Opponent: Livingston FC
Venue:Ainslie Park
Competition: Pre-Season Friendly
Kick off: 3.00pm

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