Spartans silenced by the Lamb in South Challenge Cup

Posted on Sunday, February 15th, 2015

On a weekend that delivered the latest box office hit Fifty Shades of Grey, Valentine’s Day at Ainslie Park offered just one shade of Red and a steamy scene – namely the early warm shower for it’s unlucky recipient, Mikey Bruce – in the South Challenge Cup encounter against Vale of Leithen.

There were starts for East of Scotland side players Davy Stewart and Matthew Cunningham as Manager Dougie Samuel continued his squad rotation policy ahead of the cross-border Scottish Cup clash.

With two previous South Region Challenge Cup semi final appearances in successive seasons, Spartans were looking to overcome the threat of Vale to progress in one of Scotland’s most prestigious domestic competitions.

Unfortunately, former Spartans man Mark Lamb and his side hadn’t read the script and within 2 minutes, the visitors took the lead.

Brady made his way to the home bye-line before delivering a cross that was met by the incoming Kenny O’Brien who side-footed the ball home.

That script was thrown out the window when Vale doubled their lead in the 9th minute.

Jason Stevens shrugged off the attentions of the Spartans defence to strike from the edge of the box, his shot rattling the crossbar before finding the back of Kevin Swain’s net.

Worse was to follow with a quarter of an hour played when Mikey Bruce earned his second early caution of the game which resulted in an early shower for the Spartans man.  The robust tackle on James Elliot in the innocuous position of the centre circle was deemed by the Referee to be careless enough to warrant another visit to the top pocket.

The remainder of the half was rather devoid of memorable events to record in this report.  Perhaps other than the apparent magnetic field within the Ainslie Park stand, which seemed to pull Vale keeper Mark Wilson’s clearances towards it with some regularity.

Half Time: Spartans 0-2 Vale of Leithen

Swain was called in to action five minutes after the restart when he pulled off a fine save from Elliot to turn the ball away for a corner.  The resultant kick saw Stevens head the ball over the crossbar from 8 yards out.

As the ball was recovered from the neighbouring 5-a-side pitch, Swain remained on the ground and required subsequent treatment.  After a short delay, the keeper returned between the sticks to resume his duties.

Unfortunately, on the hour mark, the Spartans No.1 was forced to retire and with no recognised replacement on the bench, John Grant took over the goalie gloves and Alan Brown ‘replaced’ the injured Swain.

Spartans came close to grabbing a lifeline midway through the half when Davy Stewart saw his free kick crash off the Vale woodwork, with Wilson a mere spectactor.

A double substitution in the 70th minute saw Paul-Jon Sludden and Willie Bremner replace Stewart and Douglas as Spartans looked to set up a barnstorming finale.

With timing running out, it was almost the visitors who scored again as the home side pressed hard for a late goal.

Alan Flanagan looked to capitalise on a loose pass in the home half however he appeared to be distracted by the on-rushing Grant the Goalie and the striker was put off enough to send his shot into the side netting.

A final attempt in the dying moments saw Sludden push the ball across the Vale six-yard box however the pace on the delivery was just too quick for McLeod who was a lace-length away from connecting at the back post.

An exit in the South Challenge Cup perhaps however Dougie Samuel’s side can now fully focus on their Scottish Cup 5th Round Replay at Shielfield against Berwick on Tuesday night, with the added incentive – if needed – of a Quarter Final tie against Easter Road, live on Sky Sports.

Final Score: Spartans 0-2 Vale of Leithen

Malt and Hops Man of the Match: Iain Thomson

Next Fixture

Date: 16/07/24
Opponent: Cove Rangers
Venue:Balmoral Stadium
Competition: Premier Sports Cup
Kick off: 7.45pm

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