Scottish Cup: Late goal breaks hearts for Spartans

Posted on Sunday, January 21st, 2024

The Romance of the Scottish Cup saw Spartans come moments away from forcing extra time in the Edinburgh Derby only for Frankie Kent to deliver broken hearts with a headed winner deep into added on time.

A sell-out attendance of 3,500 packed into the Ainslie Park arena, the clunk clunk of the turnstiles delivering the capacity crowd for the lunchtime kick-off.  Willie Wonka would have been lucky to have had a golden ticket to hand out for this one.  Those who weren’t lucky were afforded the luxury of viewing live on the BBC, from neighbouring flats or, for the enterprising spectator view, on top of a parked transit van, complete with deckchair for comfort.

As teenage piper Gregor Wildgoose led the teams out to a rousing reception, the young Spartans Ultras displayed their new TIFO accompanied by a cacophony of noise.

With much press attention on the visitors line-up ins and outs, the small matter of Spartans playmaker Cammy Russell not having fully recovered from injury for a starting berth appeared to fly under the watchful eyes of the media, one of them perhaps focussed on the hope for headlines of heroic Scottish Cup scalp.

The young home support were in fine voice from the off however the first cheers of the afternoon came from the grassy banks of the Pilton Avenue end, albeit decidedly muddy come kick-off due to the overnight rain. 

With 12 minutes on the clock, Jorge Grant sent a long hanging delivery to the back post where Kenneth Vargas was on hand, or head for that matter to nod neatly into the net.

Not the start the home side were naturally looking for however the defence regrouped and regathered.  Then came the first chance of their one.

Former Scottish Cup winner Callum Booth pulled out a thunderous drive from fully 25 yards forcing Craig Gordon to pull off a save to match the delivery.  It was a shot that warmed the goalkeeper’s gloves and the fans who snaked round the four parts of the ground.

Watching the save from the other end was Blair Carswell.  No doubt there was a small level of begrudging applause of his shot stopping hero that denied the leveller however it was the Spartans Cat who was to have one of the finest games of his career on one of the biggest stages.

As the game edged towards the interval and the masses set to much a home record number of Bain of Stenhouse pies and assorted savouries, Carswell was called into action to prevent Vargas from doubling the Hearts lead, thankfully Tagawa could only send the rebound over the bar.

HT: The Spartans 0-1 Heart of Midlothian

No changes were made at the break and that man Vargas was once again proving to be a real threat as he raced into the box but it was an exceptional save from Blair Carswell to deny the Jam Tarts man.

Jordan Tapping and James Craigen were both called upon to get their defensive heads to dangerous crosses as the dogged determination of the Spartans team continued to show resilience and offer a bit of nerves amongst the visiting crowd to consider that this tie was far from done and dusted.

Then, in the 65th, it was all square.  Callum Booth collecting the ball out by the corner flag sent a long ball to the edge of the box for James Craigen who let rip and sent a sensational volley beyond a stranded Craig Gordon into the net.  Cue absolute scenes within the home support and with just a quarter of the match to go, could the Spartan Army faithful begin to dream?

Spartans made their first change of the afternoon with just over ten minutes left as Danny Denholm replaced Kieran Watson.

With the game entering the final stages of the ninety, once again it was Blair Carswell who came to Spartans rescue whilst frustrating the Jambos as he pulled off perhaps his finest save of the game to somehow deny Grant down low at his far post.  An extraordinary save from an exceptional keeper.

Perhaps with the thought of an additional 30 minutes on the horizon there was a brace of Spartans changes with Sean Brown and Cammy Russell replacing Blair Henderson and Jamie Dishington.

Then, with the game in two minutes into added on time, Cochrane launched a corner kick into the box where Kent was to leap the highest to send his header into the back of Carswell’s net.

There was enough time on the clock to make one final change, with Alan Brown making his 300th appearance in Spartans colours, coming on for Rhys Armstrong.

Sadly there was little time left to make it a fairytale landmark appearance and with that, Willie Collum made one final peep of the whistle to signal the end of an exciting game and another year’s Scottish Cup run.

FT: The Spartans 1-2 Heart of Midlothian

Man of the Match: Blair Carswell

Next Fixture

Date: Saturday 6th January
Opponent: Peterhead
Venue:Balmoor Stadium
Competition: SPFL 2
Kick off: 3.00pm

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