Archive for the ‘Under 20s’ Category

Under 20s: Spartans win Development League Cup in style

Saturday, May 25th, 2024

It was the perfect ending to the Under 20s season at New Central Park in Kelty on Friday night as Les Atkinson’s side lifted the Development League Cup trophy after a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Stirling Albion.

For several of the Spartans outfit, it was to be one final hurrah in the Club colours, some having been involved with the club from their nursery years.

It was a quick return to Kelty for the North Edinburgh side having ended their League campaign there last Saturday afternoon however there was to be no repeat of the sublime sunshine as the grey clouds covered the Fife sky.

From gloom to boom in just three minutes however as James Clare pulled off the most incredible 40 yard strike that couldn’t have been struck any sweeter, with the keeper left with no option than to dive valiantly and watch it whizz past to bulge the back of the net. 

Josh Laing’s early dominance out wide saw him take some energetic dashes up the line, causing discomfort for a Stirling Albion side that were finding the Spartans start difficult to handle.

Given Ndlovu came close before Charlie Rothnie latched onto the ball in the box as it broke free and his fierce half-volley had ‘Destination Onion Bag’ written all over it.  Spartans two goals up inside the opening 11 minutes however the Spartan Army support amongst the 179 crowd have seen these films before!

The game simmered into a mild frenzy shortly after with a lull in goalscoring and understandably, an attempt at a resurgence by the Binos who looked to chip away at the Spartans lead.

When Aaron Cameron broke free late in the half, he selflessly squared to Given Ndlovu on the edge of the box however the talismanic striker maybe had too much too to decide his next move and was unable to trouble the keeper.

Stirling Albion came close ahead of the interval with a period of sustained pressure however the Spartans defence continued to remain resolute and held out until the teams headed to the sheds in the nearby Community Centre.

HT: Spartans 2-0 Stirling Albion

It was almost a double for Charlie Rothnie moments after the break but he just couldn’t extend his leg enough to reach the ball with the keeper coming off his line to close the gap.

Then it was Aaron Cameron’s turn to fire a low drive towards the Binos end and it whizzed past the post on the carpet.

The Spartans defence then decided to make things lively at the other end with some uncharacteristic defending that had the otherwise chilled Les Atkinson up on his feet offering instruction.

Cometh the hour, cometh the further light between the sides and one hand on the trophy.  Spartans making a break and when Captain Sam Coats made his way to the bye-line, he squared it across the face of the goal to find Given Ndlovu who tapped home is 82nd and final Spartans u20s goal. 

Spare a thought though for Archie Wylie who was credited by the announcer as the scorer.  Close, but no cigars all round.

A double change saw Max Charleston and Kyle McNeil introduced for Wylie and Rothnie.

Into the final quarter of an hour and the metaphorical red and white ribbons were being tied to the trophy after Kyle McNeil sprung the offside trap and pushed the ball beyond the advancing keeper into the empty net to make it 4-0 and spark wonderful celebration scenes.

A triple chance followed before the restart as Andy Kelly, Logan Wilson-Need and Adri Anagnostou entered the fray with Ndlovu, Cameron and Clare retiring to the dug-out.

Despite being a relative on-looker throughout, Rowan Weir between the Spartans sticks still needed to be alert and the goalie, playing in his final game after no fewer than 15 – yes, you read that correctly – years at the Club, flung himself to deny Stirling Albion a late consolation.

FT: Spartans 4-0 Stirling Albion

MintBox Man of the Match: Josh Laing

Under 20s | Haar we go, haar we go… Spartans reach semis in foggy thriller

Saturday, May 6th, 2023

Les Atkinson’s Under 20s progressed into the Semi Final of the Challenge Cup after a 1-2 win against Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale in a thrill in the mist at Ainslie Park.

There was only one change to the squad from the one that defeated Kelty Hearts 6-0 in the Knockout Cup seven days earlier, with Josh Laing replacing Russell Brown who returned back home to the USA.

Mackie Scott, who reached a half century of Development Squad goals in that dismantling of Kelty continued to lead the charge up top.

The match kicked-off as a blanket of haar swept in from the Forth, with the neighbouring flats poking out from what was turning out to be a bit of a pea-souper in Pilton.

Spartans launched themselves on the offensive from the off and there was an almighty collision in the box within moments of the starting whistle when the Lothian keeper came off his line to meet Given Ndlovu.  There were muted appeals for a penalty from the Spartans striker, largely due to the wind taken out of his sails after being clattered in the collision between the two.

Home team Lothian, who are tenants at Ainslie Park this season, had an early opportunity of their own but their free-kick attempt whizzed over Rowan Weir’s crossbar.

Tenacious play in midfield by Ben Lamont saw him go on a solo mission towards the box and his mazy run was almost matched by the end product that just whizzed past the post.

Indecision in the Spartans back division allowed the ball to bounce between defenders and this was almost the deadlock breaker however the crossbar came to the rescue as the lob over Weir hit the woodwork before finally being hoofed to safety.

Given Ndlovu was causing all sorts of turmoil in the Lothian box from his corner kicks, with Josh Laing unable to direct the ball home at the back post as Spartans looked to take the lead.

Youngster Rowan Weir, in his first year at Under 20s, pulled off what turned out to be a crucial stop as he kept his composure to time his save to perfection when faced with a one-on-one showdown in the box.  The striker pulling the proverbial trigger however it was Weir who came out on top, sticking out a leg to deny a certain goal.

HT: Spartans 0-0 LTHV

Visibility remained poor at the start of the second half and perhaps that was a contributory factor to the chaotic scenes that shortly unfolded, leaving fans in the stand without the foggiest of what was going on.

A long range effort from a Lothian boot saw the ball hit some part of the goalframe and bounce back into play.  A celebration, perhaps more in hope than expectation, was met by a frenzy of furious Spartans defenders, as the Referee appeared to signal towards the centre circle and award a goal.

The ball had clearly landed on the top of the net and bounced back into the field of play causing confusion in the mind of the match official.  After much deliberation and perhaps a word from a Lothian coach, play restarted from the relative comfort of the Spartans six yard box.

Spartans made their first change of the night with Freddie Wylie replacing Louis O’Brien. 

A free-kick out wide for Lothian saw Rowan Weir look lively at his near post to get down low to smother the ball well, knowing any spillage would have been swooped on.

The same crossbar that had denied Lothian in the first half was to come to their rescue when an audacious turn and shot from Given Ndlovu met the goal frame as Spartans edged closure to the opener.

A brace of further replacements saw Cameron Brincker and Aaron Cameron replace Seb Mrowczynski and Rui Black.

It didn’t take long for Aaron Cameron to make his mark on the tie when his free-kick into the box was met by Mackie Scott who wrapped the shoe leather round the ball to send it low and hard into the net.

A tackle just inside the Spartans half moments later saw play held up as Lothian’s Danny Chisholm remained on the deck in considerable pain from an uncomfortable landing.  After the ball was finally sent to the sidelines, the stricken player was attended to and Academy staff ensured that he was assisted from the field whilst minimising further discomfort.

There were some squeekybum moments in the Spartans defence as Lothian looked to forge an opportunity to get back on level terms however they stayed strong despite the Conference B leader’s persistence.

Then, with five minutes of regulation time left on the clock, Ben Lamont made a run into the box before his right footed shot into the bottom corner evaded the outstretched arm of the keeper to extend the Spartans lead.

Ah, but what about those pesky Lothian kids, eh?  Just two minutes later, a cross into the Spartans box was met with a decent finish that flew past Weir to set up a nervous finale.

Alas, with some double digits of injury time played, it was Spartans who held out to record the win and join Cumbernauld Colts, Maryhill and Stirling Uni in the semi final draw.

FT: Spartans 2-1 LTHV

Under 20s | Atkinson pleased with progress ahead of Binos clash

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

It’s Friday night under the lights at Ainslie Park for Les Atkinson’s Under 20s Development as they welcome Stirling Albion to North Edinburgh in the latest round of Conference A league fixtures.

After a dogged display in the Cumbernauld rain last weekend, that saw Seb Mrowcyznski hit the net to equalise after the break and Mackie Scott come up with a late equaliser to steal a share of the spoils.  Earning the plaudits last week against OG Broomhill was goalie Rowan Weir.  The young stopper made his Under 20s debut in an assured performance after taking over the gloves from Miko Komocki who remains out through injury.

Earlier this week, no fewer than eight of the squad featured in the 1st Team’s 9-0 victory over Stoneyburn FC in the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup.   Callum McKay, Ben Lamont and Given Ndlovu all earning their first outings in the Senior team that also included Adam Meek, Josh Laing, Aaron Cameron, Mackie Scott and Sam Coats.

Lamont and Scott both bagged a braces in a collective performance that impressed gaffer Les Atkinson.

“I was delighted with the performance of them all.  They showed that they were worth their shot, they showed that they can compete at that sort of level although they know that there are levels above they need to be aiming for.  I thought they equipped themselves well but perhaps equally as important, they represented the Under 20s well and I was pleased by the way they fitted in.”

Atkinson was in the stand on Tuesday night assessing his chorus of young starlets. Did the viewing offer a warm sense of personal pride for the Gaffer?

“Its not necessarily about the pride for me personally, but rather for the whole of the 20s coaching team.  However the real pride should be within themselves for being able to get that merited call-up. As coaches, we are simply a conduit to helping them achieve these goals to be honest.  

“But for the players, I want them to see what it’s like to experience first team senior football whilst almost being mindful that they have to be patient and it will continue to be hard work and improvement to develop further opportunities.”

Thursday night’s training session in the rain saw the players integrate back into the squad and Atkinson was in hopeful mood ahead of Friday fixture against Stirling Albion.

“Let’s be honest, it will be a lot closer than the game earlier in the season.  I see a team who will be mortally hurt by that result on a night when everything we did worked.  We had 14 shots on target that night and scored with eleven of them.  So, it wont be like that again. Stirling Albion have improved since then although we’ve progressed well as the season has unfolded too.

“I’m still looking to finish as high up the table as mathematically possible and that continues on Friday.  We know we can compete with anyone in the league however consistency is key which is something we are looking to build on and take into next season.

“We’re also still in two cup competitions as well so we are still in the mix for silverware and I’m happy with the way things are going and with the progression with a number of the guys too.”

Spartans u20s v Stirling Albion kicks off at 7.45pm and entry is free.

Under 20s | Lamont hat-trick guides Spartans to win over Seasiders

Saturday, March 4th, 2023

Spartans progressed to the 3rd Round of the East Knockout Cup following a 0-5 victory on the road against Dunbar United at New Countess Park.

Adam Meek returned between the sticks and Josh Laing took over the skipper’s armband with Sam Coats taking up a spot on the visiting benches.

A healthy crowd welcomed the teams and home mascots out on a fresh evening with a buzz of hope filling the Dunbar air.

The opening exchanges were as fast paced as the trains flying behind Meek’s goal frame as the home side looked to take the game to the visitors.

There was an early scare for the Spartans as the ball was sent across the face of Meek’s goal however – and thankfully so – the Seasiders striker couldn’t connect.

Then, with ten minutes on the clock, Spartans took the lead. A neat run by Given Ndlovu saw him get into the box and his pass was guided home with precision by Ben Lamont.

It was almost a second for the same player, only for the Dunbar keeper to pull off a fine save to deny Lamont his, and his team’s second.

Given Ndlovu was desperately unlucky not to score when he saw his shot hit the near post, roll along the line, hit the other post and evade all in the box to stay, remarkably, out of the net!

There was no doubt over the destination of the ball though moments before the break when Seb Mrowcyznski sent in a telling cross and it was a show of sublime skill by Given Ndlovu who cheated the ball down and sent the volley into the back of the net from six yards.

HT: Dunbar 0-2 Spartans

A double substitution ten minutes into the second spell when Sam Coats and Cameron Brincker replaced Rui Black and Mackie Scott.

Ben Lamont bagged his second and Spartans third with a neat finish inside the box after a bursting run by Sam Lovie down the wing.

A further brace of changes saw Harvey Young and Louis O’Brien swap with Jake Cunningham and Seb Mrowcyznski.

With twenty minutes left on the clock, a delightful corner into the danger area from Given Ndlovu was met by Josh Laing who attacked a ball with gusto and bulleted home with the head.

Just sixty seconds later, it was five. A fantastic move from deep and after several quick passes, including the final delivery by Cameron Brincker, Ben Lamont was on hand to net his hat-track.

It was Ben Lamont’s final input as he was rested with Freddie Wylie coming off the bench.

Perhaps a degree of tiredness and certainly the pace of Given Ndlovu saw Dunbar reduced to ten men when the Spartans playmaker was scythed down as he raced through the middle of the park and the Ref was left with little option than to offer an early shower.

FT: Dunbar 0-5 Spartans

Mintbox Removals Man of the Match: Aaron Cameron

Under 20s: Cup encounters of the Seasiders kind

Friday, March 3rd, 2023

The Spartans head down the East Coast on Friday night where they get set to take on Conference C side Dunbar United in Round 2 of the East Knockout Cup.

It’ll be the first meeting between the two sides and a venture largely into the unknown for both camps in the match under the lights at New Countess Park.

Spartans travel looking to get back to winning ways after the dramatic events at Alloa last time out and Les Atkinson welcomes the return between the sticks of Adam Meek who takes over the gloves once again following the injury sustained by Miko Komocki two weeks ago.

The Ainslie Park outfit will be keen to progress in the tournament they won in 2019, defeating Bonnyton Thistle in the Final.

Hosts Dunbar head into the Round 3 clash undefeated thus far in 2023.  The Seasiders have won five out of their six games, with the only draw that blighted the copybook being subsequently expunged from the records after the withdrawal from Conference C of Syngenta.

Both sides know their way to goal with Spartans netting 53 times in their 14 Conference A fixtures, with Dunbar hitting home on 46 occasions.   Meanwhile at the back, Spartans have the better defensive record, conceding 27 times with our hosts shipping 42.

Kick-off at New Countess Park is at 8pm.  Donations on entry for spectators.  The neighbouring Hallhill Sports Centre is open for refreshments and Hot/Cold snacks will be available at the ground.

Friday night Cup clash for 20s in Denny

Friday, February 3rd, 2023

Les Atkinson takes his Spartans Under 20s off to Denny for Friday night under the lights in Round 3 of the Development League East League Cup.

The visitors go into the tie on the back of a ten match unbeaten run that has seen them score 57 times whilst conceded just 11 goals however they venture into the relative unknown against the Conference B side.

Dunipace have had a decent start to the new year and remain undefeated in January therefore the tie promises to be a tough encounter at Westfield Park.

In the earlier rounds, Spartans progressed with home victories over Whitehill Welfare and Thornton Hibs whilst Friday’s hosts required penalties to dispose of Penicuik before edging out Civil Service Strollers on the road.

The previous meeting saw the sides paired in the semi final of Combined Challenge Cup last year, with the young Denny side coming out on top with a 0-3 win. 

Tonight’s tie offers a chance for a Spartans side enjoying their football to level proceedings in the head to heads and book a spot in the next round.

Kick-off is at 7.45pm.