Tuesday 28 March 2017, 19.45, Ainslie Park
The semi-final of the East of Scotland Cup between Spartans and Edinburgh City.
East of Scotland Cup is made up of the finalists of the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup, who join Berwick Rangers and Edinburgh City in the semi-finals. Spartans were victorious in the Qualifying Cup Final, beating Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale in the final at Oriam, which we attended on 19 March. Vale defeated a young Berwick Rangers team in the other semi.
It’s a fourth viewing of the season of Spartans and just 9 days since the aforementioned Qualifying Cup win. In the intervening period they have had a home league draw with Gala Fairydean Rovers.
It’s a first sighting of Edinburgh City this season. City were formed in 1928 as an amateur club. They participated in the Scottish Football League in the ‘30s and ‘40s, but went out of business in the 1950s having had very little success and the end was called after the lease on their ground was refused.
A new club adopted the Edinburgh City name in 1986. They won the East of Scotland Football League Premier Division title for the first time in the 2005-06 season. They unsuccessfully applied to join the Scottish Football League in 2002 and 2008. They were confirmed as members of the new Lowland League from the 2013-14 season.
Since the 2014-15 season, promotion to the Scottish Professional Football League can be attained from the Lowland League via a play-off with the champions of the Highland Football League, the winners playing-off with the bottom club in League Two. Edinburgh City won the Lowland League in 2014-15, but lost out to Highland League champions Brora Rangers, who lost out to Montrose for the League place. Last season saw City win the league again and they defeated Highland League Champions Cove Rangers then East Stirlingshire to take their place in League Two.
They found life hard at the start of their League Two campaign and didn’t get a first win until November. Form has picked up, although they are still in a relegation battle, although sat third from bottom at the time of this game. A resounding 3-0 win over Elgin City in the game before this one was a timely boost.
The present club initially played their home games at the Saughton Enclosure, before switching to Paties Road. (Currently the homes of Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale and Edinburgh United respectively). They then moved to City Park and then Fernieside. They have called Meadowbank Stadium their home since 1996, which had been vacated by the move of Meadowbank Thistle to Livingston. The nomadic existence continues next season with Meadowbank being redeveloped and City will share Ainslie Park with Spartans.
City currently have three players on loan from Hibs, Aaron Dunsmore, Ryan Porteous and Lewis Allan. They have also recently signed former Hibs and Scotland striker Derek Riordan. Another recent signing is Josh Walker, a former England under 20 captain.
With bigger fish to fry, City took the opportunity to give some of their fringe players a start, with a very strong looking bench.
There was a late change to the City starting eleven with Marc Laird replacing Dean Cummings.
There was a chance for City with two minutes gone when a ball over the top sent Allan away, but his shot lacked power and it was a comfortable save for Carswell.
The game certainly had a competitive nature to it, but the opening period lacked many incidents of note as the teams battled for domination in midfield.
In 15 minutes, Laird chipped the ball into the Spartans box for Riordan who shot first time on the volley, but it was wide.
Riordan’s cross into the middle in 18 minutes saw Caddow flash a header just wide of the Spartans goal.
Laird won the ball for City in 21 minutes and passed left to Allan. His cross was glanced wide by Caddow, but the flag had gone up for offside.
A ball played through the City in 23 minutes defence gave Dishington a chance, but he was forced wide and the chance was gone.
Riordan picked the ball up for City on the left in 25 minutes and drove forward before dragging a shot well wide.
Some good skill by City’s Allan in 29 minutes saw him break from his own half and play a pass to Caddow. He chipped the ball into the box, but it was headed behind by Townsley. Riordan’s corner picked out Dunn on the edge of the box, but he shot well over the bar.
There was then a delay as the linesman on the far side seemed to have broken his flag.
When play resumed a slack pass by City gave the ball to Maxwell. He quickly passed right to Allum who shot for goal on the half volley, but it was too high.
In 33 minutes Spartans broke forward and Maxwell passed to Greenhill. He found Allum who went down on the edge of the box under challenge. It looked a foul, but the referee wasn’t interested.
Stevenson swung a Spartans free kick into the City box in 38 minutes and three Spartans players were unmarked close to goal, but the ball seemed to be misjudged by all three and it went behind.
Incredibly, the linesman on the stand side also had a broken flag to contend with and there was a further break in proceedings as the man with the duct tape was found again.
With 43 minutes gone, Allan tried an ambitious effort at the Spartans goal from well out, but it was high and wide.
A good bit of skill by City’s McConnell in 44 minutes saw him make some space for himself on the left, but he overhit the cross. That pretty much summed up a disappointing first half.
City had looked the better team, but there wasn’t much between them.
The first chance of the second period fell to the visitors in 47 minutes with Dunn’s cross from the left picking out McConnell, but he headed wide.
A minute later and Maxwell played the ball up the right for Allum, who tried a shot, but it was well off target.
A great ball from the left by Spartans’ Comrie in 52 minutes found Brown. He got to the by-line before playing the ball across goal, but it eluded all those in the middle.
Guthrie picked up the first booking of the night with a late tackle on Spartan’s Greenhill in 53 minutes.
With an hour gone, Dunn played the ball to the feet of Guthrie in the Spartans box. He turned well away from Tolmie then curled a cool finish into the corner to give City the lead.
Spartans tried to respond quickly and a good turn and shot from Allum on the edge of the City area in 62 minutes might have troubled Antell if it hadn’t been directly at him.
Dunsmore played the ball along the edge of the Spartans box for Riordan in 65 minutes, but he shot wide.
City sub Walker curled a shot at goal in 67 minutes, but it was too central to trouble the keeper.
A shot at the Spartans goal by Riordan in 69 minutes was blocked, but came back to Guthrie who from the corner of the box, rifled a shot into the top corner with some aplomb for his and his side’s second.
Mafoko exchanged passes with Allan in 71 minutes as City came forward again and the sub went down in the box, but again the referee waved away appeals.
In 75 minutes Maxwell played the ball in behind the City defence for Allum, but the flag was up.
City put together a good move in 84 minutes with Walker, Riordan, Guthrie and Mafoko all involved, with Carswell making a great save from the latter’s shot at goal.
Allum had another effort at the City goal in 87 minutes after receiving the ball from Maxwell, but it didn’t trouble Antell.
In the final minute, a ball into the Spartans area saw McConnell running in on Carswell. The keeper did well to get something on the ball to turn the shot behind.
The final whistle blew in the middle of a sustained period of City possession.
Edinburgh City went through to face Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale in the final with a commanding performance where they seemed to get better as the match went on. They controlled the second half and Spartans were limited to long range efforts.
Townsley and Tolmie looked pretty solid at the back for Spartans, with Greenhill and Brown looking best in attacking positions. Allan looked very lively for City and Caddow also impressed with Walker also putting in a good cameo appearance.
Full Time: Spartans 0 Edinburgh City 2
Spartans: 1 Blair Carswell, 2 Michael Herd, 19 Christopher Townsley, 5 Blair Tolmie, 4 Craig Comrie (Beesley 73), 6 David Greenhill, 7 Alan Brown, 10 Jamie Dishington, 11 Craig Stevenson, 3 Scott Maxwell, 9 Ross Allum. Subs: 8 Igor Gabiola, 12 Jack Beesley, 14 Adam Corbett, 15 Cameron Dawson, 16 Jonny Grotlin, 17 Ewan Sanderson, GK Cameron Rae.
Edinburgh City: 1 Calum Antell, 2 Jordan Caddow, 3 Aaron Dunsmore, 4 Shaun Harrison, 5 Mark McConnell, 6 Gordon Donaldson, 7 Ross Guthrie, 15 Marc Laird (Walker 63), 9 Lewis Allan (Gair 76), 10 Derek Riordan, 11 John Dunn (Mafoko 68). Subs: 8 Dean Cummings, 12 Serge Mafoko, 14 Ian McFarland, 16 Josh Walker, 18 Douglas Gair, 20 Andrew Stobie, 21 Joe Mbu.
Referee: Stewart Luke