Spartans bounced back to winning ways with a vengeance when they lifted the King Cup with a fine win over Berwick Rangers’ reserve side.
Goals from Ally MacKinnon and evergreen predator Keith McLeod salvaged a season after one title after another slipped through their fingers.
Spartans gaffer Dougie Samuel was delighted, especially as this is his first season in the hot seat at Ainslie Park.
The fact that Iain McTurk started in goal for the last time, before leaving to play in College Soccer in the United States and turned in a great performance following an injury to keeper Ross Gilpin before kick-off, made it all the sweeter.
“Over the course of the season we deserved to finish the season on a high and we have been rewarded for our hard work and effort,” said Samuel. “It’s been a tough few months for us with injuries and suspensions. We lost our goalkeeper in the warm-up so we had to change our plans just before kick-off, but we got a few bits of good fortune.”
The pitch at St Mark’s was immaculate but Spartans’ start ot the was not, as went a goal behind in the opening minutes. A slack clearance was picked up on the edge of the box by Kenny O’Brien and he turned the defence well to score. O’Brien almost got his second on the half-hour with a spectacular free kick for the Shielfield side. His shot, from more than 30 yards out, smashed off the cross bar.
In stepped defender MacKinnon to bring Spartans level when, left unmarked as the ball was crossed in. he out-jumped the Berwick defence to head home. To add to their woes, Berwick were reduced to ten men just before the interval when Grant McNicoll was dismissed for his second caution.
Spartans upped their game from the restart and took the lead just into the second half. A corner was whipped in and that man MacKinnon showed his aerial power once again when he headed his second goal.
Spartans then got what looked like the killer goal as prolific scorer McLeod was played into the box by Jack Beesley and “Cloudy” made no mistake with his shot.
There was more drama to come, however, as Berwick were awarded a penalty after Kevin Motion tripped Dean Carse in the box. Josh Morris stepped up to take the penalty but McTurk tipped his effort onto the post before the danger was cleared. “After the sending-off we controlled the football well and on another day we could have scored more goals but that would have been harsh on Berwick as they played very well,” said Samuel later, after he had been doused in the obligatory victory bubbly.
“I was delighted that Cloudy scored the third goal and it was fitting that he should get the goal for all his hard work over the season. It was important for us to get a trophy, we had to make sure we didn’t go consecutive seasons without lifting trophies, this club expects to win cups every year, so it was important to get that monkey off our back.”
Double scorer MacKinnon said: “I was delighted to score the goals. I thought early on I thought I was going to have to go off with a shin injury.
“I had a chance for my hat-trick but it wasn’t to be. I am delighted for the boys and for the club.”
After the game, Berwick manager Mark Lamb remained upbeat about his side’s performance. “I am proud of the young boys, we could have gone with first team players but we didn’t. The lads where magnificent,” he said. “Fair play to Dougie Samuel, it’s his first cup [with Spartans] but I am sure he will go on to win more. We matched Spartans for most of the game, Cloudy leads the line well and they deserved it.”
Berwick: Tuffal, Finlayson, Brady, McNicoll, Saunderson, Gill, O’Brien, Doris, Smith, Morris, Logan (Hay 44) subs Hay, Millar, Carse, Beveridge
Spartans: McTurk, O’Donnell (MacCuish 85), Cennarazzo, Sivewright, MacKinnon, Manson, Beesley (Ferguson 82), Motion, Henretty, McLeod, Martin (Anderson 82) subs Ferguson, MacCuish, Anderson