WHATEVER else happens to Barry Ferguson in his managerial career, he will not forget this day in a hurry. Quite apart from watching his team lose to non-league Spartans in the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday, he was forced to watch the end of proceedings from behind a pitch-side railing at Ainslie Park.
His team were already two down when the Clyde manager was sent off. A few travelling fans were heckling their team, the former Rangers and Scotland international reacted with a few choice words of his own and, in the absence of a stand on that side of Spartans’ artificial playing surface, the referee ushered him away from his technical area. It was the final indignity for Ferguson on an afternoon when Clyde, of League Two, were humiliated by their Lowland League opponents. A penalty in each half by Kevin Motion underlined Spartans’ ever-growing potential and left Ferguson so angry with his players that it will be a surprise if many are at the club much longer.
“The better team won,” said Ferguson. “The team that wanted it most won and that’s what worries me. I’ve got a team that’s got carried away over the last five or six weeks. They are on a bit of a run so they went out there and thought they were better than they are. They were disrespectful to Spartans.
“They are lucky January’s two months away. That is not the team that I train and set up. No chance. That’s bottom-of-the-league material that. I’m not accepting it. I need to go with under-20s until the start of January. Then I can make a lot of changes.”
Ferguson’s dismissal was not the only one. When Kevin Sivewright, the Spartans captain, protested too strongly about a late foul on Willie Bremner, he was shown his second yellow card, but nothing could take the shine off his team’s performance. It was a deserved victory for the hard-working Edinburgh side, who are now hoping that the fourth-round draw will give them a home tie against one of the game’s giants.
“It would be absolutely fantastic,” said Dougie Samuel, their manager. “We hosted Manchester United, when we had close on 3,500 people here, and that was a wonderful day. So the football club has the capacity to host a large-scale match. We would love that.”
It’s fair to say Spartans have come a long way since these sides met in the same competition 15 years ago.
They have always been a progressive, forward-thinking club with the emphasis on youth development, but now, with a pyramid system granting promotion, they harbour very real ambitions of not just beating the big boys but joining them.
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Spartans were champions of the Lowland League last season. If they repeat that feat this time, they will contest a play-off with the winners of the Highland League for the right to compete in Scotland’s senior ranks.
Clyde, who needed a replay to beat them in 1999, came kitted in shocking pink, surely an omen. As Ferguson took his place in front of the visitors dugout, a fire engine rolled up behind him, in case of emergency perhaps. Did it know something we didn’t?
Spartans needed just 13 minutes to produce the goal that a healthy crowd had come to see. Jack Beesley was the key man, stepping inside Ryan Frances so smartly that the Clyde defender was moved to bring him down. From the penalty spot, Motion found the bottom-right corner with a firm left-foot strike.
Beesley liked that trick, so much so that he tried it again later, this time releasing a left-foot shot that flew wide. Between those two, almost identical manoeuvres by the Spartans midfielder was a thumping shot by Gary Cennerazzo, which found the sidenet, and a first-time drive by Motion that was just too high.
Ferguson made a double substitution at the interval, which briefly lifted the visitors. Scott Ferguson, one of the new arrivals, got himself into a couple of dangerous positions, as did Craig Halkett, who headed over, but there was nothing to show for Clyde’s best spell of the match.
Seventeen minutes from the end, they were punished. Bremner was going nowhere when Brian McQueen slid in to bring him down. From the spot, Motion again made a crisp connection with his left foot, this time plunging it low into the other corner.
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