Havelin chucks in a double to keep treble hopes alive

Spartans 17s add the SPORTSassist trophy to their Scottish Cup
Spartans 17s add the SPORTSassist trophy to their Scottish Cup
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Spartans 17s picked up their second trophy of a likely treble by defeating North Merchiston 3-1 after extra-time to lift the SPORTSassist South East 
Region Cup.

New Countess Park, home of Dunbar United FC, was the venue in what is a one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the youth football calendar.

Scottish Cup winners Spartans eventually prevailed in the opening fixture of the weekend against a tough North Merchiston side, who themselves lifted the Tom Wilson Memorial Trophy just a couple of weeks ago.

However, the Ainslie Park outfit, who hope to clinch the league title this week, upped the tempo in additional time with substitute Stephen 
Havelin proving a shrewd introduction as he struck twice to seal glory.

It was North Merchiston though who created the first opening when Jake MacDonald won possession 30 yards from goal and skipped beyond his opponent before unleashing a strike from 20 yards which just missed the top-left corner.

However, Spartans’ Jordan Brown should have scored when team-mate Blair Atkinson picked out the No. 10, but his header was straight into the arms of goalkeeper Darren Mitchell.

A long ball over the top then caught out a static Merchiston defence and Kerr Allan, who was onside, just curled his effort inches wide of the far right post.

Spartans did seize the initiative three minutes before the interval when Allan delivered the ball on a plate for Jamie Dishington and the midfielder directed his header under Mitchell for the first goal of the afternoon.

Merchiston’s Cameron Stokes then tried his luck 30 yards from goal after the break and wasn’t too far away with an effort that brushed the side netting with Callum Speedie scrambling across his goal.

A great interchange between Atkinson and Bruce Scott put the latter through and as he faked to go one way, he quickly repositioned himself to shoot which Mitchell got down well to save.

The crossbar then came to Merchiston’s safety as Atkinson’s delivery was met in the air by goalscorer Dishington, who rose unchallenged to power his header against the woodwork from ten yards. Merchiston did manage an equaliser after 73 minutes when they worked the ball well through the middle of the park and MacDonald, who had earlier gone close with a similar effort, tried his luck from 25 yards and the ball flew past Speedie into the top right corner of the net.

Spartans had a great chance to win the match in the closing stages when a long clearance into the Merchiston penalty area was misjudged by Mitchell, but with the goal gaping, Atkinson somehow knocked the ball inches wide.

Extra-time was Havelin’s opportunity to shine and he took full advantage during his short time on the park. Firstly, after Scott’s strike from the edge of the box came back off the post, the tenacious striker showed great agility to knock in the loose ball first time to put his side 2-1 ahead before showing great composure in slotting the ball beyond Mitchell minutes later to win the tie.

Spartans’ coach Les Atkinson said: “I cannot praise the boys enough for their attitude, the way they behave and the way they conduct themselves for Spartans. We’ve won the Scottish, the South East Region and we hope to finish it off with the league and if we can get all three, what a season.”

Spartans FC: Callum Speedie, Kerr Allan, Duncan Player, Scott Irving, David Scobie, Sean Stewart, Jamie Dishington, Blair Atkinson, Jordan Brown, Elliot Carruthers, Andrew Mair, Harry Oliff, Stephen Havelin, Kyle Holdcroft Doig, Daniel McIvor, Bruce Scott.

North Merchiston: Darren Mitchell, Gavin Birrell, Cameron Stokes, Nick Mortimer, Calum Windram, Joe Turner-Law, Calum Baptie, Nathan Evans, Jake MacDonald, Ryan Clarke, Hamish Law, Anton Dowds, Sam Tulloch, Fraser Eddington, Greig Brown, Andrew McBride.