Date: Sunday July 13, 2014 – 3pm
Venue: Ainslie Park, Edinburgh
This game began just a few moments after Livingston’s comfortable 3-0 win over Falkirk, with the Ronnie Swan Memorial Trophy at stake.
After enjoying the third place game from the clubhouse balcony, I ventured down to the stand for the final, soaking up the rays with Frank, a friend and regular traveller on the Livi supporters bus to away games.
I didn’t stick around for Spartans’ semi final game yesterday, so I was interested in seeing how they’d perform against a fairly strong Dunfermline side.
Spartans won the inaugural Lowland League championship last season and are favourites to emulate that success again in the season ahead. If they do, they’ll have the opportunity to play off for a place in the Scottish Professional League against the Highland League winners and the bottom club In League Two.
The Edinburgh club have had League ambitions for a while now, but were pipped by Annan Athletic for a place in the league when Gretna folded and created the last vacancy.
The demise of Rangers did not trigger any election, with a reincarnation of the Glasgow giants being elected into the Third Division unopposed, a contentious point for some.
Thankfully the days of clubs relying on others to implode are over, though the formative pyramid structure put in place by the SFA still needs a lot of work.
As it stands, the Lowland League is a potential graveyard for any relegated SPFL club, with almost all of the bigger non-league clubs remaining in the junior ranks. Crowds are minisule in the most past and the recent election of a club that’s never run an adult team (BSC Glasgow) and another that plays in an open field (Edinburgh University), has done little to improve the new league’s credibility in my opinion.
Spartans, in fairness, do tick most of the boxes as far as SPFL membership is concerned.
As mentioned in previous posts, Ainslie Park is a fine facility, though it would need some modifications for League Two, including some terracing and additional fencing.
If Spartans have an Achilles heel then it’s certainly their lack of support. Theirs is a very big participation club but their run of the mill home games barely attract three figures, with a few more tempted out for Scottish Cup ties.
Is there a market in Edinburgh for another club? Meadowbank Thistle always struggled for a crowd (I should know), and nothing I’ve seen or heard recently suggests that there’s a groundswell of support ready to appear for any new League club in the capital.
Nevertheless, as this game proved, Spartans are a decent enough side on the park, with a squad that includes Edinburgh based part time players who might, in days gone by, have been good enough to play for Meadowbank.
They pushed Dunfermline all the way in this game and led at the halfway point thanks to a goal by Donal Henretty, a veteran of some of their biggest Scottish Cup days out.
Dunfermline hit back through Ross Drummond from an acute angle when Spartans’ sub keeper Murray Jackson got caught in no mans land just after half time, and for a long time it looked as though the game would end 1-1, necessitating a penalty shoot-out to settle the destination of the trophy.
Penalties were indeed required, but not until the modest crowd were treated to some late dramatics, Dunfermline scoring through McMillan with barely two minutes left. That looked like a winner, only for Spartans to equalise at the death in controversial circumstances.
The Pars keeper for holding onto the ball for too long. It’s a decision that you rarely see given, but the home side took full advantage with Stevenson slamming the ball into the net from 15 yards after Beesley played the indirect free kick to his right.
Funnily enough, I had turned to Frank, and Gordon who had joined us, to remark that indirect free kicks in the penalty area rarely seem to produce a goal! What do I know…
Dunfermline manager Jim Jefferies was in attendance and despite the fact that this was a glorified friendly, he let rip on the referee with a volley of abuse which continued even after Dunfermline WON the shoot out. As a manager with many years experience, Jefferies should be setting a better example.
The Pars keeper Cammy Gill was their hero of the hour, saving three of Spartans’ spot kicks, with his opposite number for Spartans stopping two.
So with the hot sun still beating down Dunfermline picked up the very handsome trophy and the curtain was brought down on a decent weekend of relatively competitive football.
Scoring: 1-0 Donal Henretty (45), 1-1 Ross Drummond (49), 1-2 Gavin McMillan (88), 2-2 Craig Stevenson (90+)
Attendance: 250 (estimate)
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