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After a long, hard cup run for either team this year the moment they have been waiting for arrived. They walked out on the pitch at the Excelsior Stadium and served up a great match which will have sent all spectators home happy – one set with their team winning and the other with seeing some great football being played by either side. One team had to win and it was Spartans who came out victorious as their passing style on the large park allowed them to create and take chances.
Early chance for Spartans, who have started very well, as their striker Blair Atkinson broke into the penalty area on the left hand side. He got a strike away with his left foot but his effort trickled wide of the post.
In the third minute we were gifted with the opening goal of the game. Some good work down the left wing from Andrew Mair allowed the winger to get himself inside the box. He cut onto his right foot and got a shot away which was parried by Giffnock’s keeper. The rebound fell kindly to Sean Stewart who had the simple task of tapping the ball into the net from three yards out.
Spartans continued to press and probe the Giffnock defence as they kept good possession of the ball. They were given the chance to double their lead as they were awarded a penalty after Scott Irving was fouled as he got to a loose ball before the defender. Irving took the kick himself and went down low to his right hand side. Giffnock’s Stephen McPhee produced a great save to turn the ball round the post for a corner.
Giffnock had their first chance of the game nine minutes in. A long free kick was played into the box from the right wing. The ball was eventually cleared after a few failed attempts to clear their lines. The ball fell to Giffnock’s midfielder Connor Daniels who smashed his shot over the bar from twenty yards out.
Spartans went on the attack again moments later. Nice movement from Blair Atkinson created some space for himself. He got a shot away but it was weak effort which was easily saved by McPhee.
On the fifteen minute mark of the match Spartans had been in control of the game. They were keeping the ball very well and playing the ball around which was very good to watch as a neutral. There were a couple of signs, though, that Giffnock were getting a foothold in the game, getting some shots off and holding onto the ball for spells.
Giffnock were the next to threaten as a snapshot from midfielder Blair Lyons went close. The ball was worked neatly from the left wing into the centre of the pitch around twenty-five yards out. Lyons controlled the ball well and had a lot of space which he used to smash his effort towards goal. His shot left the keeper with no chance as he stood and watched the ball crash off his crossbar and back into play.
On the half-hour mark Spartans were able to add a well-deserved second goal. Jordan Brown was played in down the left hand channel by a brilliantly-weighted ball. He got into the area and played a cross-come-shot towards the back-post. The ball nestled inside the far-post, leaving the keeper with no chance. Only Brown himself can tell you if he meant that but from where I was it looked like he meant to cross the ball.
The side from Edinburgh continued to press and had another chance which if they were able to take would have killed off the game. Atkinson found space on the left hand side of the box and he was able to play a cross towards the back-post along the floor. Scott Irving was arriving and he smashed his shot at goal which produced another fantastic reaction-save from Stephen McPhee.
McPhee saved his side again after some crisp passing play split his side apart. Blair Atkinson played a lovely little ball to Andrew Mair who found himself in a central position after cutting in from his left-wing berth. He used a piece of skill to get by the last defender and put himself one-on-one. McPhee raced out from his line to close down the attacker who prodded his shot passed the Giffnock player. McPhee got a strong hand to the effort which forced the ball onto the post. The danger was swiftly cleared by a recovering defender.
That was the final action of the half as the referee blew his whistle shortly to signal the break moments later. At half time Spartans had a two-goal lead which, in truth, should have been much more. They were the better side from the first whistle and created chances at will. Giffnock stirred for a short spell where they looked like they could get back into the game but overall, it has been Spartans half and the cup is now theirs to lose.
Half Time: Giffnock SC Thistle 0-2 Spartans FC
After the restart, Giffnock came out on all cylinders and created the first chance of the second period. Matthew Doherty broke with pace down the left wing. He got inside the area and got an early shot away. The effort was weak and did not catch Speedie out as he collected with ease.
Spartans responded well to the previous attack and got on the ball again. They added their third goal of the game after a lung-busting run from Harry Cliff who had broken from his left-back role. He got to the by-line where he was able to cut the ball back to an un-marked Blair Atkinson who got the goal that his performance so far in the half had warranted.
Nice play by Giffnock saw the West-region side threaten once more. Matthew Doherty was played in smartly on the edge of the area. He tried to get the ball onto his left foot and when he did, he got his shot away. The shot was heading in but was well blocked by a covering Spartans defender.
On sixty-five minutes, Spartans created another opportunity. Substitute Kyle Holdcroft Doig played a brilliant ball from just inside his own half towards Blair Atkinson. Atkinson was being tracked by Giffnock’s Daniels who did not give him any space. The attacker got his shot away but it was a simple save.
Blair Atkinson caused more problems for Giffnock as his pass played in Jamie Dishington. The midfielder got to the ball before the on-rushing McPhee and he was then able to round the helpless keeper. He pushed himself very wide but he tried to get a goal but his shot finished wide of the post.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Spartans were able to get their fourth of the game. Strong play by Daniel McIvor on his side’s left wing saw him beat the Giffnock right back and get to the by-line. He laid an inviting ball across the face of goal which evaded both an attacker and a defender and ran to Blair Atkinson coming in from the right wing. Atkinson finished the chance well by placing his effort into the top corner for his second of the game.
Spartans did not let up and added their fifth of the game ten minutes from time. From a Giffnock corner Spartans broke down the right hand side. A great ball was played towards Stephen Havelin who was thirty yards from goal. Havelin drove into the area and finished his chance well by prodding the ball into the corner of the net.
Giffnock did not let their heads drop despite the score-line and looked for a goal of their own. Jordan Brown broke down the left wing and whipped a ball into the area. Tristan Cumming met the ball with a header from twelve yards out but he could not direct his effort on goal.
Giffnock went close again minutes later. The ball was played across the edge of the area from the left hand side. Johnny MacNamara met the ball and smashed his shot goalwards which produced a fantastic save from Speedie after a slight deflection on the effort.
At full time, Spartans had run out comfortable winners. They were by far the better side from the off and played some lovely football across the ninety minutes. Their performance was well worthy of Scottish champions and they deserve to lift the cup at the end of the match. For Giffnock, though, they did not play as well as they could have. They were bested across the entire park and left themselves with a mountain to climb after such an early opening goal.
Full Time: Giffnock SC Thistle 0-5 Spartans FC
1. Stephen McPhee (GK)
2. Gavin Orr
3. Johnny MacNamara
5. David McHarg Shearer
7. Connor Daniels
8. Daniel Silver
9. Kristopher Holmes
10. Ross David Sloan
11. Matthew Doherty
12. Blair Lyons
14. James Duncan
15. David Johnston
16. Craig Buchanan
17. Greg Jacobs
18. James Lea (c)
19. Tristan Cumming
Free kicks won: 12
Free kicks conceded: 6
Shots on target: 4
Headers won: 29
Tackles won: 20
Passes completed: 127
1. Callum Speedie (GK)
2. Kerr Alan
3. Harry Cliff
4. Duncan Player
5. Scott Irving
6. David Scobie (c)
7. Andrew Mair
8. Jamie Dishington
9. Blair Atkinson
10. Sean Stewart
11. Jordan Brown
12. Elliot Carruthers
14. Bruce Scott
15. Daniel McIvor
16. Kyle Holdcroft Doig
17. Stephen Havelin
Free kicks won: 6
Free kicks conceded: 12
Shots on target: 11
Headers won: 39
Tackles won: 60
Passes completed: 213