Tynecastle FC met Spartans FC for the fifth time this season, this time in the John Crawford Cup Final. Previous ties have seen Tynecastle win two and Spartans win two, so it was obvious that this match was going to be a closely fought battle.
Both teams have games coming thick and fast as we edge closer to the end of the season. This match was Tynecastle’s first of three in five days. However, focus was entirely on this game with this season’s first piece of silverware available for whoever came out victorious.
The first ten minutes were tame with neither side managing to wrestle a hold of the match early on. Despite their best efforts, both teams lacked the cutting edge to complete a string of passes or get a significant shot away to test the goalkeepers.
It was on 11 minutes that the game came alive however. Tynecastle won a freekick on the left wing, five yards from the edge of the box. James Scobie was the man to take it and he whipped in an out-swinging cross. The players had concentrated themselves around the penalty spot and it looked difficult for anyone to jump high enough to get a header away amongst the melee. Ivan Alapiki could not be held back though, he leapt into the air and headed the ball past the keeper to the back post and into the net.
The goal seemed to wake both teams up. Tynecastle sensed blood, but they didn’t do anything about it. Instead, Spartans patiently counter-attacked and the front three began causing problems.
On 15 minutes, the crowd became animated when Reece Mason began bamboozling the Tynecastle defence with silky skills inside the box. He took on three players before producing a cross, but Tynecastle keeper Aaron Heap collected.
On 19 minutes, Reuben Walsh pinched the ball from Tynecastle’s Scobie who was caught in possession. Walsh raced towards goal only to be brought down just short of the penalty area. Nicholas Reid stepped up to take the freekick which thundered off the bar. Mason followed up the shot off the bar with a header but this time the ball sailed over.
The following ten minutes were quiet before the game came alive once again on the half hour mark. Spartans won a freekick on the left wing, next to by-line, 25 yards from goal. Keir Russell took the freekick. The ball sailed into the box and hit a Tynecastle player on the chest. Everyone watched in anxious anticipation as the ball bounced towards goal. Fortunately for the Tynecastle player, the ball hit the post and went out for a corner. Multiple corners followed with Tynecastle unable to clear.
In the final five minutes of the half, Tynecastle struggled to clear their lines. The ball kept finding its way back into the Tynecastle box due to needless fouls in their own half which was heaping on the pressure. Tynecastle held on until half time though and the teams went in with the score 1-0.
Spartans may have felt they had done enough to have drawn level in the first half, but they weren’t clinical enough in front of goal. The game was stretched and this was hardly helped by the large pitch. Both teams were too disjointed in the first half and needed to work harder to connect their midfield with attack. Ivan Alapiki, the Tynecastle target man, was causing problems but lacked support from his midfielders. Similarly, the Spartans front three of Reid, Mason and Robbie Walker worked hard and combined well, but needed more support.