Hillfield Swifts hosted Spartans in the first of the Michael Moran League Cup semi finals, on a blustery Saturday afternoon at Gyle Park. After a deadlocked first half, an all action second saw Hillfield go ahead from the spot, courtesy of Euan Aitken, before a second penalty was well saved by Brendan Agnello. It looked like the miss would haunt Swfits as Ryan Love's wonderstrike put Spartans back on level terms, but David MacNamara's late header sealed victory for the delighted Fife outfit.
It was a hard match to call ahead of kick off. Hillfield went in with the slight favourites tag, due to their league form taking them to the top of Division 2 Section B. Spartans were in third spot in Section A. Both sides had been impressive in qualifying from the group stages of this competition, before Hillfield saw off Newcraighall and Spartans beat Currie Boys, at the quarter final stage.
The match kicked off with a heavy wind blowing diagonally across the park, into the face of Spartans' left side. After a frantic start, which saw Hillfield nearly sneak ahead inside the first minute, play began to settle down as both teams got to grips with the conditions.
Spartans were showing composure on the ball as they played it out from the back at every opportunity, but Hillfield were the more dangerous in the final third. The lively front pairing of Euan Aitken and Daryl Healy were causing headaches from the first whistle for the Spartans back line - despite their physical prowess, the big strikers didn't lack anything in technique.
It came as no surprise that it was a combination of Aitken and Healy that produced the game's first two opportunities. The first came when Aitken laid the ball into the path of his striker partner, but Healy's shot lacked power.
The next chance saw a role reversal. Defender David MacNamara did excellently to mop up a Spartans attack, before giving Healy a foot-race, which saw him show his marker a clean pair of heels. Healy then took the ball around the onrushing Brendan Agnello, but was forced too far wide to take on the shot. His cut back couldn't pick out the run of Aitken, who had been tracked by Aidan Smith in a show of determined defending.
For all of the good technique and composed passing, Spartans were struggling to make any inroads into the Hillfield defence. They did earn one set piece opportunity, after a surge up the park was brought to a halt by a foul. Calum Paton stepped up from 25-yards, but couldn't find the left hand corner, with the free kick drifting wide.
The final chances of the half fell to Hillfield's Ryan Barry. His first effort brought a good save from Agnello - inspite of play being brought back for offside. The second was a closer call, with Barry stealing in to capitalise upon a defensive error, but his sliding effort dragged agonisingly wide of the post.