Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Spartans - The Replay

Roadrunner Reports

Alas the dream is over for another year. I am referring of course to the not inglorious exit of the Spartans from the 2005-6 Scottish Cup last night at Love Street at the hands (or feet) of First Division leaders, St Mirren. To what was – even by Paisley standards – an otherwise thoroughly dreich night, the Spartans and their estimable support brought a dose of old-fashioned Roy-of-the-Rovers romance, colour and (at least after half-time) footballing passion. True, the dream faded early in the match as the Saints snatched two goals in quick succession early in the first half. To a team with lesser character this could have presaged a collapse followed by an avalanche of goals from the Paisley full-timers. And no doubt that is what the increasingly rain-swept Buddies support expected. But the Spartans were not for capitulating. Marshalled by the truly outstanding Seeley at centre-half, the defence re-grouped and held firm the line against wave after wave of Saints attack – much of which was courtesy of some outstanding play down the left wing (just smashing to see an old fashioned winger work his magic). Down 2-0 after what was a somewhat nervous and unconvincing first-half for their forwards, Spartans came out for the second 45 with all guns blazing, bringing out a couple of very good saves from the excellent Tony Bullock in the Saints goal. This early spell after the break saw the Spartans’ Corinthian spirit in full spate, and what a marvellous sight it was to behold. The St Mirren defence was frequently stretched by the aggressive attacking play and somewhat robust tackling of the non-Leaguers from the East. It easily – and entirely deservedly – could (should) have been 2-1 after that spell, and who knows how the game might have unfolded thereafter. The third Saints goal was the killer, and despite throwing on attacking substitutes, the tiredness in the legs of the Spartans began to show and it looked liked the Saints were easing into the comfort zone. And who could blame our heroic Spartans had they sought then to put up the shutters and allow the game to just quietly peter out over that last 10 minutes? But this is not the stuff of which the Spartans are made. Forward they went in their droves seeking out that goal which surely no one – not even the not-quite-so-hardy Paisley supporters who, assured of victory, had by then begun to leave the ground in their hundreds – could have begrudged them. The last few minutes said everything there is to say about the Spartans. Corner followed corner, and they charged the Saints goal to come oh so close to snatching that consolation goal. But it was not to be. The final whistle saw the Spartans do a much-deserved lap of honour, paying particular homage to their own fans and donning the many sombreros that were tossed to them by their adoring followers. What a night. What a team. What a support. And what a victory for the game of football.

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