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Derek Hall’s Football Report for Haddington Athletic v the Spartans 21st November

todayNovember 24, 2021


Haddington Athletic 0-2 Spartans

An intriguing 3rd Round Challenge Cup tie at Millfield brought out over 300 spectators to see if EOS side Haddington could upset Lowland League challengers Spartans on a bright but cold late autumn day. Within 30 seconds, Jamie Dishington had a 17 yard drive confidently taken by home keeper Dale Cornet as the visitors started on the front foot. Spartans then forced three corners in quick succession but on each occasion, Cammy Russell failed to get his delivery past the near post. After six minutes, Alan Brown released a quick pass on the half volley to send Blair Henderson into the home box but his drive from around 16 yards was taken by keeper Cornet who got his angles right. Three minutes later, there were somewhat muted claims for a penalty by Spartans as a bouncing ball inside the Athletic penalty area appeared to touch an arm, but it looked accidental and referee Duncan Williams wasn’t interested. With eleven minutes on the clock, the home side created their first real chance as Shaun Hill and Euan Watson combined to allow Alassan Jones to get a shot away which was half blocked by Kevin Waugh allowing Blair Carswell in the visitors goal to make an easy save. Michael Allan then fired wide from 20 yards for Spartans after Cornet had punched clear from a Dishington corner whilst at the other end, Haddington captain Gabri Auriemma tried his luck with a 22 yard snapshot which went straight at keeper Carswell. With fourteen minutes gone, Russell found himself inside the Athletic box with the ball slightly under his feet but it still took a superbly timed challenge from Nick Aitchison to clear the danger for the home side as keeper Cornet gratefully gathered the loose ball. On the quarter hour, a nice ball by Auriemma brought Carswell five yards outside his penalty area to clear from the onrushing Hill before Spartans failed to convert the best chance of the game on 17 minutes when Sean Brown was released to the edge of the Athletic box and was able to drag the ball past keeper Cornet, but the attentions of Gordon Harris saw the Spartans striker roll the ball wide of the near post from around fourteen yards. A minute later, referee Williams went to his pocket for the first time and it was Russell of Spartans who picked up a needless yellow card as he kicked the ball away after being caught offside. After 25 minutes, Guy McGarry and Jones played a nice one two which had McGarry entering the Spartans penalty area but a nicely timed intervention from Michael Bolochoweckyj saw the visitors clear their lines. A minute later Ali Simpson played Watson down the left flank and his cross towards the near post saw visiting keeper Carswell make the grab with McGarry right there. Spartans skipper Ian McFarland then released Dishington whose 25 yard drive was confidently held by Cornet, despite looking straight into a troublesome low sun. However, after 28 minutes, it was the visitors who deservedly got their noses in front when a lovely pass down the left from Russell saw Brown control the ball just inside the Haddington box and as he knocked the ball past keeper Cornet, he was flattened by the diving keeper and referee Williams had no hesitation in awarding a spot kick which brought almost no complaints from anyone. Keeper Cornet took some time to get back to his feet but judged himself to be fit enough to face the penalty which was despatched into the corner with a minimum of fuss by Blair Henderson. However, keeper Cornet then required more treatment for what looked like a left shoulder injury and at this point, he was forced to leave the pitch and was replaced by Haddington’s very able replacement keeper, Robbie Stirling. Brown was played down the inside right channel for Spartans and keeper Stirling’s first involvement was to grab his 20 yard drive which had a bit of the pace taken off it by a defenders touch. On 33 minutes, A Brown played a lovely ball in to S Brown of Spartans at the near post, but a great challenge from Simpson snuffed out the danger. Six minutes from the break, Jones took down Russell about eight yards outside the home penalty area and the Spartans No 10 picked himself up to fire in the left foot set piece which keeper Stirling saw all the way. The keeper was soon in action once more as he punched away a Dishington corner under pressure and the first time return effort from Russell went over from 20 yards. Three minutes from the break, a strong forward run from Hill into the Spartans half was somewhat cynically halted by Finn Robson who hauled him back and referee Williams surprised nobody when the yellow card made its second appearance of the afternoon. A minute from halftime, Dishington delivered another dangerous near post corner which saw Henderson get across his man but the glancing header flashed wide of the Haddington goals. So at the half way point, the visitors held a slender but deserved advantage against a home side who had kept battling but had only threatened the visitors goal sporadically and the second half to come was nicely poised.
With two minutes on the clock, Russell lashed the ball into the home net but the whistle had long since gone for a bit of pushing by Henderson during the lead up. A corner from Haddington after 49 minutes then saw Spartans quickly break as Dishington fed S Brown and his attempted pass to Henderson broke back to Russell who could only shoot into the side net from 15 yards when going across the keeper with the shot looked a far better option. A Brown received a ticking off from referee Williams just before Haddington made their second change of the game on 52 minutes with Aaron Congalton replacing Seamus Russell. After 55 minutes, home captain Auriemma went into the referees book after a foul in midfield and soon afterwards, the home side were almost in as Jones played a lovely ball towards Hill and only an excellent defensive header by Waugh to find his keeper brought the attack to an end. Dishington was penalised for handball inside the home penalty area and this allowed Spartans to make their first change on the hour as Sam Jones was brought on for Robson. With 62 minutes gone, Haddington were very nearly gifted a way back into this cup tie when visiting keeper Carswell suddenly decided he was Jimmy Johnstone and tried to dribble the ball past Haddington’s McGarry not once but twice inside his own penalty area and it was no surprise when he lost the ball and was only saved by McGarry having been driven wide and his chipped effort on goal drifted over. I would imagine Spartans coach Dougie Samuels comments on this little adventure would have been worth hearing, although perhaps not for those of a nervous disposition ! A minute later, a challenge between Cammy Watson of Haddington and Spartans Michael Allan near the visitors dugout saw both players hit the deck holding their heads but fortunately both players were able to continue after treatment. A couple of minutes later, Auriemma also went down with a leg knock but the Haddington captain was also able to play on after receiving some treatment. However after 69 minutes, Spartans fashioned a really nice second and possibly decisive goal as Russell powered through midfield and he found Dishington who quickly moved the ball on to S Brown and he capped a very decent performance by firing home all along the ground past keeper Stirling with an angled 15 yard drive and few could deny it was a second goal which was deserved on the overall balance of play. Dishington lashed another effort over the Athletic crossbar on 72 minutes with plenty of support waiting for a pull back before at the other end, Carswell’s handling had to be spot on as he grabbed a cross with Hill looking to feed off any possible slip. With a quarter of an hour remaining, Dishington made way for Gregor Woods as Spartans looked to protect their advantage and he was on just in time to see a Russell corner flash straight through the Haddington goal area when a touch by anyone may well have seen a third goal. With eleven minutes remaining, Haddington’s Hill saw his frustration no longer able to be contained and his comments brought out the yellow card once more from referee Williams but this was probably more down to lack of service on the day than anything the referee had done. Nine minutes from time, both teams shuffled their pack for the final time as the visitors brought on Lennox Walker for the excellent Russell, whilst for the home side, the hard working E Watson gave way to Robbie King. Jones fired a nice cross over which home keeper Stirling clutched almost off the head of Henderson and at the other end, keeper Carswell was once again outside his box to hammer clear a long ball. Four minutes from time, Auriemma’s short corner found Jones and he stepped inside his man before unleashing a low, powerful 20 yard drive which visiting skipper McFarland threw himself in to block. Three minutes from time, Spartans substitute Woods became the fifth player of the game to be cautioned and only he will know why he needlessly decided to kick the ball away on the halfway line to pick up the silliest of yellow cards. A minute from time, Hill worked the ball on to Congalton and his first time right foot drive from 22 yards flew a couple of yards wide of the postage stamp corner as the home side kept on coming. A minute into stoppage time a foul on Walker gave Spartans a chance from the set piece and Waugh bent his 27 yard effort round the wall but Stirling made the save low down at his post. Two minutes into stoppage time, a dangerous cross towards the visitors back post was brilliantly dealt with by Allan whose header clear whilst being fouled by Auriemma was top drawer defending before, as the game drew to a close, the impressive Jones fired another drive over the top for the home side but as the final whistle went, it was the Lowland League side who deservedly take their place in the fourth round of the Challenge Cup after negotiating their way through a potentially tricky cup tie with a thoroughly professional performance. Haddington will feel they showed up very favourably against their higher tier opponents and can now get back to the task of defending the lead they have created at the top of their Conference, but for Spartans it’s job done as they continue to fight on a couple of fronts in a very decent season so far.

Written by: Russell Aitken

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