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Saturday Sport 20th August, Derek Hall’s report on Newtongrange Star v the Spartans

todayAugust 23, 2022


Newtongrange Star 0-2 Spartans

A decent day for football at New Victoria Park and a big test for EOS First Divisions Newtongrange Star hosting Spartans of the Lowland League in this East of Scotland 2nd Round Qualifying Cup tie. A foul on Dean Ballantyne by Spartans Calum Burns gave Star’s Brad Hainey the first opportunity to deliver into the visitors penalty area from wide left after four minutes, but the delivery was a big disappointment. Spartans responded as Sam Jones and Jamie Dishington combined down the left but Steven Tait was in the right place to head clear. The best chance arrived on eight minutes when Michael Allan strode forward and unleashed a powerful left foot drive from 28 yards which Star keeper Liam McCathie dived full length to his right to tip behind superbly but Dishington only managed to hit the first defender from the resultant corner. Spartans captain Ian McFarland then won the ball in midfield before finding Scott Maxwell but once again the Star defence were able to clear as Scott Hay this time turned the ball behind. With thirteen minutes gone, Star centre forward Ballantyne needed some treatment and although he was able to return, he didn’t seem to be moving freely. A ball to the edge of the Star box saw a nice head flick from Dishington put Bradley Whyte in on the angle but his lob from around nine yards drifted over the top. With 22 minutes gone, Ballantyne was finally forced to admit defeat and the Star striker was replaced by Tyler Bolochoweckyj, a blow for the home side with the ex Musselburgh man having started the season in good form. Two minutes later, Allan was barged over by Shaun Conlon in midfield for which the Star no7 was yellow carded and the delivery into the Star box saw the ball kick up off the ground right in front of keeper McCathie who actually did pretty well to shovel the ball to safety. The visitors were starting to gain the upper hand with a bit more of the possession and Maxwell again got free down the left but Tait once more was right there to get the ball behind and this time, Dishington’s corner only just missed the head of Blair Henderson as it flashed through the Star goal area and behind at the far post. A Maxwell delivery to the back post then saw Henderson send his angled header wide and as the half hour mark approached, the home side were finding it difficult to get out. Hay was forced to concede another corner to the visitors and this time Maxwell’s delivery was pushed away by keeper McCathie who then recovered the ball at the second attempt. On 32 minutes, Spartans Henderson received a ticking off from referee Mark Harris whilst the game was stopped for a drop ball due to an injury. Dishington and Whyte then carved out a chance for Jones but in attempting to place his shot from around 22 yards, he caught the ball all wrong and it was high and wide as the game in general continued to be a pretty poor watch. Ten minutes from the break, a surging run from Ally Elliot took him into the Spartans box but his cut back looking for Liam McIntosh only found the safe hands of the somewhat underworked Spartans keeper Blair Carswell. Jones of Spartans was next to be warned for a foul in midfield on Bolochoweckyj but after treatment, he was able to carry on. After 39 minutes, Conlon tried to make space for a shot just outside the visitors penalty area but Maxwell did enough to put him off and the Edinburgh side broke down the right flank with Alan Brown and McFarland making the space for Dishington to slip the ball to Whyte who got rid of his marker with a lovely drop of the shoulder before stepping inside and then curling an absolute beauty left footed into the far corner from 20 yards past the diving McCathie to put Spartans one up. Star looked to respond right away and Elliot was again the threat as he let a right foot drive go from just inside the Spartans box which keeper Carswell took no chances with and beat the ball away whilst making his first save of the match. Right on half time, Maxwell and Whyte worked the ball out to Allan but he could only drive into the side net for the visitors as the whistle went to bring to an end a largely disappointing first period, lit up only by one superb piece of finishing which had the men from Ainslie Park ahead at the interval.
The start of the second period didn’t see much of an improvement and the first notable event on 49 minutes saw Bolochoweckyj warned for not moving away to allow a free kick to be taken in midfield, it was just one of those days. Dishington then swung a high ball into the Star goal area looking for Henderson but McCathie came through the traffic to make the safe catch before Spartans Kevin Waugh was the next to be warned by referee Harris. After 54 minutes, Star’s Elliot again got down the flank but once more couldn’t find McIntosh with the inside ball. A long throw into the visitors penalty area was only half cleared to Tait who had a go from 25 yards but Spartans got bodies in the way. However on 58 minutes, the visitors moved to the other end and the ball dropped to Henderson who had two efforts from close range blocked and when the ball was scrambled clear, Jones stepped onto the loose ball twenty five yards out and took a touch before sending a looping right foot half volley thundering into the postage stamp top corner off both the underside of the bar and the inside of the post for an absolutely sensational strike which gave keeper McCathie no chance as the Edinburgh side doubled their lead. Before the game restarted, Spartans made a double switch as scorer Jones and Maxwell made way for Jamie Penker and Gregor Woods and at the same time, the home side had to make their second enforced change of the afternoon as earlier substitute Bolochoweckyj limped off and was replaced by Jack Gillan. Burns of Spartans was next to require some treatment but was able to return to the match just in time to see Star’s Ryan Porteous make space for himself on the edge of the visitors box with a lovely turn before firing in a stinging left foot drive from 20 yards which keeper Carswell was right behind. On 68 minutes, Newtongrange then made a triple change as Tait, Conlon and Hainey gave way for Liam Peden, Logan Imrie and Andy Muir. Gillan and Porteous looked to create something for the home side on 71 minutes but Waugh was there to turn the ball behind and McIntosh’s set play saw Elliot’s goal attempt blocked behind for another corner. McIntosh put in another good delivery and this time found the head of Muir who was very unlucky to see his six yard header bounce off the outside of the near post for Star’s best chance of the match by far. Muir was looking lively since his introduction for the home side and he sent another 23 yard effort wide after 73 minutes. The visitors replaced McFarland and Dishington with Cammy Russell and Rhys Armstrong with a quarter of an hour remaining and then Penker of Spartans needlessly got involved near the halfway line with Star skipper Adam Nelson and found himself in referee Harris’s book. Gillan floated a twelve yard header wide of goal from a Hay delivery as Star looked to make the last ten minutes interesting and at the other end, Penker turned the ball wide from 10 yards from Armstrong’s pass for the visitors when he should at least have worked the Star keeper. Six minutes from time, Woods met a loose ball at the back post after a Spartans corner delivered by Armstrong but the angle proved too much and he could only find the side net. Four minutes from time, the Spartans defence was undone by an orthodox long ball down the inside left channel and Gillan didn’t hang around as he lashed in a sixteen yard left foot half volley which certainly had keeper Carswell interested as it fizzed just wide. Russell then found Henderson in the Star box but the striker saw his attempt from fourteen yards blocked before it got anywhere near keeper McCathie. A minute into stoppage time, Armstrong sent a 27 yard free kick well over the Star crossbar and the final whistle went on a pretty uninspiring afternoons entertainment, which was brightened up by two quite magnificent finishes right out of the top drawer from the Ainslie Park side who in truth weren’t too troubled during a match which they largely controlled. With a big Scottish Cup tie coming up next weekend, the home side will look to discover their scoring touch again quickly, and will hope the injuries picked up today aren’t too serious.

Written by: Russell Aitken

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