Spartans v Whitehill Welfare at Craigroyston FC

2.30pm  23 March 2014

East of Scotland FA, Qualifying Cup Final at Craigroyston FC
Spartans 2 Whitehill Welfare 2 aet, 4-5 on penalties (att 352)

The East of Scotland FA's policy of staging cup finals on Sundays, and of sharing them between various neutral venues, provides excellent opportunities to combine weekends away with extra games and new grounds.

Craigroyston's ground, St Mark's Park, isn't far from Edinburgh city centre, and while it's not the best in terms of facilities the clubs officials did a good job of staging this showpiece tie and coping with the larger than normal crowd.

The playing surface looked good, which suited two teams who play Lowland League football, but essentially it's just a railed off pitch. There's no cover for spectators, but there is plenty of grass banking, which helped allow supporters a decent view of the action.

There was plenty of action to see, although the game took a while to get going. Welfare went ahead after a fairly dull opening 20 minutes, but Spartans eventually got into the game more and were well on top when they equalised just before half time.

Ultimately the moment that probably cost them the cup was an off the ball incident early in the second half, which resulted in a Spartans red card.

What followed was a very lively and entertaining game, with plenty of bookings, mostly for Spartans. Despite their man advantage Whitehill rarely looked like scoring, an exception being a shot which came back off a post before being turned in by a player who was, correctly I thought, ruled offside.

It took until the second period of extra time before the game's third goal, and it was 10-man Spartans who converted a spell of pressure into a goal. But before the restart the 10 men were reduced to nine after another red card, and they failed to hold their lead as Whitehill levelled just before the end.

Both sides missed their opening efforts in the penalty shootout, before a series of expertly taken kicks took it to sudden death, until a Spartans player saw his effort saved.

Whitehill's "prize" for winning the Qualifying Cup is qualifying for the East of Scotland Cup Final, in which they'll play Berwick Rangers in a glorified friendly that will, in all likelihood, lack the excitement of this cup final.









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