Spartans 3

Vale of Leithen 0

Kenny Paterson at Ainslie Park

THEY may have been knocked out of the Scottish Cup before most teams had played in the competition, but Vale of Leithen manager Chris Anderson was still proud of his young side.

Vale frustrated hosts Spartans for long periods under the lights at Ainslie Park, with the first round tie finally sealed with Craig Stevenson’s 89th minute free kick.

Anderson, who was again forced to play due to a lengthy injury list, now hopes Vale can use the performance as motivation to pull themselves up the Lowland League table.

He said: “It was our best performance of the season.

“We had a game plan and it worked for long periods. Spartans had a lot of the ball but I don’t remember our goalkeeper Ross Gilpin having many saves to make.

“The second goal killed us off but I am proud of the players.

“We have a good group of players but we need to get some of them back fit for the upcoming games.”

Just 118 days after Tom Rogic’s last minute goal won the Scottish Cup for Celtic, Vale and Spartans were beginning the road to Hampden 24 hours early as their tie was moved to Friday night to allow Edinburgh City to play at Ainslie Park while Meadowbank is redeveloped.

Vale initially looked very nervy, with Scott Maxwell’s excellent delivery almost setting up goals for Paul Thomson and Jamie Dishington within the first ten minutes.

But the visitors began to pass the ball better on the slick 4G surface and Liall Smith almost completed a brilliant move only for Spartans number one Andrew Stobie to bravely dive on the ball just in time.

Instead, it was the hosts who went ahead when another Maxwell’s brilliant cross was met by an equally good header by Jamie Dishington.

Anderson’s men responded well, and had their best spell of the match but crucially could not find an equaliser.

Kerr Allan’s swerving effort was firstly tipped over by Stobie, and from the resultant corner Sean Stewart’s volley was again saved well by the keeper.

The impressive Ross Brady was the next to test Stobie from distance as Vale showed plenty character.

But they struggled to make further clear chances in the second half, and fell further behind on 63 minutes. Ex-Vale player Blair Atkinson raced through but saw his effort well saved by Gilpin, only for the rebound to spin to Dishington who finished well from close range.

Referee Connor Ashwood and his assistants put in inconsistent performances throughout the 90 minutes and left Anderson infuriated when he claimed Spartans’ Ian McFarland went unpunished for punching Shaun Stevens in the stomach.

Stevenson then delivered his own knock-out blow with a minute to go as his well-placed free kick snuck into the bottom corner to seal Spartans’ second round spot.

Vale of Leithen: R. Gilpin, J. Scott-Mercer, R. Brady, K. Allan, A. Imlah, S. Stewart, L. Smith (M. Graham 67), A. Hunter, C. Anderson, J. Finnie (S. Stevens 73), J. Stevens.