Strikes from Callum Hall and Nathan Kay proved to be the difference as Edinburgh City overcame Spartans in a Lowland & East of Scotland Development League Cup Final with few clear-cut opportunities.
Both teams came into the final with identical league records - Spartans are ahead of Edinburgh City only on goal difference - and it showed; neither side was able to stamp their authority on the game early.
Both teams lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, and for long periods they nullified each other, particularly in the middle of the park, where no one was able to get their foot on the ball and dictate the game. In the opening exchanges both teams were limited to long range efforts and set-pieces.
For Spartans, winger Arron Singh was a handful on the left-hand side and looked the most likely to create something whenever he started running at the Edinburgh City back line.
Unfortunately for Spartans, his supply dried up as the half wore on and he found himself having to come deeper to get involved in play, where he was far less dangerous.
In contrast, Edinburgh City’s own wide men – goalscorer Hall on the left and Harry Pullar – began seeing more and more of the ball as they looked to target the wide areas. This was in no small part to the other goalscorer, striker Kay, who held the ball up all afternoon and linked well with the wingers as Edinburgh City began to take control of the game.
However, chances were still few and far between as Spartans defended resolutely.
As is so often the case when two evenly matched sides go up against each other, it was likely to be a moment of magic or a mistake that would break the deadlock. To Spartans dismay, it was the latter; Hall pounced on a poor pass out from the back, carried the ball to the edge of the box and fired low past Jordan Pettigrew to give Edinburgh City a half time lead.
Spartans looked to change it in the second half: a switch at centre half saw Michael Allan replace Lewis Grant as they moved to a back three; right back Calum O’Neil filled in at centre back with left back Gabriel Hill and right winger Murray Hand operating as wing backs.
It seemed to be working; they began the half playing much higher up the pitch, and with an intensity that Edinburgh City were struggling to match. Still, the issue remained creating chances and all Fraser Morton in the Edinburgh City goal had to deal with were a few long-range shots.
With just over 20 minutes to go, Spartan’s made one final roll of the dice: their number nine Rowan Fife was replaced by defender Oran Hosey, which allowed Anthony Laing to move up into midfield and number 10 Olly Hetherington to spearhead the attack.
It didn’t matter though, just a few minutes later Hall pounced on more sloppy Spartans passing and dinked a left-wing cross to the back post, where Kay was there to smash high into the roof of the net. A goal his performance deserved.
Spartans committed plenty of bodies forward in the dying stages as they went searching for that elusive goal that would have set-up a frantic finish, but Edinburgh City never looked in danger of being breached. In fact, with Kays endless running and the introduction of fresh legs in the middle of the park, they looked dangerous on the counter as the game became stretched, and could have easily added to their own tally had it not been for some sloppy final passes and the linesman’s flag.
But in the end the two goals proved to be enough as Edinburgh City ran out deserved winners on the day.