They don't come more action packed than this. A helter skelter semi-final came down to the dreaded shoot out at James McGrory Park, and after sudden death spot kicks, Spartans finally booked their place in next month’s final. It was drama all the way though, a great home turn out cheering on opponents who pushed them all the way.
Somebody had to lose, and it was tough on the Jimmy Johnstone Academy who had forced two last gasp levellers at the end of both regulation and extra time. This will have been a two hour nerve shredder for both dug outs and some exhausted players, and it’s unlikely that this reporter will see too many goalkeepers equalising direct from a set piece at the end of extra time.
The sides were well matched throughout, but Reece Mason’s early opener had begun to look like the winning goal, until with one last throw of the dice JJA lobbed a set piece into the box and the ball cannoned off a Spartans body, forcing extra time.
The home support erupted and it would have folded a lot of teams, but Spartans showed great spirit in extra time and retook the lead, only another last dash JJA special to force spot kicks.
The opener on 12 minutes was Spartans’ first real foray up the field, as Mason showed great pace and strength to shrug of his marker on the quick break down the right side of the box. The front man looked up and picked out Jack Crombie in the middle to dispatch the opener, against the early run of play.
JJA had been pressing well up the pitch with a lot of possession to this point, only to be undone by that sucker punch. They continued to build the play in the middle, but lacked the cutting edge of their opponents, whose goal scorer remained the focal point of every swift counter.
There really wasn’t much between the sides as the opening half drew to a close, with few further clear cut chances. Joseph Evenden could maybe have doubled Spartans lead midway as he latched on to a Mason through ball but Josh Ashburn was alert to rush out and block, while JJA struggled to carve out a clear sight of goal.