Star welcomed back Vinnie Park, Liam Park, Ross Thomson and Lee Wells back after last weeks loss at Berwick and were boosted by the return of Dean Brotherston who played his first full 90 minutes for three months. Spartans made the trip South fresh from a cup victory at Berwick but lying in the unfamiliar position of 7th in the Lowland League.
Despite torrential rain in the 24 hours or so leading up to the match the Islecroft pitch was understandably on the soft side but in fine condition all things considered. Star struggled early on to keep any worthwhile possession as the visitors began well but it was the home side that threatened first when Aidan Kerr burst clear down the right wing and his cross eventually fell to Calvin Cowie who miscued his left foot shot wide. Seconds later Cowie made a fine run down the left but his cross was too strong for the onrushing Kerr and Lewis Sloan.
The Edinburgh side eventually made an impression on the home defence that had been solid so far, when in the 20th minute Aaron Murrell got in behind the Star rearguard but his driven cutback was well held by Parker. Murrell was proving to be a real handfull for the home side and he was arguably the main difference between the two sides as he put in a top performance during the whole afternoon. So it was no surprise when just after the half hour he was the player to open the scoring. It came in the most straight forward fashion when a long punt up the park caused problems in the home defence and a moments hesitation allowed the striker to collect the ball and score from just inside the box with a shot that flew across Parker and inside the far post. With seconds of the half remaining the same player almost doubled the lead only to be denied by a fine save from the Star stopper.
Star began the second period looking to make more use of the ball as in the first half they consistently gave it away. They certainly began in a more positive manner but it Murrell, yet again, that came closest to finding the back of the net twice but both times Parker produced good stops to keep the deficit at one. In the 56th minute manager Ritchie Maxwell decided to make his first change and it immediately paid dividends. He brought on Craig Fergusson for Aiden Kerr, moving Brotherston in to the centre forward position and switching Sloan out wide to the right. Within a minute the the new striker collected a Parker clearance and quickly played in Sloan who moved in from the right to smash the ball low past Blair Carswell from just inside the angle of the box. The keeper got a good right hand on to the ball but the shot has too much power and flew in to the back of the net much to the delight of the home fans. With over half an hour to go there would be no settling for a point from either side and it was Star that threatened next. This time it was Cowie who did well in midfield and played in a great ball that sent Brotherston clear but this time Carswell saved well with his legs to keep out the strikers well hit drive. The home side could sense the points were there for the taking but Murrell was still the main threat at the other end and he produced a great turn to create some space but his lob over Parker went just wide of the far post.
In the 78th minute a Spartans corner from the right was missed by everyone except Michael Bolochoweckyj at the back post, but he was only able to flick the ball over the crossbar from close range. The match was entering the next goal the winner stage when Cameron Dawson came off the bench. A minute or so later Spartans won the ball in midfield and as they broke away they had two players free on the right. Dawson was played in and with just Parker to beat he fired high into the back of the net to all but seal the points. Star did all they could to grab a dramatic equaliser but Spartans did a good job of playing out time especially near one of the corner flags. It is perhaps not everyone's cup of tea but if Star had been in the same position then we would all have been quite happy to see it.
So, disappointing not to take anything from the game but we move on. Unfortunately we have another free weekend coming up making things difficult for us to build up any momentum. However after that we have a good run of games, including a midweek one, so we will have no excuses. Unless of course the weather decides to play havoc.
DALBEATTIE STAR 1 THE SPARTANS 2
Sloan (57) Murrell (32)
DALBEATTIE STAR: Parker, Park, Thorburn (C Thomson 90), Wells, R Thomson, Wilson, Brotherston, Cowie, Kerr (Fergusson 56), Sloan, Middlemiss (O'Sullivan 62)
Subs not used: Maxwell
Yellow Cards: Wells, Cowie, Fergusson
THE SPARTANS: Carswell, Davidson, Hoskins, Bolochoweckyj, Corbett, Scott, Brown (Woods 73), McFarland, Murrell, Maxwell (Dawson 84), Reid (Allan 87)
Subs not used: Caddow, Komocki
Yellow Cards: Brown