Les Atkinson’s young Spartans bowed out of the Scottish Youth Cup after losing 4-0 to Rangers at Ibrox Stadium on Wednesday night, writes Mark Brown
After despatching Partick Thistle in the previous round, Spartans had another shot at loftier opponents from the west, this time in the shape of cup holders Rangers.
It was like a Panini sticker collection in the main stand as a sea of club badges were on display as scouts bedecked in their jackets from a host of Scottish clubs took in the action, as they watched the young talent on display.
The match, delayed 15 minutes due to traffic congestion on the M8, got underway as the booming sound of fireworks filled the Govan sky.
Fine early play from Scott McCrory-Irving in the middle of field allowed the youngster & his side time to pass the ball around on the bowling green-like Ibrox surface and settle into the game.
However, it was the hosts who took a 10th minute lead. The impressive Hardie delivering a cross into the path of Sinnamon who rammed the ball past Carswell into the Spartans net.
Blair Carswell pulled off a terrific save from Ogen shortly after. The keeper’s performance undoubtedly noticed by 1st Team boss Dougie Samuel sitting in the stand.
Two goals in as many minutes however stunned Spartans and set Rangers on their way to Dumfries to take on Queen of the South in the next round.
A splendid piece of individual skill by Hardie saw the Rangers kid double his side’s advantage and this was quickly followed by Stoney’s converted penalty after Walsh was brought down in the box.
Spartans first clear chance on goal came shortly before the break as McCrory-Irving’s shot deflected off Pascazio however Kelly recovered in the Gers goals to save.
HT: Rangers 3-0 Spartans
As the evening cold mist, combined with the remnants of the firework smoke across Glasgow, hovered above the ground, the second half got under way.
Spartans started off in lively fashion as they looked for a quick goal to find a way back into the game. Alex Imlah’s cross found the head of George Hunter inside the box however the striker’s attempt went wide.
Unfortunately for the visitors it was the home side who were next to score. Ryan Hardie got his 2nd of the night as he chipped a stranded Carswell from the edge of the box into the empty net.
Spartans refused to give up the fight even at 4-0 down & continued to offer spates of fine flowing football during a spirited second half showing.
A sweeping move from defence to attack finally saw Blair Aitkinson push the ball towards George Hunter, however any pace from his strike fizzled out as it rattled the legs of a retreating defender and ran into the welcoming hands of Kelly.
As the game entered it’s final stages, Spartans were unlucky not to get a goal as a reward for their efforts when Jamie Dishington slid the ball into the path of Hunter who saw his shot gather upward trajectory at the final moment and clear the crossbar.
Final Score: Rangers 4-0 Spartans
A valiant effort from Atkinson’s young men that earned the praises of the home back room staff whilst their performance enthused Spartans Team Manager Gary McClelland, “I thought the boys did the club proud against a very good Rangers team. We did not let our heads go down and were unlucky not to score which i felt our play in the 2nd half deserved.”