East Kilbride FC v Spartans
Irn Bru Challenge Cup - R1
East Kilbride take on Spartans in Round 1 of the Irn Bru Scottish challenge cup on Wednesday night at K-Park.
With a whole host of potential SPFL first teams and Colts sides available in the draw, ironically two of the Lowland League heavyweights were draw together to fight for a place in Round 2!
The heroics of Spartans in the Bet Fred Cup may have been responsible for an unusually slow start to the season for the Pilton men, with two league draws in the first two games, but Dougie Samuel’s troops appear to have recaptured their menacing form, with impressive back to back wins over Vale of Leithen and Dalbeattie Star.
Kilby have made a very solid start too, also with wins over Vale and Dalbeattie, and impressive victories over Selkirk and BSC Glasgow, to storm into 1st spot in the Lowland League table with a 100% record.
The club’s on three occasions last season, and it was Kilby who came out on top in all encounters. Ultimately Spartans would go on to secure the Lowland League title, but nobody at K-Park could fault Kilby in in their head-to-head encounters with the eventual champions.
A 1-0 K-Park win in November, and a 2-0 triumph at Ainslie Park in February gave EK a maximum 6-point edge in the League encounters, and Billy Stark’s men followed it up with a 1-0 win in the semi-final of the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup in April.
EK took all 3-points in the Lowland League meeting at K-Park in November, after Kieran Gibbons found the head of Scott Stevenson, whose headed pass was flashed home by the predatory McNeil on the half-hour, for the only goal of the game.
The second League meeting at Ainslie Park in February was also deemed as a “must-win” from Kilby perspective, after a disappointing December, and EK went into the game boosted by the acquisition of Craig Malcolm who had joined on loan from Alloa days before.
And Malky would play a key part in the game, opening the scoring on the hour after a Strachan cross. With the home side pushing men forward in the pursuit of an equaliser, Kilby killed the game off 8 minutes from time, when Ross McNeil produced some sublime skill to weave his way in from the by-line before curling a fine left foot shot into the corner to claim the points.
The sides met for the last time in 2017/18 when EK again visited Ainslie Park in April. EK handed a defensive debut to 17-year old Edin Lynch, and the young defender did not disappoint, putting in a fine show beside Craig Howie as the game remained goal-less going into the last quarter.
The deadlock was then broken by what turned out to be the winning goal on 68 minutes, and unsurprisingly it was Craig Malcolm who got it, bulleting home a flick on from Bryan Prunty to book Kilby a spot in the final of the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup
Both East Kilbride and Spartans had exciting times in the Irn Bru Cup of 2017/18.
Kilby were handed a glamour Round 1 tie with a visit to St Mirren, and Billy Stark’s men came within 5 minutes of the most famous result in club history. Jacob Kean produced heroics in the EK goal, saving everything thrown at him by an excellent Saints side, before Dom McLaren headed home against the run of play on 80 minutes to make it 1-0 to Kilby. Just as it started to look like Kilby could shock the Saints, Ross Stewart levelled on 87 minutes, and the outstanding Lewis Morgan broke EK hearts with a stoppage time winner.
Spartans had a more unconventional tournament, achieving a very credible 0-0 draw at Albion Rovers after extra-time, before going down 5-4 on penalties. However, a Rovers office admin error meant that Liam McGuigan was not eligible to play in the match, and the result was overturned, with Spartans progressing after an SPFL disciplinary hearing.
The Edinburgh men were then drawn at home to Irish outfit Linfield, making it a busy day with a large visiting crowd seeing their side run out 2-1 winners, with Blair Atkinson on target for Spartans who again competed well against a very good Linfield side.
Highlight from last season’s League encounters between East Kilbride and Spartans can be found via the EKFCtv links below:
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