Feb 27 2013 By Graeme Crawford
Spartans 0 Stirling University 2
Stirling University’s trophy cabinet has been crammed with silverware in recent years and on Saturday they took a step closer to adding to that impressive haul.
They were up against old foes Spartans in the Image Printers Cup semi-final and stunned their hosts with an early goal.
Welshman Craig Mason was the scorer when he got his head to a cross from Rob Pearson and the ex-Cardiff City forward was clinical with the first chance of the game.
Lee Nichol had the chance to increase the lead soon after Paul Sludden was fouled on the edge of the area, but Nichol scooped the resultant effort over the bar.
Spartans began to settle into the game after the early setback and Keith McLeod forced clearances, first from Creag Robertson and then from the centre-half pairing of Jason Atkins and James Drummond as the home side looked to find an equaliser.
However, Robertson was creating numerous opportunities for the away side and one diagonal ball was put just over by Sludden.
Facing a team who have recorded 73 goals across their campaign, Stirling restricted their free-scoring opponents and their only opportunities came from set-pieces which the student side defended well.
Spartans came out with intent after the half-time break with Kevin Motion putting an early free-kick into the wall. The defence managed to clear the ball from danger.
Both teams introduced a substitute on the hour mark with Jacob Arnold-Smith replacing Robertson and Willie Bremner on for Donal Henretty.
It was Stirling’s replacement who almost made an immediate impact as he fired in a curling effort which was dealt with well by Flockhart in the Spartans goal.
However the students did increase their lead minutes later through ex-Falkirk playmaker Nichol.
Pearson’s free-kick was headed out to the edge of the area and Nichol’s powerful strike was too much for Flockhart as he couldn’t get enough of a hand on the ball to keep it out. It had been a close game but the University had edged the better-quality chances and deserved to be ahead.
Both goalkeepers traded superb one-handed saves, which proved crucial as the game entered its final stage.
Sludden was first brilliantly denied by Flockhart from a 25-yard strike and then Kevin Walker in the Stirling goal somehow kept the ball out as Jack Beesley had the goal at his mercy.
The final 10 minutes saw Spartans try to force a way back into the game but Stirling’s defence held firm with Atkins in particular making block after block to continually frustrate the Edinburgh attack.The students will meet Gretna 2008 in the final.
Stirling University: Walker, Nixon, Sheridan, Atkins, Drummond, Nichol, Dale (McKee), Robertson (Arnold-Smith), Mason (Burns), Sludden, Pearson.