Friday 28th March 2014 ko 20.00
East of Scotland Amateur Cup Semi-Final
TOLCROSS THISTLE 1 (Perry 43)
STEINS THISTLE 2 (Lynn 46, M Kane 61)
Att 148 at Ainslie Park, Edinburgh
North of the border the football is split 3 ways, Senior, Junior and Amateur, and there’s very little cross-over. You get some clubs in one section that could easily play in what is, in theory, the higher level, and especially the case of the Seniors, the converse also holds.
This fixture felt like it had a foot in two camps. Ainslie Park is the new home of Senior side The Spartans, replacing their old ground City Park, just across the road in 2008. Its part of a much larger leisure complex including a swimming pool, 2nd full-sized pitch, and a huge clubhouse. The 3,000 capacity stadium is easily compliant with SPFL ground-grading, let alone the Lowland League that is Spartans new competition this season. It really doesn’t take much imagination to see The Spartans taking full advantage of next season’s change of rules that will see the winners of the Highland and Lowland Leagues play off for the right to play-off against the bottom side in SPFL League 2 for the right to take that the last spot in that league. I wonder if Gretna’s implosion in 2008 had happened after Spartans move here instead of just after, would Spartans be in the SPFL, rather than Annan Athletic who won the bidding process?
One piece of Ainslie Park’s design did appeal. The 500-seat stand has its back to the wind and on a cold night it was a good place to shelter. The fixture saw Lothians Amateur Leaguers Tolcross take on Bonnybridge near Falkirk-based Steins of the Central Scotland Amateur League. I had no idea what to expect, and was very pleasantly surprised. In fact the real problem the for most of the first half the two sides were good enough to utterly cancel each other out. Eventually Tolcross’ forward Adam Perry nipped through just before the break to open the scoring and that set the tone for the rest of the game.
Steins caught Tolcross completely cold at the restart, a neat through ball produced an equally adept finish from John Lynn, and the game opened up nicely with both sides having chances to take the tie. Perhaps extra-time would have been fair, but after a 6 hour journey I was happy to see the tie finished in 90 minutes, Steins’ Mike Kane firing home just after the hour mark to reach the final where they’ll play either Braehead or Slamannan. I just wish I could make either or both fixture; on the evidence of this game, they’d be well worth attending!