OUR CUP RUNNETH OVER
After last week’s enforced absence it’s back to action tomorrow for The Dream Team. The Lowland takes a back seat though as the next two weeks are taking up with more cup games. First up is our third different cup of the season when we play host to The Spartans FC (to give them their full name) in the Football Nation Qualifying Cup First Round with the dubious 'reward' of a visit to BFKH in Round Two awaiting the victors. Spartans will be beginning the defence of the trophy they win in May for the second time.
According to their preview of the game Spartans are heading over Hadrian's Wall for the game so they must be coming the long way round.
Not to be confused with the South Region Challenge Cup which replaced the Scottish Qualifying Cup (South), the Football Nation Qualifying Cup was previously known as the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup. While the Scottish Qualifying Cup was for qualification for the Scottish Cup, the EOS Qualifying Cup, in latter years, was for qualification to play Edinburgh City or ourselves in the semi-finals of the East of Scotland (City) cup semi-finals. Clearly lower league knock-out cups were a Byzantine affair with an awful lot of qualifying cups for further cups. The system has been cleaned up but we still have Qualifying Cups where it appears we have nothing to qualify for. I will qualify that comment by saying I assume we are not trying to qualify for the right to play ourselves in a semi-final of a different competition (though that might be one way of guaranteeing a win, on penalties no doubt).
Anyway, to tomorrow where Spartans, as they shall be known from here, travel down the road from Edinburgh for what is a relatively familiar venue for them. It’s probably fair to say that off all the teams in the Lowland apart from Shire they are the most familiar to Berwick fans. Partly through the aforementioned EOS/City Cup and the Scottish Cup. Spartans are the current holders of the FNQC and have won and it’s previous iteration 9 times since 1983/84.
We first met in the Scottish Cup back in 2005/2006 when we lost 1-0 in Edinburgh on a miserable November Saturday at a time when we were top of the Third. The last meeting in the Scottish Cup was in 2014/15 when we won a replay at Shielfield thanks to a Darren Lavery goal following a 1-1 draw in Edinburgh. In 2016/17 we suffered a 3 – 0 home defeat in the Challenge Cup.
Spartans were quite possibly the best known of the non-league sides on the senior side of things. They won the East of Scotland League nine times between 1971/72 and 2011/12 and being runners-up six times. In 2008 they applied to join the League when Gretna left and to the surprise of many they lost out to Annan. They joined the Lowland League when it was set up in 2013/14 and won the title in the first year and again in 2017/18. Their worst position has been fifth in 2014/15.
Current manager Dougie Samuel has been in post since 2012 and goalkeeping coach is Steve Ellison who has had a couple of coaching spells at Shielfield. Familiar faces in their line up are Dean Hoskins and Michael Bolochoweckyj (surprisingly Bolo only made 20 appearances for us - it seems like he was there longer).
So far this season Spartans have lost at home to BSC and had a couple of 2 - 0 wins at home to Edinburgh Uni and away to Gala FR. The suggestions at the beginning of the season were that they may not be the force they have been in the past though whether this is because other teams have caught up with them rather than they have slipped back. Reports from Gala indicated that Galahad the better of the game for large periods but failed to take advantage. All eyes at the moment are on 16 year old Nicky Reid who scored a lovely goal having come on as as sub and set up the injury time second.
The Dream Team will be working with the same squad with Jack Wright an Euan Smith still missing will Osei will serve the first match of his suspension.
The game will be decided on the day with extra-time and penalties if necessary.