Coldstream’s bid to reach a cup final for the first time in 16 years came up short at Ainslie Park, where a Davey Stewart hat-trick helped Spartans EoS to a deserved victory.
The Streamers didn’t give up without a fight, however, coming back from two down at half time when Axel Cassard crossed for John Crawford to fire home his 30th goal of the season.
Coldstream pushed forward in search of an equaliser, Crawford and Luke Strangeways both going close. The last throw of the dice was made with six minutes left when a defender was taken off to add another striker, but the gamble backfired when Spartans broke away to score twice in the last few minutes.
Coldstream went into the game without several key men due to a combination of suspension, unavailibility and injury. Four changes were made to the team who beat Kelso United the previous week, with Axel Cassard, Phil Johnson, Jamie Dickson and John Crawford all brought into the starting line-up.
Dickson was originally listed as a substitute, but just two minutes before kick-off he found himself in the starting XI when the referee refused to allow Jack Hay to take to the field with a nose ring. It meant a hasty reshuffle to starting line-up was required in the tunnel - hardly ideal prepaertion for a semi-final.
The Streamers, aiming to reach a final for the first time since losing to Annan Athletic at Netherdale in 1999, made a steady start to the game despite the enforced change to the team at the last minute.
Spartans, however, had more of the ball and Mark Walters made a couple of important saves to keep the score at 0-0. Coldstream threatened from set pieces, with Crawford and Dickson both dangerous in the air.
The breakthrough for Spartans came on the half hour when Coldstream gave the ball away cheaply from their own throw-in just inside the Spartans half on the left. One pass put Davey Stewart straight through one-on-one and he finished well.
The home side doubled their lead a few minutes later with an attack down the right. A superb cross to the near post and an equally impressive run and header low into the corner gave Mark Walters no chance.
Coldstream made a change at half time, Arnaud Gauthier replacing Regan Graham in midfield. The Streamers made a positive start to the second half, with Dickson, Gauthier, Kristian Neill and Kris O’Neil imposing themselves in midfield.
Crawford goal just after the hour came from Cassard’s low cross from the left. The striker found space and controlled well eight yards out before blasting his right-foot shot into the net.
Buoyed by the goal, Streamers had their tails up and pressed forward in the search for an equaliser. But half chances for Crawford and Strangeways didn’t come to anything. As time began to run out Coldstream resorted to long balls directed towards the head of dangerman Crawford in an attempt to unlock the home defence.
Left-back Cassard was replaced by midfielder Jake Rutherford to push Neill up into attack as Coldstream went for broke six minutes from time.
But with three at the back, it meant the Streamers were vulnerable to the counter attack. From a breakaway in the 89th minute, a Spartans striker shot over the bar from 12 yards before being brought down from behind by Rudy McLeod. Although the chance was missed, the referee penalised McLeod for the late challenge by pointing to the spot and Stewart scored to complete his hat-trick.
The penalty killed off the tie as a contest, but Andy Howatt rubbed salt in Streamers wounds by grabbing the fourth deep into injury time from a rebound after Walters had parried a shot.
The two late goals were cruel on Coldstream after a spirited second-half performance. But overall, Spartans deserved their win.
Coldstream: M Walters, R McLeod, A Cassard (J Rutherford 84), Marc, Johnson, Graham (Gauthier 45), Dickson, Neill, Crawford, O’Neil, Strangeways. Subs not used: Oliver, Levy-Gorgeot, Hay.