Spartans Reserves 1-1 Coldstream

Coldstream centre-back Michael Allan put in a towering performance.
Coldstream centre-back Michael Allan put in a towering performance.
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Three days after the resignation of Neil Oliver as manager, a threadbare Coldstream team showed “great character and commitment” to pick up a valuable point at Ainslie Park.

With caretaker manager Phil Johnson listed as the only substitute and several players carrying knocks, the Streamers were down to the bare bones. But they dug deep as a team to come from behind after being on the back foot for most of the first half.

Spartans were 1-0 up at half time, but John Crawford equalised from close range on the hour and then hit the post as Coldstream applied late pressure in an attempt to snatch an unlikely winner.

Johnson said: “The lads showed great character and commitment. I’m proud of them. It is a difficult place to come at the best of times, but particularly when you’ve lost your manager and there are so many players missing.

“Some of the lads were carrying knocks and others were not fully fit, so to come from a goal down and get a point was a very good result.”

Dean Powling returned to the starting line-up at right-back, while midfielder Regan Graham was asked to fill in at left-back.

Sean Simpson returned in the centre of midfield in his first appearance in over a month due to an ankle injury, while Craig Heugh was handed his first start in over a year following his recent recovery from a broken collar bone.

In attack, Stuart Coyle started despite a tight hamstring and John Crawford was carrying a back strain. But with a long injury list already, there were no other options for Johnson, who had to list himself on the bench as an emergency substitute.

Spartans dominated territory and possession in the first half, but Coldstream kept a good shape and defended well.

The home side were restricted to long-range shots from outside the box and crosses which, for the most part, were dealt with comfortably by goalkeeper Mark Walters and outstanding centre-backs Kieran Ainslie and Michael Allan.

But just when it seemed as though Spartans were running out of ideas, they found an opening. It came on the half hour from a wicked cross whipped in from the right. Although Walters made a great save to stop the first header, Jamie Dishington pounced on the rebound to slot home from close range.

Spartans deserved their lead for monopolising possession. But the goal forced Coldstream to be more adventurous in an attempt to get something out of the game.

The Streamers made a positive start to the second half and grabbed an equaliser on the hour when a corner fell into the path of an unmarked Crawford at the back post and he made no mistake by firing into the net from four yards.

With Stuart Coyle’s hamstring injury getting worse, he was immediately replaced by Johnson before play restarted.

Had their been another sub, Sean Simpson would have been next. But he moved up front instead so that he could battle on and see out the 90 minutes.

At the back, Ainslie and Allan remained solid and Walters pulled off a terrific save to keep the score at 1-1. But despite tiring, Coldstream pressed forward in the last 20 minutes, Heugh cutting in from the left to cause the home defence problems.

As the game stretched, Crawford headed against the post and Coldstream created other half chances. But Spartans also had more space to threaten too.

In the end, Coldstream were happy to take a point.

Coldstream: Walters, Powling, Graham, Allan, Ainslie, S Simpson, Rutherford, Hebdon, Crawford, Coyle (Johnson 61), Heugh.