Vale of Leithen 1
EoS PREMIER DIVISION
DAVE RYCE reports from Ainslie Park
Things turned full circle as Robbie Horn took charge of Vale for the 51st, and last, time at the venue he made his debut as manager.
Like then, this was a defeat at the hands of the league leaders, on this occasion largely attributable to a first half that saw Spartans take a three-goal lead to have the win all but sewn up by half-time.
The capital side pushed forward from the whistle and took the lead after just five minutes as Omar Kader chipped a cross from the left and captain Robbie Manson rose unchallenged to glance a header into the far corner.
Shortly afterwards Keith McLeod rattled the crossbar with a volley, but the city side had to wait until the 36th minute for their second, when Ali MacKinnon headed a Dean Hoskins corner into the net.
Spartans’ keeper Chris Flockhart finally started to see some action, coming out well to claim a free kick floated into the area by Jamie Lauder. Another Lauder free kick was only half cleared and fell to Vale captain Paul Lee at the edge of the area, who hit a fizzing volley on target, only to be met by a tremendous save by the Spartans number one.
But with five minutes of the first half remaining, Spartans took a three-goal lead when an Anderson shot took a wicked deflection to wrong-foot Vale keeper Chris Hill, who could do nothing to prevent the ball from crossing the line.
In the sides’ Qualifying League meeting on the opening day of the season at Victoria Park, Vale had clawed back a two-goal half-time Spartans lead for a draw, but a second-half recovery from three goals down on Spartans’ own patch looked unlikely.
Even so, Vale showed a much better appetite for the game in the second period and pulled a goal back on 57 minutes. Scott Moffat was hauled down just outside the area by Kevin Sivewright and Lauder stepped up to superbly curl the resulting free kick over the wall and in off the bar.
A second goal may have induced some concern among the Spartans ranks, but although chances fell to substitute Steven Radzynski and John Ferguson, in truth the defending champions never really looked likely to surrender their advantage.
Vale of Leithen: C. Hill, C. Beaton, R. McKenzie, J. Paterson, P. Lee, P. Greenhill (S. Robertson), S. Sproule (S. Radzynski), J. Lauder (S. Devlin), S. Moffat, J. Ferguson, J. Hall.