Spartans 2
Dumbarton 2
League 1 Play Offs (Final 2nd leg)


2 - 2


League 1 Play Offs (Final 2nd leg)
Friday, May 17th, 2024
Ainslie Park. Att. 2,281
7:30 PM Kick-off

Cameron Russell (3)
Blair Henderson (pen.) (90)
Michael Ruth (5)
Michael Ruth (53)

Team Managers
Dougie Samuel Stevie Farrell

Starting Eleven
Blair Carswell
Paul Watson
Callum Booth
Ayrton Sonkur
Kieran Watson
Cameron Russel;
James Craigen
Jamie Dishington
Bradley Whyte
Marc McNulty
Blair Henderson
Jay Hogarth
Sean Crighton
Mark Durnan
Gallagher Lennon
Cian Newbury
Tony Wallace
Finlay Gray
James Hilton
Kalvin Orsi
Carlo Pignatiello
Michael Ruth

Samuel Newman
Robbie Thompson
Mason McCready
Sam Jones
Danny Denhom
Rhys Armstrong
Josh Laing
Sean Brown
Jordan Tapping
Patrick O'Neil
Aron Lynas
Blair Malcolm
Ryan Blair
Aaron Healy
Callum Wilson
David Wilson
James Graham
Marc Kelly

Jordan Tapping for Paul Watson (56)
Rhys Armstrong for Kieran Watson (64)
Danny Denholm for Callum Booth (82)
Aron Lynas for Sean Crighton (25)
Blair Malcolm for James Hilton (70)
James Graham for Michael Ruth (78)
David Wilson for Kalvin Orsi (78)

Bradley Whyte (56)
James Craigen (87)
Michael Ruth (45)
Finlay Gray (90)
James Graham (90)

Red Cards
None. None.

Match Officials

Grant Irvine (Referee)
Gordon McCabe & Ross Nelson (Assistants)
Chris Fordyce (Fourth Official)

Match Report

Stevie Farrell hailed his promotion winning Sons, as they secured a return to the third tier.

After playoff heartbreak in the previous two seasons, Sons gave their fans a Friday night to remember in the capital sunshine - during a tense and pulsating final second leg with Spartans.

And delighted boss Farrell said his players had earned the right to play third tier football in the new season.

He said: “We’ve lost one game in 12. This group of players have been on a magnificent run. And we’ve thoroughly deserved it. We’ve played four games against tough opposition and come through that.

“I knew the two games with Spartans would be difficult. But we were absolutely excellent.

“We took the game to them. Our reaction to the early goal was brilliant and we were unlucky not to be in front at half-time. We started the second-half really well.

“When we got the lead I felt totally comfortable.

“It’s a magnificent achievement and they deserve it.

“When I came back to the club we had one signed player. Continuity is everything in football.

“The best teams in the lower leagues have continuity.

“When I came back there were some haters. People said I was too loyal to players.

“That’s not the case. Having consistency and continuity is vital to building the fabric of a football club.

“Now what we add will be important in terms of next season. We were speaking to players before the playoffs, we’ve got to get in early and make sure we do things right.

“I always knew the club would have to take a step back to go forward again and I’ve been proven right on that front.”

Farrell made just one change to the side which had defeated Spartans three days earlier, as Jinky Hilton replaced David Wilson.

In front of more than 2,200 fans packed into Ainslie Park, the hosts got off to a dream start - as they immediately drew level in the tie.

With just two minutes on the clock, Callum Booth’s cross was perfect for Cammy Russell, and the winger guided a header beyond Jay Hogarth and into the net.

Any fears that Dumbarton could crumble were instantly put to bed however, as they found the perfect response.

Jinky Hilton’s corner was met by the head of Sean Crighton, with Spartans keeper Blair Carswell parrying the veteran defender’s effort straight to Michael Ruth, who lashed into the net.

That looked to settle any nerves in the visitors ranks, with driving play from Hamilton loanee Cian Newbury forcing Carswell into an impressive stop as Sons went in search of an all-important second.

As the game reached the 20 minute mark however Dumbarton were dealt a blow - as injury forced Crighton off, and brought about a defensive reshuffle that saw Aron Lynas slot in at the centre of defence.

Chances for the rest of the first-half were at a premium following the change.

Finlay Gray was sent clear down the right by a clever pass, but could only fire right at Carswell - before Carlo Pignatiello’s superb delivery just evaded the diving Tony Wallace at the far post.

Having been stung by a goal early in the second-half in the first leg, Sons came out after the break looking like a side keen to put the tie to bed.

And they came close to doing that just three minutes into the second period.

Neat play from Michael Ruth set up Finlay Gray, who bent an effort beyond Carswell that cracked the inside of the post with the Spartans keeper saving Jinky Hilton’s rebound.

It was a warning sign the home side failed to heed.

With 53 minutes played Mark Durnan’s high ball was plucked out of the air by Michael Ruth, who charged beyond a series of white shirts before firing a terrific effort across Carswell and into the bottom corner of the net to give Sons a two goal buffer.

The forward almost had a hat-trick soon after, but glanced Hilton’s cross wide.

Only a timely Aron Lynas challenge then denied Spartans’ goalscorer Russell as he burst clear, denying the packed stadium a grandstand finale.

However there was still time for one last twist.

Gray tripped Rhys Armstrong in the box in the final minute of stoppage time, with Blair Henderson rolling beyond Jay Hogarth from the spot.

An agonising final minute of injury time passed without further drama however, with referee Grant Irvine’s whistle sparking both jubilation and relief from the 1000 or so travelling fans.

Match report written by Fraser Clarke

Squad Statistics (as at May 17th, 2024)

2023/24 All Time
Jay Hogarth (GK)20 22 - 22 -
Sean Crighton34 462462
Mark Durnan31 29 - 29 -
Gallagher Lennon18 211211
Cian Newbury18 23 - 23 -
Tony Wallace33 48168319
Finlay Gray22 4268512
James Hilton26 417417
Kalvin Orsi27 3711203
Carlo Pignatiello24 453865
Michael Ruth22 44154415
Aron Lynas (sub)28 332784
Blair Malcolm (sub)27 351351
David Wilson (sub)29 3821047
James Graham (sub)19 132132

League Table (as at May 17th, 2024)