Spartans 2-2 Dumbarton - Sons win promotion on Friday night to remember

Dumbarton players celebrate after a cinch League One Play-Off Final 2nd Leg match between The Spartans and Dumbarton at Ainslie Park, on May 17, 2024, in Edinburgh, Scotland.
It was a night to remember for the Sons squad - and the 1,000 or so fans who made the trip to the capital to cheer on their side. -Credit:SNS Group

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.

The Spartans 2-2 Dumbarton (SPFL League One Playoffs 2024, Dumbarton win 4-3 on agg): Michael Ruth levels for the Sons
After falling behind inside two minutes, Sons quickly drew level. -Credit:Lennox Herald

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 Spartans 2-2 Dumbarton (SPFL League One Playoffs 2024, Dumbarton win 4-3 on agg): Michael Ruth and the Sons players celebrate their second goal
Michael Ruth's superb solo effort put the Sons ahead on the night. -Credit:Lennox Herald

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.

Pick up a copy of this week's Lennox for full reaction from goal heroes Finlay Gray, Tony Wallace and Michael Ruth.