Hartstown Huntstown 3 , Spartak 2
With a squad depleted by injuries and absentees it was not the ideal day for players selected at numbers 8,9, and 10 not to put in an appearance. Bad Form, Messrs Hanratty, Malone and Doran. With Paul Kinsella and Neil McGowan out injured, and Martin Costello, Seamus McCahill, Fergus Burke and Dave Browne otherwise engaged, the missing trio made it nine players out and placed an unbearable final strain on resources.
Evans Sarpong, who responded at short notice and Jason Northey, renewing his outfield career, started on the wings, with Mick Greene and Shea McClafferty, also responding to calls, arriving as substitutes.
So not the perfect preparation to meet the unbeaten league leaders on their own turf.
Far from being cowed or overrun, the Spartak outfit put in a compelling performance, with stellar contributions from several players,aided by a hard working supporting cast, and were unfortunate not to gain at least a share of the spoils.
Stuart Love, playing centrally, had one of his finest performances, tirelessly closing men down and finding time to set up attacks.
Spartak had seen a Steve Grier throw deflected on to the bar before the home side found their feet and a lack of cover saw Hartstown take the lead on the counter before a towering header from Steve Grier, who powered in a Steve Walsh free, equalised for the Sky Blues, following a foul on Dave Kernan.
The second goal for Hartstown stemmed form a free kick harshly awarded against Evans Sarpong (it was a dive) and Kevin Loftus was clearly nudged as the ensuing cross floated into the far corner.
Close things then for both sides as Hartstown had a goal ruled out and a flick on by Jason Northey rolled harmlessly across an unguarded Hartstown goal. A fine pass by Evans Sarpong sent Steve Walsh through only to be foiled by a combination of defender and keeper.
The second half saw some fine football by both sides in an open contest.
A typically persistent Stuart Love sent Steve Walsh in for a shot but he pulled it wide. Then Ken Buckley and Steve Walsh combined but the cross was just ahead of Mick Leslie, arriving at the far post.
A foul by Dave Kernan led to a third for the home side, with Kevin Loftus getting no marks for defensive wall construction following the ensuing free kick.
Dave Kernan, although handicapped by having goals nicked from him by Neil McGowan, scored for the third game in a row to be joint top scorer; not bad for a right back. On this occasion he coolly beat the keeper from close range after Mick Leslie had headed the ball down to him.
Mick Greene’s first time pass gave Steve Walsh the opportunity to set up Steve Grier, but he shot first time and wide from the edge of the box , when a touch might have made sure.
A fantastic piece of skill by Steve Walsh gave Mick Leslie a chance from a narrow angle on the right, but the keeper blocked at the expense of a corner.
As the Sky Blues went all out for an equaliser, some gaps at the back were inevitable , abut after the local forward knocked the ball past Kevin Loftus, David Kernan, racing back towards goal, made a near miraculous clearance on the line, somehow lifting the ball up and on to the top of the bar and over.
A final flurry by Spartak saw a Stu Love cross evade the attackers and then Karl McCullough had a fierce shot blocked before Steve Grier fired the rebound over.
Heartbreak for a brave showing by those who were there.
Kevin Loftus 5 David Kernan 8 Aodhan McCahill 7 Steve Grier 8 Karl McCullough 7 Stuart Love 9 Mick Leslie 6 Jason Northey 6 Ken Buckley 6 Evans Sarpong 6 Steve Walsh 8
Subs: Mick Greene 6 Shea McClafferty 6
No Shows – Niall Hanratty , Adam Doran, Lee Malone