Vale OF LEITHEN face Central Taxis Premier Division league leaders Spartans tomorrow but manager Robbie Horn is not worried by the prospect of going 29 points behind the Edinburgh club.
Success in cup competitions has seen the Borders club fitting in just three league games so far this term, and winning two of them.
“It is really frustrating that we are having to play catch-up football in the league because of our cup runs coupled with replays and postponements,” said Horn. “We have played only three league games while Spartans have played ten.
“Obviously we were pleased to get a good run in the Scottish Cup although it would also have been nice to be up there challenging. Several teams have the points on the board and it is now a big task to catch up with them. However, we did go on an 11 game unbeaten run earlier in the season so we now need to repeat that.
“I personally believe that we are one of the better sides in the league but we now have to go on and prove that to all observers. I want us to win five or six games on the trot to really get into contention. I know for sure that we have the players capable of doing just that.”
Horn thinks Spartans now have an advantage over all the other clubs in the league because of their home at Ainslie Park. “The facility that Spartans have must be a huge advantage. They never miss training because of trying to find a suitable venue during the winter and their home games are always going to be on. That puts pressure on all the other teams but to be fair to Spartans they deserve credit for having the foresight to achieve what they have already done.
“We have used their facilities to our advantage by playing two games at Ainslie Park during the festive period and we really appreciate the opportunity to play there. It was great to get competitive action when otherwise we would have missed out.”
Horn is bringing an experienced squad to Edinburgh including midfielder Paul Greenhill who is very much an unsung hero in the Vale line-up. “Greenhill has a fantastic attitude towards training and playing games, he is reliable in everything he does and he just goes about his business in a professional manner. Andy Martin has also been very impressive and consistent this season. Martin is incredibly fit, has pace and ability, and is hard working while at the centre of defence Ricky Miller has been outstanding. He is comfortable with the ball at his feet and is aggressive in the air.”
Horn is also keen to appreciate the efforts of young Scott Moffat. “Scott came to us as a quiet lad with loads of undoubted talent. He really works for the team and is coming out of his shell a little bit.”
Turning his attention to tomorrow’s encounter, Horn added: “We drew 2-2 with Spartans in an earlier League Cup tie when we were two down and looked out of contention although we got back into the game and in the latter stages we certainly could have won.
“Spartans are an excellent team and if we want to beat them then I need our players to believe, perform on the day and work hard. Spartans lost some important players during the summer including Ross Archibald, Alex King and Chris Townsley and although they have brought in other players it takes time for a team to settle.
“We are going to Ainslie Park confident of beating Spartans although we know it will not be easy.”
Vale will be without Liam McKenna who was on loan from Newtongrange Star but who has been recalled.
Spartans co-manager Mike Lawson totally appreciates that at present the league table makes false reading. “If Vale win all of their games in hand they would go one point ahead of us. Vale are under the radar at the moment and their league position is false. I have watched them twice in the past two weeks on our own surface and they are a really good team. Having played on our pitch they will be really well prepared.
“We have some decisions to make regarding who our central defensive partnership might be and Jack Beesley is unlikely to be fit. We must start better than we did in our last game against Civil Service Strollers and our players must be up for the game straight from the kick-off.”
The action starts at Ainslie Park at 2pm with admission prices, adults £5 and concessions £2.