PROMOTION chasers Newtongrange Star host Oakley United in the Premier League tomorrow, with boss Alan Miller admitting he’s put his charges through “another pre-season” during the recent enforced break.
Star, craving one of four promotion spots to the Super League next term, haven’t played for three weeks due to the weather and Miller is unsure how his players will react as they return to action this weekend.
He said: “It can affect players differently. Some will look fresh, while others will be rusty after the enforced break.
“We’ve been training hard though, almost in pre-season mode.
“It’s been disappointing not to have had these games, but all the sides are facing the same problems.
“I don’t know if Oakley have had the chance of some friendly games, but we’re all in the same boat.
“Oakley will be contenders for a promotion spot while, here at Newtongrange, things are settling down now after a long period of change and the squad is bedding in nicely.
“We’re past the halfway stage in the league and it’s the sharp end of the season coming up.
“Any side putting a good run together between now and the end of the season will be in contention for promotion.
“I expect everyone to be fit and raring for the game tomorrow. Hopefully, the weather is kind to us and we can get a game of football.
“We’re second in the table and it’s up to the players to keep us there. They want to be back in the Super League just as much as the supporters and three points on Saturday would be nice.”
Tomorrow’s opponents were, until recently, a Super League side and they too would relish a step back upstairs. They are a side packed with experience with the Dair brothers, Jason and Lee, in charge and players like Ryan Blackadder in the squad.
Both Oakley and Newtongrange are desperate for three points to pile the pressure on big-spending Ballingry at the top of the league.
Elsewhere in the Premier League tomorrow, there is a derby between Armadale and Bathgate, who currently occupy third spot and will start firm favourites for the points.
Derek Strickland, the Bathgate boss, has assembled a squad to get back to the Super League after dropping out last season. Financially, Bathgate are not the force they once were but Strickland has gone about his business quietly and recent results are showing real progress on the field.
They face a tough test tomorrow, though, with Jim Henderson’s Armadale a strong outfit at home.