Grant Carnie and his assistant, former Hearts star Kevin Twaddle, were thrust into the jobs of managing and coaching Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale only days before the new season started and, after an indifferent start, their recent run of five successive wins has seen them move up the Central Taxis Premier Division table.
Lothian Thistle finished last season third bottom, avoiding relegation by two points, while Carnie and Twaddle led Whitehill Welfare to a third-place finish and also lifted the East of Scotland League Cup, Whitehill’s first silverware in four seasons.
A new challenge beckoned for the dynamic duo and Lothian Thistle fitted the bill perfectly although their opening games in the league saw them lose to Stirling University twice (0-3 and 0-1), Spartans (0-1) and Gretna 2008 (1-2). However, disappointed as Carnie was to lose these matches, he was not too despondent. “To be fair, three of the games were against the two teams who finished joint top of the Premier Division last season while the other was away from home against a very good Gretna side,” said Carnie. “Apart from that first game against Stirling the others could have gone either way.”
Last Saturday, Lothian to beat Gala Fairydean in the Borders 2-0 to reach the semi-finals of the Image Printers Cup. “We started really well and took the game to Gala in the opening 25 minutes by knocking the ball about well on their excellent 3G surface and took an early lead through Alan McDonaugh. Gala then came into the game and their young side worked hard, but again we started the second half well and Craig Stevenson scored our second goal.
“That gave us our five wins in a row and I have to thank Kevin and our fitness coach, Mike McQuire, both of whom have a massive influence on the team. Everybody connected with the club is thoroughly enjoying themselves at present.”
Lothian face another important Premier Division game tomorrow when they host Preston Athletic at Saughton Enclosure and Carnie is well aware of the threat that the Prestonpans club poses. “They have done really well under David Bingham and Stevie Adamson, two guys who I know want their team to play football.
“They were unlucky at the very beginning of the season although they have improved and it will be a tough game because, like ourselves, they will be determined to win and pick up all three points. We have passed teams off the park recently so hopefully Saughton Enclosure will be in good condition to enable us to play football.”
Carnie has been well served by central defender Matt Costello who he signed from Preston and he has formed a dependable partnership with Richie Wilkes, while another experienced campaigner, Greg McColl, has slotted into midfield with Alan McDonaugh and Craig Stevenson being major contributors in goalscoring terms.
“We have a good blend of youth and experience and tomorrow we will all go right to the end to try to pick up all three points,” added Carnie.
Preston, meanwhile, are only one point behind Lothian and a win could lift them into the top half of the table after some good performances in recent weeks. “We beat Tynecastle 3-1 in what was a vitally important game with our goalkeeper Liam Robertson playing particularly well,” said the Preston manager, David Bingham. “We then beat Edinburgh University 2-0 to record our first home victory and our first clean sheet of the season. That got us off the bottom of the league and although we have since been beaten by Civil Service Strollers it was a game that I thought we controlled and played very well for large parts of it.
“This is a tight league and we now need to move on to tomorrow and Lothian Thistle who, like ourselves, have had some good and not so good results. We need to be at the top of our abilities. We have to be clinical by scoring the chances we create and standing firm at the back. Players need to show me what they are capable of doing because the standards that I demand are very high.”
Bingham has signed experienced defender Brian Foster along with Gary Bennett and Chris Inglis. “I’m still looking for more players to give me the perfect squad,” concluded Bingham.
The action kicks off at Saughton Enclosure at 1.30pm with admission £4.00 for adults and £2.00 for concessions.