Gretna’s visit to Spartand more than just a landmark clash

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Spartans and Gretna 2008, first and second in the Central Taxis Premier Division, face each other at Ainslie Park, tomorrow

It will be Gretna 2008’s first-ever meeting with Spartans in Edinburgh since the club, which arose out of the ashes of former SPL club Gretna, joined the ranks of the East of Scotland League in the summer of 2008.

It is only six years ago that Gretna held Hearts to a 1-1 draw in the final of the Scottish Cup at Hampden Park in May 2006 and, with no further scoring in extra time, Hearts triumphed 4-2 on penalty kicks.

The reformed Gretna 2008 have quickly established themselves in the East of Scotland League and won the First Division last season and now they are up there challenging for the Premier Division title. It is a fact which has obviously not gone unnoticed by the Spartans co-manager, Sam Lynch, who said: “Gretna have proved, in their first season in the top flight, that they are no mugs having lost only one Premier Division game and we are now in mid March.”

Spartans have also lost only one game when they were beaten 3-2 by Edinburgh University at home two weeks ago although they bounced back last weekend to defeat Stirling University 3-2 in the quarter- finals of the League Cup. “That game against Stirling was a superb game at our level and it was as good as you will get,” added Lynch.

“There were two good sides on display playing football as it should be played. I was very impressed with Stirling and we were delighted to have won the game in which we were always ahead, although it could have gone either way with both teams creating chances. Overall, it was a great advert for the East of Scotland League.

“The game confirmed what we already knew about Stirling, they are a very good side and genuine challengers for the league title along with Gretna.”

Spartans played Gretna 2008 in the league at Raydale Park last September and returned to the Capital with a 5-1 victory. Lynch said: “When we beat them early in the season we were very good that day. The match started off very even then they had a player sent off and we took control a wee bit and the scoreline could have been more. Gretna, however, showed what they can do when they subsequently beat us 4-2 in the Image Printers Cup. They have talented individuals who can go forward and score goals.

“We have points in the bag but Gretna, like Stirling, will be challenging us for the league title. Tomorrow is a really important game for us so if we could get more points on the board then that would dent Gretna’s chances. They have, like us, lost only one league game so this is definitely a big match. I am always impressed by Gretna whose organisation and shape is good and they are a threat going forward.

“Tomorrow we will certainly be trying to score more goals than Gretna. To be fair, both Gretna and ourselves score a lot of goals so it could be a high scoring game. However, we have both also been losing goals recently which should lead to an exciting contest. This will be their first game on the synthetic surface and they will really enjoy coming to Edinburgh. They are a dangerous team and we will need to be on our toes to try and make sure that we take all three points.”

Gretna 2008 boss Stuart Rome can reflect on an away record which is second to none. They have not been beaten in the league away from home since April 10, 2010 – almost two years – when they lost 1-0 to Stirling University in a First Division game. “Records and statistics don’t interest me,” stressed Rome. “I just concentrate on one game at a time and tomorrow against Spartans I would like to go to Ainslie Park and avoid defeat. It would be a mean feat because we have a small seniors squad in which we involve some of our Under-19 players which is paramount to the success of our club. When we were promoted at the end of last season all I wanted was to survive in the Premier Division and honestly, that is still our aim.

“Spartans’ whole squad is different class and we regularly want to play against them and for us to develop as a club. Hopefully we can put on a show tomorrow and come away with what we deserve.”

Gretna will be without two key players, David Renyard and John Jardine, who are both suspended, while Spartans have injury doubts surrounding Gavin Malin and Daniel O’Donnell although leading goalscorer Keith Mcleod is fully fit.

Admission charges are £5.00 for adults and £2.00 for concessions with the game kicking off at 3.00pm.