Haddington boss Harvey relishing Linlithgow battle

Haddington are going well under Johnny Harvey. Pic: Greg Macvean
Haddington are going well under Johnny Harvey. Pic: Greg Macvean
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Johnny Harvey and Danny Smith enjoyed a battle or two on the pitch in their playing days, but tomorrow afternoon the two managers will renew their duel from the sidelines.

South Division leaders Haddington Athletic host Super League heavyweights Linlithgow in the second-round of the Junior Cup and Hi-Hi boss Harvey is looking forward to pitting his wits against Rose’s former captain.

As a young 19-year-old striker Harvey came up against centre-midfielder Smith when he played for Bonnyrigg Rose and remembers the matches fondly.

He said: “I remember a few tussles that we had – sometimes we’d [Bonnyrigg] come out on top and sometimes Linlithgow did, but they were really enjoyable games to play in.

“He was Mr Linlithgow and even now some of the fans still hold him in that regard.

“He was a tough competitor on the pitch and you knew you were in a game when you played against him. I expect his team to be very similar.”

Haddington will be hoping to bounce back from their first defeat of the season in the South Division last weekend – a 4-1 defeat to Lochgelly Albert – after the Millfield side had won eight and drawn one of their opening nine games in the league.

Tomorrow’s match is a “welcome distraction” for Harvey, who played for Rose’s rivals Bo’ness United latterly in 2013 before moving into management, but with seven of their usual starting XI out injured, they could be in for a tough afternoon.

Goalkeeper Derek Polowyj was ruled out on Tuesday night after picking up a nasty leg injury at training and he joins a lengthy injury list which includes captain Chris Gray and vice-captain Michael Fairnie.

Recent signing Paul Tansey, who joined on loan from Newtongrange Star won’t be available as he is cup-tied after appearing for Nitten in their first-round tie against Scone.

Harvey says their replacements will play without pressure, with Haddington not expected to get a result – and at the same time those fringe players could force themselves into his plans, with many having had little game time so far.

“I’ve not enjoyed the build-up as much as I should’ve because I’m worried about my squad and players being injured,” said Harvey. “We should be going into the game looking to enjoy it. There is no pressure on us, at the end of the day we are expected to get beat. It’s up to our boys to go out and see how well we can do.

“Linlithgow are expected to come here and win whatever team we put out, so there is no pressure on my players at all.

“There have been guys who have been patient over the last seven-eight weeks and their chance might come on Saturday. It’s up to them to go and grasp the opportunity.”

Former Edinburgh United boss Harvey is delighted with the way his squad performed since he took over after leaving last year’s South Division champions in June. It is their attitude and professionalism which he has been impressed with most. And, with Rose coming tomorrow, Harvey has a lot of respect for the Prestonfield club, which he believes Haddington could learn a lot from.

“I’ve got huge respect for Linlithgow as a club. Looking from the outside, the way it is run I would say it’s the perfect junior club with the supporters they’ve got and their players who act with the upmost professionalism,” he said.

“That’s the type of thing I aspire too – that’s what I demand from my players. I want Haddington to be a club like Linlithgow; they are the benchmark for me. I’ve been delighted with the way my players have reacted to me since I’ve come in. I’ve had a great response from them and tomorrow is just about enjoying it. “

Linlithgow may rest several of their players who are carrying knocks ahead of their William Hill Scottish Cup third-round tie at home to Raith Rovers next weekend. Francis Kelly came off with a groin injury in their win over Carnoustie Panmure last weekend and isn’t likely to be risked, while midfielders Andy Shirra and Ruari MacLennan are both still injured. Blair Batchelor returns after being on holiday.