Lothian Thistle success gives boss a fixture headache

Lothian celebrate Daryl John Healys opener. Pic: Neil Hanna

Lothian celebrate Daryl John Healys opener. Pic: Neil Hanna

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Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale boss Raymond Carr has admitted he fears fatigue could scupper his side’s chances of winning silverware this season.

Having booked their place in the next month’s East of Scotland Cup final with a 2-0 victory over SPFL League Two outfit Berwick Rangers last Wednesday, the Capital side claimed their second scalp in 72 hours with victory over Whitehill Welfare by the same scoreline to secure a South Region Challenge Cup semi-final berth.

Lothian sit third top of the East of Scotland League, five points adrift of leaders Leith who have played a game more. However, the Saughton-based side are still active in four cup competitions and contest the Football Nation Qualifying Cup final against Spartans at Oriam on Sunday.

But, with so many fixtures to squeeze in between now and the end of May, Carr says he hopes his players don’t burn themselves out.

“Fatigue could be a big problem for us but how do I tell them that I’m going to take them out of the team?” Carr explained. “It’s a difficult one. It’s a scenario though I think a lot of teams would love to be in. Players want to be challenging for league titles and getting to the latter stages of cup competitions. We just need to keep going and I know the guys certainly don’t want to give in.

“The South Region is a big trophy so to win that one would be great because for a lot of the younger ones in the squad it’s been a few years since they were in a semi-final. To still be involved in so many competitions at this stage of the season is a big ask.

“It was a hard-fought victory over Whitehill. But I think the boys can take a lot of confidence from Saturday’s win and the Berwick result too.”

The visitors and last year’s winners were the more threatening in the opening 20 minutes, Daryl John Healy timing his run to perfection only to see his shot hit the side netting after goalkeeper Kevin Swain had thwarted the striker’s initial effort.

Ciaren Chalmers outmuscled his opponent but could’t keep his looping header under the crossbar from a sumptuous Robbie Dowie cross.

Willie Kidd then drew another fine stop from Swain before Scott Taylor-MacKenzie passed up Lothian’s best opportunity of the half when he blasted over from 20 yards following a gutsy run.

Lothian, though, were a different animal after the interval and edged in front just after the hour mark when Bob Baillie was dispossessed just outside his own 18-yard box and Sean Wringe showed his agility in turning his marker before sending a low shot beyond the reach of Bryan Young in the Whitehill goal.

Healy spurned the opportunity to restore party just 60 seconds later but scooped his effort over the crossbar.

But substitutes Jamie Devlin and James Guy combined to put the result beyond doubt with ten minutes remaining as the latter outpaced Kidd before applying the finish from 12 yards.

Whitehill manager David Bingham says his players must now focus on Wednesday night’s trip to Dalbeattie Star on league business.

“We were really done by a couple of moments of slackness,” he said. “I can’t fault the players’ efforts. We’ve still got to keep believing we can finish fourth in the league but we’ve got a ridiculous trip to Dalbeattie on Wednesday. You’ve got to question the mentality of the league to be honest. We’ll have a few missing due to work, including myself, but when you have that chance of finishing higher up the table, it’s not ideal as we can’t put out our strongest team.”

Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale: Swain, Moore, Benat (Sherlock 63), Crawford, Mungall, Brown, Muir, MacKenzie, Hare (Devlin 56), Wringe (Guy 76), O’Donnell. Subs: Moffat, Simpson, Munro

Whitehill Welfare: Young, Dodds, O’Hara, Kidd, Williams, Dowie (Kerr 70), Manson, Osborne, Chalmers, Chapman (Bailey 30), Healy. Subs: Robertson, Jamieson, Jardine