Lowland League: Forward thinking for Edinburgh Uni

Dan Ward has enjoyed playing in this season's Lowland League after making the step up from East of Scotland football in the summer
Dan Ward has enjoyed playing in this season's Lowland League after making the step up from East of Scotland football in the summer
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Edinburgh University have now faced all their Lowland League opponents since making the step up from the East of Scotland Premier League in the summer

And midfielder Dan Ward believes their report card so far is a satisfactory one. The students currently occupy 12th spot after 14 games, four points behind tomorrow’s opponents Gala Fairydean Rovers.

Renovation to their Peffermill ground meant Uni were on the road for their first seven games. While Ward doesn’t think they have always picked up the points their performances have merited, he says there is an air of contentment within the students’ dressing-room.

“Obviously we’d always like to do better, but I think we’re doing okay for our first season,” said the Newcastle-born player. “It’s a big step up and the standard has increased. I think we’re doing about how you’d expect a new team to do at this level. The pace of the game is quicker and you get found out if you make a mistake – you’re far more likely to get punished for it, which we’re still adjusting to.

“You make one or two mistakes in a game – you’re likely to lose one or two goals. There’s no leeway really.”

Despite that assertion, Dorian Ogunro’s team have performed admirably against the current top two. A last-minute equaliser earned a draw against Spartans in the inaugural game after East Peffermill opened, and a defensive lapse condemned them to a narrow 1-0 defeat away to Edinburgh City. However, the midfielder doesn’t consider either of their city rivals as the best they’ve faced this season.

“Going by our own results, I’d have to say Whitehill are the best team we’ve played. They were out of our league in that game [a 3-0 defeat]. We also played very well against Spartans and City but the league shows that City are the team to beat.”

Arguably the most impressive result of Uni’s season came in the Scottish Cup – a 2-2 draw away to Scottish Junior Cup winners Hurlford United. The Ayrshire outfit won the replay at the Pennypit comfortably, but Ward admitted he was keeping an eye on their cup progress, which was halted after a mammoth 13-12 penalty loss in last weekend’s replay with Stirling Albion.

“Hurlford did well – it’s good to see the team that put you out do well. It shows that we did something right in taking them to a replay. They were unlucky not to go through – it’s not nice to lose on pens, especially like that.”

Tomorrow’s game with Gala is the only Lowland League fixture taking place with the South Challenge Cup occupying several other sides, and Ward sees it as an opportunity to gain some ground on their opponents whilst also maintaining a gap on those below them.

“It’s a big month for us. We’ve got Gala this weekend, then Threave and Preston the two weeks after so it’s the first of three important games. They’re all at home and all very winnable games. We obviously want to take all nine points and we’ll be upset if we take anything less if I’m honest.

“We’ve been playing well so hopefully we can get a result that’ll let us catch up on the teams above us. We’re trying not to think too much about the teams behind us and concentrate on what we’re doing. We’re playing good football and the performances are there, but we’re not always getting the results. Hopefully we can turn that round this month starting with Gala.”