Prior to a ball being kicked in this season’s Lowland League, Spartans were tipped by many to be the frontrunners in the race for the inaugural league title.
So far, those people’s estimations are fully justified, albeit, at this stage, Gretna 2008 are the club positioned at the summit of the league table and ahead of the Ainslie Park side on goal difference.
Nevertheless, veteran striker Keith McLeod, who is now in his 13th season with the Capital club, believes the squad are fully embracing their favourites tag, but is expecting a whole host of twists and turns before the medals are handed out next May.
“We’re happy with where we are, as I think all the other sides sitting around us are as well,” McLeod, 35, said. “It was the whole point in the league being set-up and to make it more competitive, which has so far worked.
“I wouldn’t rule out the likes of Whitehill either, who are further down the table, but will certainly be coming back up and sniffing around. But there’s still such a long way to go.”
Preston Athletic are the visitors to the academy tomorrow, with the East Lothian side hoping to make amends for what can only be labelled as a ‘horror show’ during last Saturday’s 9-2 drubbing at home to Whitehill Welfare.
Tomorrow’s fixture is the sides’ second league meeting in the space of just 28 days, Preston emerging 2-1 victors in the last outing at the end of last month. McLeod expects just as tough a 90 minutes second time around.
He said: “They came off the back of a bit of publicity in the Scottish Cup before they played Whitehill and I think last week’s result has probably brought them back down to earth, which I can imagine David Bingham, to a degree, would have wanted. They’ve got to reboot and start again, but we played them a few weeks ago and I was massively impressed with them and they deserved to beat us at the Pennypit.
“I think last week was a bit of a freak result, although Whitehill are a good side and have goals within them, but Preston will have no fear of coming to Ainslie Park.”
Spartans collected a point after a 2-2 draw away to Dalbeattie Star six days ago, a match they twice led before the Borders side snatched a draw with a late equaliser.
McLeod, himself, was on the scoresheet with Spartans’ second and, following on from his goal in the previous week’s victory at home to Gala Fairydean Rovers, it’s an indication that, perhaps, the player is now beginning to find his stride.
“We were disappointed,” McLeod explained. “We played really well in the first half and we were camped in their half. I had a couple of chances myself and, to be honest, that could have changed the outcome of the match if we’d been two or three up.
“They came more into it after the break and we were disappointed to lose a goal so late on in the game, but in saying that, other teams will go down there and would be absolutely over the moon to come away with a point, so we’ve got to look at that as a positive – Dalbeattie are a very good side after all.
“I scored a couple in the early part of the season but then went on a bit of a dry patch. I wasn’t really involved much in pre-season as I had a bit of a belated summer holiday, but I’ve now scored in both our previous two games, so I am hoping this continues tomorrow.”
Preston manager Bingham spoke at length of the embarrassment felt throughout the club in wake of last Saturday’s heavy defeat and says the opportunity to get back out on the pitch to restore some pride couldn’t have arrived sooner.
He said: “That’s the good thing about football as there’s always another game around the corner to try and put things right. We need to show much more of a fight this time.”