Ryan Moore knew his time was up as an amateur player last summer – the lure of pitching himself against a higher calibre of opposition too enticing to knock back when East Lothian outfit Preston Athletic came calling for his services.
The 26-year-old midfielder had spent five seasons plying his trade around the city’s council-owned pitches for LEAFA Premier Division One side Edinburgh South Vics when he was invited to attend a trial with the Pennypit club – an opportunity he duly snatched up.
“I wanted to try something new,” Moore said. “I had been with Vics a long time and didn’t really think we could go much further. It’s a lot more professional and organised in the Lowland League and I’ve learnt a lot more since making the step up and I don’t think you realise that.
“I’ve played football for years but since signing for Preston I feel I have improved as a player. Bingy (David Bingham) has made me more disciplined and better in a positional sense.”
Last weekend’s 3-2 victory over Vale of Leithen confirmed Preston’s place in the semi-finals of the Lowland League Cup – the only local side to progress from the group stages. Moore himself notched his side’s third of the afternoon and was heavily involved in the second as the club stormed their way into a 3-0 lead.
However, it has taken seven months and until March for Moore to really stamp his authority on the side – a frustration he has had to contend with.
He said: “I’ve been in and out the side due to injuries, so I have missed a few games.
“I’ve been playing quite well since I came back from my knee problem, but I feel I can still improve.
“I’ve scored two in the last five and have set up a few and generally had a lot of the ball, so it’s been good. But it hasn’t been enough this season.
“We’ve been a bit unpredictable with the amount of injuries we’ve had, so it’s been hard to find a settled squad.
“I think we would be disappointed if we didn’t at least get to a final and have a chance of winning a cup. I think we’ve got a good enough squad, but it all depends on who’s available.”
Preston welcome Dalbeattie Star to Prestonpans tomorrow for a South Challenge Cup tie, with Moore hoping for a more productive afternoon than their last encounter with the Borders club in November when they managed to surrender a two-goal lead to come away from Islecroft with just a point after the match ended in a 3-3 draw.
He added: “We chucked it away last time when we were 2-0 up against them. We should have had the game tucked away so, personally, I want the win this time around.
“They are one of the stronger sides in the league but I reckon we’re good enough to beat anyone on our day.”
Spartans are also in South Challenge Cup action tomorrow as they make the long journey to Dumfries and Galloway for their clash with Nithsdale Wanderers at Lorimer Park.
Manager Dougie Samuel has a few injury concerns ahead of the trip south, with long-term casualties Robbie Ross and Jack Beacher still unavailable. Defenders Jack Blaikie and Ally MacKinnon will also miss out due to injury, and Jack Beesley has alternative arrangements as he is doing his coaching C Licence.
Samuel will be hoping for a response from his players after the Ainslie Park club’s exit from the Lowland League Cup.