Newtongrange battling for survival as they host Penicuik

Stevie McLeish has been tasked with keeping Newtongrange in the top flight
Stevie McLeish has been tasked with keeping Newtongrange in the top flight
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They say form often goes out the window when two local rivals clash, and Newtongrange Star will be hoping that footballing cliché rings true tomorrow.

Midlothian rivals Penicuik Athletic visit New Victoria Park and it’s a game both sides are desperate to win for opposing reasons.

Joint-bottom Star haven’t won in the league since their opening-day victory at Carnoustie back in August, while Penicuik arrive in fine fettle, despite narrowly losing their last two Super League encounters, and have ambitions of breaking into the top four.

Star boss Stevie McLeish has found the going tough since he walked through the front door at New Victoria Park after quitting Musselburgh at the tail-end of last season.

His remit was simply to keep Newtongrange in the top flight and he’s confident their fortunes will turn soon. He’d love nothing more than to secure the bragging rights tomorrow afternoon.

“It’s been a hard road but it is starting to turn,” said McLeish.

“Our general play in the last few games has been absolutely magnificent, it’s just individual errors that have been killing us at times. We’re trying our best to address that.

“There’s been a few games, against Kelty, Linlithgow and Bonnyrigg, which could have gone either way, but there have been other games where we’ve been below par and not produced what I expect, what the players expect and certainly not what the supporters would expect.

“When things are going well for you, everything goes your way and when it goes against you, it goes against you, that’s football. It will turn, and it could turn tomorrow against Penicuik which will be a difficult game but it could turn and we could get a win. We’ve got Broxburn the week after and, who knows, we could suddenly be two weeks winning.”

Newtongrange and Penicuik have both given league leaders Kelty Hearts a run for their money in recent weeks, Star losing out 5-3 in Fife, while Penicuik were denied a point by a late winner on their home turf.

McLeish is expecting tomorrow’s match to be one to watch for the neutral. He continued: “Penicuik and ourselves have given Kelty their hardest tests so far this season without a shadow of a doubt. I felt Penicuik were deserving of at least a point and we were more than a match for them.

“It’s a local derby and the two teams will try and play, but at the same time have a bit of an edge about it. We’ve not won at home yet so they must be favourites. We are desperate to win our first game at home and hopefully it’s tomorrow.”

Penicuik had been on scintillating goalscoring from prior to the two blanks they drew recently, but they bounced back last weekend as they hit seven in a 7-3 defeat of St Andrews in the Fife and Lothians Cup.

Despite their attacking prowess and Star’s porous defence – they recorded just their first clean sheet last weekend – Cuikie boss Johnny Harvey is wary of the threat posed by tomorrow’s hosts.

“We were good attacking wise obviously scoring seven goals, but there were a few question marks on how we were defensively last week,” said Harvey. “It was a wee bit of a blip so I’m not going to hold that against them.

“Football is funny and you can’t take anything for granted. Newtongrange, for me, I always think their form is going to turn at some point and it’s up to us to make sure it’s not us. They’ve got some great players in their squad and they are quite capable of turning it on when they really click.

“Being a local derby it can go either way. We’re hoping we’ll play like how we have been playing and keep being as ruthless as we have been.”

Elsewhere, champions Bonnyrigg Rose visit Carnoustie as they bid to keep on the tails of Kelty. Musselburgh are in action at Fauldhouse, while Bo’ness are also on their travels at Lochee. Linlithgow Rose caretaker boss Todd Lumsden takes charge of the Prestonfield men at home to Thornton Hibs in the East of Scotland Cup.