Newtongrange manager Alan Miller is bracing himself for the challenge of the Super League’s big guns as his newly-promoted side sit proudly at the top of the table.
With rivals Linlithgow and Bo’ness involved in William Hill Scottish Cup and Scottish Junior Cup action respectively in recent weeks, Star have opened up a six-point lead at the summit.
Miller is well aware, though, that both teams have three games in hand over his men and fully expects them to come roaring up the table.
The situation has shades of last term when Star raced to the top of the Premier League table while the teams below them struggled to get games played.
In the run-in, several teams dropped out of contention as the tension grew until Ballingry Rovers, the only club who could snatch the title from Newtongrange’s grip, also fell away to finish runner-up as Star were confirmed as champions.
Could the same be happening this season? Miller thinks not. “It may look the same, but the new Super League set-up doesn’t favour clubs like us,” he said.
“The extra games give the bigger clubs a chance and time to mount a bigger challenge and overtake us.
“Besides, we’re not even thinking of winning the league after only a third of the league games played so far.
“I feel we’re in a false position at the top of the table. Both Linlithgow and Bo’ness have three games in hand over us with a lead of only six points.
“I told the players at the start of the season it was our responsibility to establish Newtongrange as a Super League side, and so far we’ve done that.
“It’s also our responsibility to make this club bigger and better both on and off the pitch.”
Tomorrow, Newtongrange renew hostilities between themselves and Ballingry at New Victoria Park and it’s a game Miller is relishing.
“I know Ballingry have a completely different squad of players now but games between us have always been tough ones, so I don’t expect any different tomorrow,” he said.
“We have only the long-term injury worries of John McManus and Joe Dunbar, but our two internationalists, Paul Tansey and Sean Jamieson, are back to add depth to the squad again and it should be a good game of football.”
Linlithgow have a home game against St Andrews tomorrow, with manager Mark Bradley without the services of Ritchie McKillen but hopeful of having John Ovenstone back.
Bo’ness, in third spot in the table, are at bottom club Tayport, who have Dave Baikie back in charge.
Baikie had a good record when he was previously manager at the club, but they are likely to find Bo’ness – who are in a rich vein of form – too hot to handle.
Musselburgh, in fifth place, are on Tayside to play Lochee United, while Broxburn are at home to Fife side Hill Of Beath.
Finally, Bonnyrigg Rose are at Armadale and struggling to find the form which made them champions only two seasons ago. They have added some top players to the squad, but as yet haven’t seen a return on their money.
Last week’s Scottish Junior Cup exit to Bo’ness will have hurt, and boss Max Christie is looking for a response from his players.