Newtongrange Star captain Lee Currie has called on his team-mates to seize the lifeline they’ve been given as they battle to preserve their Super League status.
The New Victoria Park men had been forced to wait almost four weeks to learn their fate after their league campaign ended on May 1 with a 1-0 victory away to Linlithgow Rose.
At one stage Star looked almost certain to be automatically relegated to the Premier League having taken until April to record their first league victory of 2017. However, with Musselburgh Athletic failing to pick up the solitary point required to remain in the Super League from their final three games, Star have been handed a reprieve and face Premier League outfit Forfar West End in Angus tomorrow in the first leg of the relegation play-off.
“We’ve been handed a lifeline and we just need to take the lifeline as it’s our last chance,” said Currie.
“We need to play as well as we did the last four games, scoring loads of goals and not conceding many.
“We did well in our last eight games, we showed a bit of character after people had written us off. We never lost in our last eight games or so and that’s kept us up. If we didn’t go on that run we would’ve been done. We got the reward for the performances we put in.”
Despite not playing last weekend, it proved to be a busy afternoon for the Star players as they kept in touch with each other on messaging application WhatsApp to keep track of events at the Riverside Stadium in Perth where Jeanfield Swifts were hosting Musselburgh. It proved to be an enjoyable evening for everyone associated with Newtongrange at their Player of the Year awards bash.
Former Berwick Rangers midfielder Currie continued: “We were just relieved and all the boys were buzzing. We’ve got a WhatsApp chat and it just kept pinging and pinging on Saturday and then we had our Player of the Year dance at night which was good. It would’ve been a bit of downer had we got relegated.
“We’ve been training ever since our last game just in case the play-off happened. A few of the boys have had to delay their holidays and some are going to miss out on weddings because we need to stay up. We are just taking the two games as they come and hopefully we can get a result and then bring them back home the following week.”
Although they only discovered they would be facing Forfar last Saturday, Star manager Stevie McLeish insists his players will be fully prepared for the first leg tomorrow.
McLeish has sought opinion from local Premier League clubs including Haddington Athletic and Tranent Juniors on their opponents while McLeish even got Forfar’s match with Sauchie at the end of April recorded in the event that they’d meet over two legs.
“The wait between then [Linlithgow match] and now has been huge,” said McLeish.
“We’ve trained but training hasn’t been that intense because we didn’t know what was going to happen. It ramped up a wee bit last Thursday after we found out the score between Linlithgow and Musselburgh and it’s ramped up considerably this week.
“I’ve had a few reports from other managers at local clubs and we had them videoed playing against Sauchie just in case we got the play-off spot. We always prepare the best we can regardless of who we are playing what level we are playing.
“It was an absolute relief that we got the play-off spot. We’re far from safe yet. We’ve still got to win over the two legs but we’ve got a chance. I’ve always said the same thing – ‘We’re not done yet’ – and it’s still the same message. We’ve given ourselves a real chance with the end to our season, which was really impressive.”
Elsewhere, Bo’ness United entertain Broxburn Athletic in the semi-finals of the Fife and Lothians Cup at Newtown Park with Tranent awaiting the winners in the final. Mark Bradley takes charge of his first match in his second spell as Linlithgow Rose manager when they travel to face Lochee United.