Penicuik Athletic boss Johnny Harvey hopes local rivals Newtongrange Star are successful in their fight to preserve their Super League status, but he’s in no mood to take it easy on them tomorrow.
Star are fighting for their lives at the bottom end of the table for the first time since promotion to the top flight in 2013. While they’ve consistently held the bragging rights over their Midlothian rivals in recent years with three consecutive top-five finishes, there has been a wind of change this season.
Buoyed by last season’s Fife and Lothians Cup triumph, Penicuik have found a new level under Harvey’s charge as they sit fourth and look set for their best-ever finish in the Super League. On the other hand, Nitten, second from bottom, look destined for the drop and their chances of survival look slimmer with every passing week.
“They are struggling a bit but I think they are in a wee bit of a false position,” said Harvey. “They have a lot of good players, players who have maybe underachieved this season and I know for a fact that if they turn up on their day they are certainly capable of beating anybody.
“You can only look after yourself and that’s all we should concern ourselves about; we won’t be concerning ourselves about what situation Newtongrange are in. If I’m being honest, they are a club who I probably wouldn’t want to go down because of the locality.
“You’ve got a team that is just down the road, a good club and a good place to visit. I certainly wouldn’t want them to go down and be replaced by a club like Kennoway or Forfar. I hope they stay up and I will wish Stevie [McLeish, manager] and them all the best after Saturday in their fight for survival.
“We certainly won’t be taking it easy on them though, because we’ve got to look after ourselves and three points for me is a must.”
Having challenged his players to secure a top six place this season, Harvey’s men are well ahead of schedule. Unbeaten in the league since November, they are proving they deserve to be mixing it with the big boys at the top end of the table.
A headache for Harvey will be working out how to better this season next year. Although, with the club only having been in the top flight since 2014, at their current rate of progression the sky is the limit.
Harvey continued: “We’re in the top four of the league and we’re still looking above rather than behind us. The club finished in ninth position last season and I think it shows how far the club has come in a short period of time.
“There’s always been expectation on the players from both myself and the management team. They also put a bit pressure on themselves, they realise they are good players and I think that has kind of helped us because they now believe they are at a top-four club.
“The guys have risen to the mantle and they are challenging themselves and each other to keep progressing up the league.
“I think it would be a disappointment if we didn’t finish inside the top four, that has to be the aim and anything above that is a bonus. At the start of the season the aim was to better last season’s position and I challenged the boys to aim for the top six. The fact that we will probably get into the top four if we continue to do what we’re doing now, the challenge is going to be how do we better that next season.”
Elsewhere, Linlithgow Rose will hope to get their Junior Cup last-16 clash with Maryhill played at the fourth time of asking with the tie having been switched to St Anthony’s McKenna Park. Bo’ness United visit Camelon in the Super League, while in-from Tranent make the short journey to Dakeith Thistle in the Premier League.