Preston Athletic face huge task but won’t stop battling

Preston Athletic manager Craig Nisbet
Preston Athletic manager Craig Nisbet
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“If we’re going to go down then we’re not going down without a proper fight,” is the message from Preston Athletic boss Craig Nisbet.

The fate of the Lowland League’s lowest team could be sealed this evening when they host Cumbernauld Colts in a match they must win if they are to avoid a last-place finish.

With just four league fixtures remaining, the Panners find themselves nine points adrift of Borders clubs Hawick Royal Albert and Selkirk having tasted victory just four times all season.

Nisbet’s men must now match this feat by winning their remaining fixtures and hope their nearest rivals both fail to win between now and the end of April.

Were Preston to finish bottom of the pile, relegation from the Lowland League very much depends on how champions elect East Kilbride fare in their Promotion play-off campaign, not to mention the identity of the club that are crowned champions of the South of Scotland League.

Nisbet, an industrious midfielder for Preston from 2000-2005, accepts it’s going to take an heroic effort over the next four weeks but he is refusing to throw in the towel.

“The mood in the camp is we don’t want to accept our fate,” Nisbet explained. “I’ve told the players that even if the worst-case scenario were to happen, we’ve still got to be professional and keep playing for the rest of the season.

“After tonight we’ve got East Stirlingshire so that will be a tough one as they are a decent side. But, we’re at home so the surface won’t suit them. We’ve got four cup finals so they need to give it everything they’ve got in the tank. Hopefully a bit of lady luck will fall on us as well.

“We know we’re in a difficult situation and we knew that before a ball was even kicked that it was going to be a real tough year.

“Even if we win our four remaining matches it’s still out of our own hands so we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that the results go our way tomorrow.

“The last three games we’ve dominated and have been punished for not taking our chances but that’s the story of our season in a nutshell.”

Nisbet has contemplated what life were to be like next season should the East Lothian outfit find themselves demoted to the East of Scotland League. That said, he has told the club’s committee he has no intention of walking away from the job.

“It looks as if we’ll have to wait until the end of the season as to where we’ll be playing next season should we finish bottom,” Nisbet said. “There are so many permutations so we’ll just have to wait and see should that be the case.

“I’ve already spoken to the chairman and the committee and I’ve told them I won’t be going anywhere. When I arrived the place was at a low ebb and budget-wise we were in a position no way near the rest of the teams in the league.

“I’ve said to them that even if we do end up in the East of Scotland League then it might not be a bad thing. It might give us that bit of breathing space to try and breed some confidence and success.

“I’m not saying we’d win the league but I know we’d be a very competitive side and could challenge the likes of Leith Athletic and Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale.

“I’ve not been given any other indication from the chairman that it’s anything other than business as usual. It’s a rebuilding process and if we are to be relegated, we’ve just got to deal with it and regroup.”

Elsewhere, Civil Service Strollers host East Kilbride at Christie Gillies Park tomorrow where the South Lanarkshire men could finally clinch the league title where they to win and second-placed East Stirlingshire fail to match their 
result at Hawick.

Edinburgh University take on Dalbeattie Star at Islecroft whilst Whitehill Welfare visit Stirling University. Football Nation Qualifying Cup winners Spartans host Gala.