Gordon Strachan may have been bemoaning Scotland’s lack of luck after they failed to qualify for Euro 2016 last week, but any perceived misfortune suffered by the national team pales in comparison to Colin Jack’s Preston Athletic side.
With first-choice goalkeeper and captain Chris Flockhart busy getting married, Scott Downie took his place between the sticks against Whitehill last Saturday, only to be sent off after conceding a 25th-minute penalty. Player-coach Bob Baillie manfully donned the gloves for the remainder having started at left back, but couldn’t prevent a 3-0 defeat.
With Flockhart still unavailable and Downie suspended for tomorrow’s visit of East Kilbride, Jack is working on securing emergency goalkeeping cover – despite Baillie’s impressive performance.
“With Chris away getting married it’s the first time we’ve never had two goalies in the squad,” he said. “I was fearing the worst after 25 minutes being down to ten men and having an outfield player in goals, but the boys did really well. We’re just hoping our luck will turn at some point.
“Bob was talking about keeping his place at training – I don’t know if Flocks will get back in when he comes back! Honestly, he did really well but he might be a wee bit disappointed ... I think I’m going to have to bring someone else in which isn’t ideal but these things happen.”
Jack took the reigns at the Pennypit in the summer after Willie Kirk’s move to Bristol Academy in the FA Women’s Super League, and he is enjoying his first job in senior football after youth development roles with Hamilton and Hibs. “It’s a totally different challenge to what I’m used to,” he explained. “In youth development, the performance is everything whereas it’s just the result that matters here, but I’m enjoying it, definitely.
“From when I took over to where we are now, the results haven’t quite been what everybody would’ve hoped for, especially after four games I think we were fifth. Realistically, we’re three points away from last season’s total so it’s a work in progress. We’d have loved to have won a couple more games but it’s not quite happened for us.
“I don’t think there’s been any game this season where there’s been a massive gulf – anybody can beat anybody in this league. Probably the best team we’ve played has been Edinburgh Uni who aren’t many points ahead of us. They were brilliant against us but we actually beat them, and Dalbeattie, in the last minute. We were probably a bit lucky to win both those games whereas we were unlucky not to beat Selkirk and Vale [of Leithen] where we had chances to win but only took one point. The standard’s good and it’s really competitive.”
Tomorrow would be an ideal time to prove the “anyone can beat anyone” assertion when second placed East Kilbride travel to East Lothian.
“I know [EK boss] Billy Ogilvie really well so I know they’ll be well prepared,” said Jack. “I’ve seen them a few times so I know what their strengths and weaknesses are but I’ve got belief in our players. We’ve got a lot of players who have played at a good level maybe a year or two ago so it’s about putting that together in a team performance. Hopefully that will gel. On Saturday for example, the second half was probably as well as we’ve played this season but it was a case of not taking the chances we created. I believe in our players and believe in what we do so I’m hopeful that will get us a result this Saturday.”