Preston ATHLETIC travel to face Heriot-Watt University with the knowledge that a victory would secure their promotion to the Central Taxis Premier Division. A draw would mean that, unless Gala Fairydean overcome Ormiston by a 15-goal winning margin, the Prestonpans club would return to the top tier after an absence of one season.
Heriot-Watt have already been crowned champions and Preston are in second place two points ahead of Gala with both teams playing their final game tomorrow.
Preston are in the temporary charge of Ian Houston and Billy Byrne following the unexpected departure of long-serving boss Stevie Myatt less than six weeks ago when Preston headed the table. Since then Preston have lost to Eyemouth United (0-3) and Gala Fairydean (1-3) although, most importantly, they beat Coldstream 5-0 in their previous game two weeks ago.
“That was a very satisfying result, especially after losing to Gala,” said the upbeat Houston. “Billy and me had a good discussion with the players before the game and told them it was about attitude and application. Every single player knew exactly what their tasks were and they stuck to them.”
Houston has not had an easy introduction to management following his lengthy career with Preston as an energetic creative midfield player followed by his role as the head coach. “Games have come in a stop-start fashion with free weeks interrupting our schedule,” he said. “After a good performance like we had against Coldstream the players wanted to go straight into another game but instead we had a free week.
“However, now we face Heriot-Watt with an excellent chance of getting promoted. If anybody had said to Stevie [Myatt] or me at the beginning of the season that we were going into our final game with promotion in our own hands then we would certainly have taken that scenario.
“The First Division is a very competitive league with a lot of very good teams in it and therefore it is not easy to get promoted. At this stage I have to give credit to Michael Renwick [the Heriot-Watt coach] who has guided his team to become champions.
“Tomorrow is quite literally a cup final for us and again I hope that our players apply themselves correctly and with the right attitude. We will set our stall out appropriately and if we are good enough on the day then hopefully that will be enough to get us promoted. It is impossible for us to play for a draw. Our style is to score goals and with 72 already we have scored 12 goals more than any other team in the league.
“I hope that for the players, who have put in so much effort, they gain promotion. Stevie, dignified in his departure, wanted Billy, Jimmy Hadden [trainer] and me to take on the job and get us promoted. Before he left he told the players that they were good enough and only time will tell if they finish off the task they set out to achieve.
“I can say that our players are very well prepared and although Heriot-Watt are a good side on a great run of form, if we focus on the job in hand then hopefully both Michael and me will be smiling at the end of the game.”
Houston will be without the suspended Bryan Wilson and he will give late fitness tests to Gary Kennedy, Frazer Henderson, and Kevin Cairnie although captain Craig Scott, along with Matt Costello and Darren McGlashan, are ready to fight for the cause.
Heriot-Watt head coach Renwick is also looking forward to the game. “This will be a very interesting contest with still something to play for as far as both teams are concerned. Obviously Preston are looking for a win to secure promotion while we want to keep our fine unbeaten run going. We have not lost a league match since the beginning of January and we definitely want to win our last game.
“I have watched Preston a lot and their style has changed since Ian took over. Preston beat us in the first game of the season so we want to reverse that scoreline. We have our standards and our pride and I want our players to savour, relish and enjoy the occasion.”
Renwick’s absentees are Chris Donnelly and Ricky Burke who had an operation in midweek to reset his nose which was broken in their meeting with Peebles Rovers ten days ago.
After the game, which kicks off at Riccarton at 2.30pm, Heriot-Watt University will be presented with the First Division Championship Trophy.