Promotion hopefuls stake claims

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BIG spenders Ballingry may be strong title favourites in the Premier Division, but an 
exciting battle lies ahead for the four promotion spots up for grabs in next season’s new-look Super League.

Faced with an almost 
impossible task, Alan Miller was unable to keep Newtongrange in the top flight when he took over the reins towards the end of the 2010-11 season after leaving Bonnyrigg.

Having stamped his own mark on the Midlothian club, however, Star are on the up again, as they showed when running mighty Auchinleck close in a 
recent Scottish Cup clash at New 
Victoria Park.

Approaching halfway in the league campaign, they’re Ballingry’s closest challengers, trailing the Fifers by five points, but having played a game more.

Miller, in truth, has built a side that already looks as though it could hold its own in the Super League.

The likes of Kieron Renton, Scott Gibson, Paul Tansy and Chris King, for example, all helped Musselburgh ascend to that level and played in a Scottish Junior Cup final with the East Lothian club.

Gibson, in particular, is a great signing by Miller, the 
no-nonsense defender having had spells at both Annan and Airdrie in recent seasons.

Kevin Donnelly (Linlithgow), former Hibs kid Jay Shields (Bo’ness) and Craig O’Reilly (Bonnyrigg) also have Super League experience under their belts, the latter two having been recent additions to the Star squad.

Add in the likes of fans’ 
favourite Joe Dunbar and the lively Lewis Turner, and Miller certainly has a pool of players good enough to stay in that all-important top four and also keep breathing on Ballingry necks.

Promotion, instant in their case, is also the target for 
Bathgate in their first season under former Hearts player Derek Strickland.

Having dropped just four points from six games – they’ve won four times on the road – Thistle are lying third, just ahead of both Oakley and Dalkeith on goal difference.

Like Miller, Strickland is starting to assemble his own squad at Creamery Park and he has certainly got the nous to take Bathgate back to a place many believe they belong.

For Dalkeith, meanwhile, they’ve already done Willie 
Pearson and his team of coaches proud following their step up from the South Division last season. Whether Thistle can stay in the promotion picture remains to be seen, but the Midlothian side are certainly a decent outfit.