The race for a place in the Central Taxis League Cup hots up tomorrow, just as East of Scotland clubs prepare for a fortnight-long winter shutdown.
Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale, leaders of Section A in the qualifying leagues, can seal their passage into the knock-out stages of the competition providing they can overcome Civil Service Strollers while rivals Tynecastle fail to beat Eyemouth United.
Lothian boss Kevin Twaddle, whose side have won all six games since he took charge, said: “It’s another tough game for us but the boys will go into it full of confidence.”
Grant Munro is doubtful for Lothian, who are otherwise at full strength.
Strollers boss Ross McNeil, who hopes to field a new loan signing in Kieran McGachie, will welcome Chris Tobin back into his squad. Jordan Low, suffering from a knee injury, remains sidelined for Strollers, who can still reach one of two play-off places – awarded to teams finishing second and third in their group – despite having so far accumulated just three points from five games.
Long-term injury victims Finlay Matthews and Dean Cummings are two of a handful of absentees for Tynecastle in their home clash with Eyemouth United. Prolific striker Ousman See and midfielder Jamie Devlin are set to return for the maroons following suspension, and a number of under-19 stars could feature for Tynie.
Something of a ‘six-pointer’ will be staged at Recreation Park, where Ormiston host Edinburgh University in a key tie in Section B. Ormi, who can, with victory, draw level with their opponents on nine points, have Scott McKenzie and Conor Ramage available after the pair each completed a one-match suspension. Uni boss Dorian Ogunro, whose side will be without Mark Tait, Dan Gerrard, Hamish Flett, and Jan Maelger, expects a physical encounter.
“I imagine the weather will have a large part to play in the outcome of the game,” said Ogunro. “We beat Ormi 3-0 at the beginning of the season, but they will be far tougher opposition now. They were very physical, with some quick players up front, so I would expect more of the same.”
Craigroyston can reclaim top spot in Section C from out-of-action Hibs if they avoid defeat at home to Heriot-Watt University. Aside from the suspended Paul Lynch, Craigie have a full squad from which to choose, with Steven McCormack available once more.
Watt boss Smith will have to make-do without a number of players due to the Christmas holidays.
Leith Athletic can leapfrog Heriot-Watt into third place and a play-off position when they face Burntisland Shipyard in Fife. The injured quartet of Gary Black, Jack Combe, Euan Campbell and Lachlan Thom join Lewis Martin (work) and Jamie Lauder (holiday) on Leith’s lengthy list of absentees.
Easthouses Lily, who harbour only an outside chance of qualification from Section D, will be without the suspended Euan Smith for their home match against Peebles Rovers, but Paul McDermott returns.