WHITEHILL WELFARE boss Grant Carnie has been in the Rosewell hot-seat for three months and faces one of his sternest challenges yet when his side clash with Spartans in the semi-final of the King Cup at Ferguson Park, kick-off 2.30pm.
Carnie has led Whitehill on a 14-game unbeaten run stretching back to mid-January, winning 13 of these games and drawing the other against Leith Athletic after having two players sent off in the first half when they trailed 2-0.
“It’s difficult for me to put my finger on exactly what the change is since I took over in January,” explained Carnie. “I could say that it was all down to me! But that’s not the case because my assistant and best pal Kevin Twaddle has been a great help. He is always so positive and there are never any negatives around about the dressing room. I think the players have responded well to Kevin and me since we arrived. We have allowed them more freedom on the park and told them to enjoy themselves.
“There is a real togetherness in the squad with everybody fighting for each other. The players have shown that they really want to play for Kevin, me and everybody else connected with Whitehill. This is a very big club which should be winning trophies on a regular basis and the current group of players are now beginning to believe in themselves as this 14-game unbeaten run proves.”
Last Saturday, Whitehill beat Lothian Thistle 2-1 to reach the final of the League Cup where they will meet Edinburgh City, 3-1 conquerors of Spartans. They also defeated the same opposition 2-0 in a Central Taxis Premier Division game in midweek. “We dominated the game on Wednesday on a very heavy pitch and scored two very good goals through Scott Gormley and Steve Manson,” said Carnie.
“I genuinely don’t think any teams want to play us at the present time as we are definitely one of the form teams. Tomorrow against Spartans is another massive game although I will be stressing to the players that it is just another game. Spartans will be a wee bit like a wounded animal at the moment not having won any of their last three games.
“However, Spartans are still the benchmark for all other teams and we know it will be difficult. They beat Whitehill 4-1 in the league in early January although for the first 45 minutes we were brilliant but they took over in the second half.
“They are a good side with good players and they have a winning mentality. I need my players to be at the top of their games and to believe that they cannot get beaten. Whitehill want to play in cup finals and win trophies and we are all ready to go for what should be a tasty encounter.”
Carnie has a full squad following the return from suspension of Michael Bruce and Mike Herd, while Scott McCulloch and Gareth Thom also return after being unavailable in midweek.
Meanwhile, Spartans co-manager Mike Lawson reflected on the month of April in which his side played three games, losing two to Vale of Leithen and Edinburgh City while drawing 1-1 with Leith Athletic. “I was on holiday when we played Vale and Leith and I was worried that when I returned the players heads might be down.
“However, last Saturday against City the players were in the right frame of mind and we started really well creating a few chances but did not hit the target.
“City then scored a ‘World Cup’ goal before Robbie Ross scored two really good goals and we lost 3-1. Our attitude was spot on although we could have picked better options on occasions. It was City’s day.
“I watched Whitehill against Lothian Thistle on Wednesday night and they appear to have got over managerial and personnel changes during the past couple of years. They have settled down well under Grant [Carnie] and they have a good structure to them so Grant must be doing something right.
“Whitehill will always be a force in East of Scotland League football and will always be one of the top two or three teams. Because tomorrow is a semi-final that will add very little as games between the two clubs are always big occasions.
“We have to stop what some people might see as a rot setting in and get our season back on track while Whitehill will want to continue with their unbeaten run. I like big games like this and, as before every game, I will be apprehensive.”
Spartans will have Donal Henretty and Scott Fusco available after missing out last weekend.