Whitehill Welfare manager Mickey Lawson knows Sunday’s East of Scotland Qualifying Cup final opponents Spartans like the back of his hand.
He led the Ainslie Park club through one of the most successful periods in their history during his 11-year tenure before returning to Whitehill in the summer of 2012.
On Sunday, however, Lawson will look to steer his players to cup glory and take a trophy he won on three occasions with Spartans back to Rosewell this time round. Asked if this weekend and the opportunity to defeat his former club in a cup final for the first time since he departed would bring some mixed emotions, Lawson said: “I don’t think that plays too much into it at all.
“I’ve got an affection for Cloudy [Keith McLeod], Donal [Henretty], Danny [Main] and all the boys, but they’re the enemy. We are out to try and win it and after the game we’ll shake hands and get on with it. I don’t think it will be a strange feeling for myself.
“My players are my concern now and I am hoping we turn them over the way we did a couple of weeks ago in the Lowland League Cup. We know it will be difficult but we’re looking forward to it.”
Sunday will be the fifth time the clubs have met this season, with Spartans holding the advantage as they have won three out of the previous four.
Whitehill are the most recent victors of the fixture, however, after they killed off Spartans’ hopes of reaching the Lowland League Cup semi-finals with a 3-1 win at Ferguson Park just two weeks ago, despite Lawson struggling to put a competitive starting XI out on the park.
“I have options this Sunday which is nice to have, unlike the last time,” Lawson said. “Mike Bruce and Steven Manson will both miss out, but we’ve got the players who can compete with Spartans.
“I didn’t have to motivate the players two weeks ago as that was an incentive in itself so everybody tried that bit harder. Because we were able to beat them then, that has given us huge confidence.”
Spartans, meanwhile, will be fresh after their 2-1 King Cup defeat to Stirling University on Tuesday, with manager Dougie Samuel expected to make wholesale changes after electing to use several players from the club’s East of Scotland squad in the midweek loss.
The Spartans boss admits he is wary of the fact Whitehill beat his side recently, but has faith in his players to make amends for the 3-1 loss at the beginning of the month.
“The recent defeat merely confirmed what we already knew: that Whitehill Welfare are a good side and we have to play well to beat them,” Samuel explained. “However, we have done that three times already this season so can take confidence from that.
“A win on Sunday would be the perfect boost as we enter the final run-in. It’s important for us to win silverware and contend for trophies every season. The most important thing is to produce a level of performance we are capable of.”
Spartans strikers Jack Beacher, Robbie Ross and defender Ally MacKinnon will miss the game through injury, but both Sean Muhsin and Jack Blaikie are expected to take their place in the match-day squad. Donal Henretty is also expected to return.