TOMORROW sees a clash of the current champions and the former kingpins when Edinburgh City welcome Spartans for the Lowland League’s Edinburgh derby.
As was the case with Hearts and Rangers at Ibrox last weekend, City have nothing to play for while Spartans are still in the hunt for second spot.
City, who face a two-legged play-off against Highland League winners Brora Rangers later this month as they bid to reach the SPFL, have won just once since sealing the title three weeks ago, having gone unbeaten in the league up until then.
Spartans defender Gary Cennerazzo, who was in a similar position last season after winning the league with games to spare, says a dip in form is understandable.
“I can understand that from City,” he said of his old club. “They’ve had a couple of results now where they’ve been beaten and it’s just natural once you’ve won the league.
“You’ve done your job and as much as the manager would like to see you put in the same effort and win the rest of the games, it is very hard. There’s that feeling of relief that you’ve won the league so I can appreciate how they’re feeling just now.
“Our main motivation is just to get back to it and win our remaining games and we’ve got more to play for.”
Spartans are involved in a six-way battle for second spot along with East Kilbride, Gretna, Whitehill, Stirling Uni and Dalbeattie Star. Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Vale of Leithen meant they missed the chance to jump further up the table than fifth, but Cennerazzo believes that goal is still achievable. “There’s still plenty to play for. We were in seventh before Wednesday and that was quite false in our eyes, but we need to make sure we win our remaining games to get back up and push for second and hope that other results go our way.”
The contrast between last season and this for Spartans in the league has been stark, and Cennerazzo feels that poor performances and an exhilarating Scottish Cup have contributed to a disappointing title defence. “We’ve been under par and City have been fantastic – they thoroughly deserve it but we need to look at ourselves as well. We’ve lost silly points against the kind of teams we shouldn’t and it’s cost us. Now it’s a case of trying to finish on a high and put this season behind us.
“I could say the Scottish Cup didn’t have an effect but I’d probably be lying. A lot of the boys, deep down, as much as we were trying to make a case for the league, it’s hard when you’ve big games coming up in the Scottish Cup and you’re getting excited with that buzz. It’s probably been a wee falter in the league for us but that’s no excuse – we’ve still been poor regardless.”
The two sides last met on league business in only the second game of the season, with City leaving Ainslie Park with all three points. Spartans have since won a Lowland League cup encounter with City comfortably, but Cennerazzo wants revenge for that early league defeat. “We’re looking forward to it – it’ll always be a tasty game regardless.
“They beat us the last time out so hopefully we can put that right so they can sample a home defeat.”