Striker pushing for Penicuik start after return from injury

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MAN of many clubs Craig O’Reilly is ready to fire Penicuik into contention for a Super League spot after ending his injury nightmare.

The 24-year-old striker made his debut for the Midlothian club in last weekend’s Premier Division derby win over Newtongrange.

It was his first game since suffering a career-threatening cruciate ligament injury playing for Berwick Rangers last April.

Now O’Reilly, a former Scotland under-19 internationalist who had spells at Raith Rovers, Dundee, East Fife and Stenhousemuir earlier in his career, is pushing for a starting spot in tomorrow’s home clash with Broxburn (1.45pm kick-off).

“Craig has been working hard on his fitness and has been looking the part in training,” said Penicuik joint-manager Craig Meikle.

“We gave him 15 minutes against Newtongrange and he looked good. There’s been no reaction at all and he reckons he’s ready if we want to play him from the start on Saturday.”

O’Reilly won a Young Player of the Month award in the SFL during his spell at Dundee after scoring three goals in three games.

He was at Bonnyrigg Rose two seasons ago before moving to Berwick, where he scored six goals in 21 appearances before suffering his injury.

“He’s a player we’re excited about and to have him available now is a bonus as we were thinking it would be February before he’d be ready,” said Meikle.

Penicuik’s 2-1 win at Newtongrange, where James McPartlin scored the winner, leaves them in seventh spot in the table.

Another win tomorrow would take them above Broxburn, who kick-started their title challenge with a 7-1 home victory against Ballingry last weekend.

“It was pleasing to get back to winning ways last weekend as we were still hurting from our Scottish Cup humiliation [a 6-0 defeat against Auchinleck Talbot],” said Meikle.

“We were pleased with the reaction from the players against Newtongrange. They worked hard over the festive period and that paid off.

“I have always believed we had the quality but perhaps we’ve lacked a bit of fight and will to win. Not on this occasion, though.

“We now face another tough match against Broxburn. We played them in the League Cup at the start of the season and saw them overcome having a man sent off to earn a 2-2 draw after being 2-0 down.

“Once again, the Premier Division is proving to be a funny old league but if we can win on Saturday it would take us above Broxburn and set us up nicely for a title challenge.”

Due to Scottish Cup commitments, Broxburn have only played one league game since the middle of November.

But Steve Pittman’s side certainly sent out a message in that as they hammered Ballingry on the artificial pitch at New Albyn Park. “Given that Ballingry lost 9-0 there last season, it suggests they might not like that surface and there’s no doubt it makes home advantage a big thing for Broxburn,” said Meikle. “The one thing that result does is make our team talk easy on Saturday as it means our players will be under no illusions and they will go into the game with the right attitude.”

Broxburn boss Pittman, who has bolstered his squad by signing Lewis Swanson from Dundee United, agreed tomorrow’s game is a huge one for both teams.

“If we go there and win, it could be a major turning point in our season,” he said. “Even a point wouldn’t be bad as I know teams will lose points at Penicuik between now and the end of the campaign.

“We’ve not got a great record there, but I told the players after their great win last weekend that there’s no point in doing that in one game then not doing as well against Penicuik.

“The Ballingry game was our first in the league for a while and the boys played really well.

“What helped us, I think, is that in addition to a lot of training we were able to get a few games on our park over the festive break.”

Swanson, a 19-year-old midfielder, is the younger brother of Dundee United star Danny, who hails from Leith, and has just been released by the Tannadice club.

“He’s a young lad with a bright future and I expect him to be involved at some point against Penicuik,” added Pittman.

Conor Thomson picked up a hamstring injury as he set up one of the Penicuik goals last weekend and will miss out.

Club captain Ryan Gay is also sidelined as he serves a four-match suspension, while Grant Killin is unlikely to be available until March as he recovers from an Achilles injury.

Elsewhere tomorrow, Newtongrange are at leaders Oakley, while Arniston warm up for next weekend’s Scottish Cup clash at Largs with a trip to Sauchie.