Civil Service Strollers boss Alex Cunningham believes there could be as many as eight clubs aiming to stave off the threat of relegation this season.
With runaway league leaders East Kilbride edging closer to the title by the week, the focus has now switched to the bottom end of the division where just 12 points separate 15th-placed Preston Athletic all the way up to Cumbernauld Colts who occupy seventh. Selkirk dropped to the foot of the table last week having been swept aside 6-0 by Spartans.
And Cunningham, whose team are ten points better off than the bottom club and sit 11th, has reiterated to his players that there is no margin for error if they are to kick-off next season with their Lowland League status intact.
“We knew we were going to be in a basement battle having just come into the league and we could still very well be given where we are,” Cunningham said ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Cumbernauld Colts to Christie Gillies Park. “Preston and Selkirk are going to have to do something exceptional but there’s still likely to be other teams dragged into it. We’re still down there, let’s not kid ourselves on. I’d say anyone from Gretna down isn’t safe. Anything can happen.
“There’s a lot of football still to be played. We’ve played all the teams now so we know what everybody’s about. We’ve had four draws already so maybe if we’d turned a couple of them into wins then the table would be looking a wee bit different.”
Strollers picked up a well-earned point at East Stirlingshire last weekend having fought back from 3-1 down to hold their Ochilview hosts to a 3-3 stalemate. Given the Capital side were on the end of an 8-3 mauling the last time the sides met in August – seven of them being scored in the first half – Cunningham insists his players’ battling performance epitomises just how much they have come on as the season has unfolded.
“We’ve come such a long way since the last time we played them in August. It was a bit of a freak result but last weekend we competed really well and even at 3-1 down I thought it was unfair on us,” he said. “But we got ourselves back into it and, to be honest, we looked the best bet to score the winner. The guys have just got that wee bit of belief about them at the moment.
“East Stirlingshire have been on fire recently so if I’m honest I wasn’t that hopeful of coming away with anything. So we’ll take that as a very good point given they put ten past Gala (Fairydean Rovers) just a couple of weeks ago.
“I said to the players before last week’s game that if we can take anywhere between four and six points over our next three games (East Stirlingshire, Cumbernauld Colts and Preston) we’d be over the moon so we’ve already got an unexpected point on the board.
“Tomorrow will be a tough game against Cumbernauld though, they’ve been up and down but I think they’ve lost a few players recently. If we can keep our own house in order, play well and get beaten by a better team then you sometimes just have to accept it. That’s football for you.
“We’ve got a really tough January with a trip to Spartans and Dalbeattie and Whitehill at home so we really want to put some points on the board over the Christmas period. It’s sure to be a really interesting second half to the season.”
Elsewhere, buoyed by their rout of Selkirk six days ago, Dougie Samuel’s Spartans host BSC Glasgow at Ainslie Park. Preston, meanwhile, will hope to take something from their encounter at Dalbeattie Star and put further pressure on Selkirk who visit University of Stirling.
Edinburgh University are another side on the road as they travel to Gretna 2008’s Raydale Park.
The Uni haven’t won in the league since the beginning of last month and have been struggling for form of late.
David Bingham’s Whitehill Welfare welcome Gala to Ferguson Park.