Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale are on the brink of a place in the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup final – an achievement in itself for manager Kevin Twaddle and his players.
Twaddle has built a strong unity within his East of Scotland Premier Division squad since being appointed in November last year, and his team remain unbeaten in all competitions since he took up the reins at the Saughton-based club just over three months ago.
However, this record will come under serious threat tomorrow against Lowland League leaders Spartans at Ainslie Park in the semi-final, a calibre of fixture Twaddle admits he and his players have craved all season.
He said: “I set myself very high standards, but I didn’t expect to still be unbeaten after three months. There are a lot of quality teams, even in our league. Don’t get me wrong, apart from a few individual clubs, the Lowland League is just a glorified East of Scotland League. We’ve played a few teams this year in the Lowland League and we’ve held our own against them.
“Spartans are, however, an exception and are the pinnacle. It’s an amazing game to look forward to, but obviously a really tough test for us. Their setup is second to none, but it’s a one-off game and to go there and win would be a massive upset because Dougie (Samuel) has some cracking boys there and he is a fantastic coach and is a benchmark for people like myself.
“But we go there on an unbeaten run. I’ve heard a lot of people saying it’s going to be a five or six nothing [in Spartans’ favour] but I am sure Dougie will pay us the respect we are due because we are a good side.”
Former Hearts player Twaddle couldn’t emphasise more his admiration for the efforts sustained by his players since he took control at the club, and a reward of a place in this season’s cup final would be just what they deserve. “It’s special for all the lads because they have put themselves in this position and deserve all the plaudits they get,” he said. “I’ve only just given them a bit of guidance along the way but it’s down to them. This is just not about Spartans because we’ve got some fantastic players who can score goals. We’ve got everybody available so we should have a full squad to choose from. I think we’ll probably make a few changes from last week as we’ve got a few boys coming back so I’ll maybe try and combat the way Spartans play.
“They’re all really excited as it’s one of these games that don’t come along too often and it’s an opportunity for them to go and see how good they are. We’re used to being favourites every week with the league we are in so this tie will give us an indication of where we are as a team.”
Spartans, who were 4-1 winners last weekend over Vale of Leithen in the South Challenge Cup, have injury doubts over defenders Kevin Sivewright and Danny Main – both are rated as 50/50. However, Donal Henretty will return to this squad for tomorrow’s encounter with Vale.
Elsewhere, Whitehill Welfare travel to Meadowbank 3G to tackle hosts Leith Athletic, also of the East of Scotland Premier Division, in the East of Scotland Cup’s other semi-final tie. The Rosewell outfit were given a free weekend almost seven days ago after their trip to the Borders to face Selkirk fell foul of the weather and manager Mickey Lawson will be keen for his squad to take advantage of having some fresh legs.
Preston Athletic await the visit of another East of Scotland Premier Division side in Heriot-Watt University to the Pennypit in their South Challenge Cup third-round tie, while Edinburgh City are in King Cup action against Civil Service Strollers at Meadowbank.