WHITEGILL WELFARE manager Rab Paget today sent out a stern warning to Spartans ahead of their Central Taxis Premier Division clash at Ainslie Park tomorrow.
“We are not going there with a draw in mind – we are going there to win,” he warned.
“There’s doubt about it. If we are to have any chance of winning the league then this is a game we simply must win.
“We cannot afford to drop any more points and for the confidence of the players for the rest of the season we really do need to win and close the gap between ourselves and Spartans. A victory would put us in a position where we could still go on and win the title.”
Spartans are 13 points ahead of the Rosewell club although Whitehill do have three games in hand over their hosts. Paget, however, was quick to praise his arch-rivals by saying: “Spartans are formidable opposition on their own new ground and they are unbeaten at Ainslie Park in competitive games since they moved to the artificial surface. Hopefully that statistic will have changed by 4.45pm tomorrow.
“Spartans are the benchmark for every other team in our league and even after they lost Alex King, Ross Archibald and Chris Townsley last season they replaced them with other very good players. I have the utmost respect for their newcomers including Kerr Dodds, Alasdair MacKinnon, Scott Fusco and Chris Anderson. Also, in Omar Kader, Dean Hoskins and Keith McLeod they have vastly experienced players, in fact they have some of the best players in the entire league.
“Having said all of that I still believe that we have a squad strong enough to cause Spartans problems.”
Whitehill were knocked off their stride last weekend when they were beaten 3-2 by Lothian Thistle although they were without the suspended Wayne McIntosh, Andrew Kidd and Michael Bruce.
“Obviously, that was a disappointing result but take nothing away from Lothian Thistle because they deserved to win regardless of our injuries and suspensions,” admitted Paget. “We had a long chat about that game and about commitment and attitude on Monday night after working the players hard. Andrew Kidd and Michael Bruce will come back into contention for tomorrow’s game which is huge. No teams want Spartans to be running away with the league so I need a reaction from my players and I also need big performances from every single one of them.
“They need to show a mental toughness and a fantastic commitment while also not being afraid to be on the ball. We must start off on the front foot and if we show all of these qualities then we have a chance. If the right Whitehill Welfare team turns up and is turned on then Spartans will have a game on their hands.
Gareth Thom and Scott McCulloch are both injured although Paget is hoping to bring in at least one trialist.
Spartans, meanwhile, beat challengers Vale of Leithen 3-1 last weekend and had co-manager Mike Lawson saying: “We started well and created chances by going three ahead but we obviously lost the second half.
“There were more positives than negatives. All the other results went our way and that doesn’t happen very often. However, we have to temper that with the fact that we have played more games than our challengers and all we are trying to do is accumulate as many points as possible.”
Turning his attention to tomorrow, Lawson added: “The biggest game in the league is definitely Spartans against Whitehill. Spartans may have won the league for the past three seasons but in the decade before that Whitehill were the dominant team and for that alone this is a huge game, the biggest in our calendar.
“We have prepared accordingly because we will be without the unavailable Kevin Sivewright and Jonny Seeley while Kerr Dodds is injured. On the plus side, Donal Henretty, Jordan Finnie and Gavin Malin are all available. I am confident of a good performance and if we play as well as we can do then we are capable of beating any team in the league.”
The action kicks-off at Ainslie Park at 3pm with admission prices, adults £5 and concessions £2.