East of Scotland: Tranent, Penicuik Athletic and Linlithgow Rose in hunt as thrilling title race goes to wire
With just six games to go and goal difference separating the top two, the East of Scotland Premier Division title race is going to the wire.
Tranent and Penicuik Athletic both recorded impressive away victories last night to create a four-point gap between them and third-placed Linlithgow Rose, who have hit a something of sticky patch as the race enters the final straight.
However, the league fixture secretary has guaranteed more twists and turns by keeping head-to-heads clashes between the three contenders for the very end. Anything could happen and it looks increasingly like the title race will go right down to the final day of the season on May 14.
With all to play for, the top two are neck-and-neck at the top on 66 points from 28 games, but Tranent have a far superior goal difference. Linlithgow have 62 points from the same number of games.
After an incredible 16 league wins on the bounce over winter shot them to the top, Gordon Herd’s team have since lost three of their last four. But they have still to play Tranent home and away before travelling to Penicuik on the final day of the season. It is still in their hands.
Tranent’s trip to sixth-placed Sauchie last night was a potentially hazardous one, particularly after spilling two points at the weekend in a 1-1 draw to home to Crossgates. But Jamie Docherty’s impressive second-half hat-trick in a 3-1 win at Beachwood Park got Calum Elliot’s men immediately back on track, despite a red card late on.
The leaders, who have added to their squad and let a couple of players go in the latter part of the season, have another tricky trip this weekend away to Inverkeithing Hillhead Swifts. The Fifers recorded a shock 1-0 at Foresters Park when the teams last met in the league in late October.
Penicuik negotiated a tricky trip to Fife in muddy conditions last night, winning 2-1 at Hill of Beath Hawthorn thanks to a header from the superb Aiden Walsh and a Ryan Baptie corner which appeared to cross the line before the home keeper’s attempt to scoop it out.
“The boys were tremendous,” said manager Steve McLeish, who took charge at the end of August after Tony Begg left to take up a Hibs academy coaching role. “Getting three points here is massive. It’s a hard place to come.”
Five of Penicuik’s last six league games are at home, starting with Saturday’s visit of Dundondald Bluebell. But after just one win in five games at Penicuik Park in all competitions, that may not be such an advantage.
“We need to change our home form because it has not been good enough,” added McLeish, who does have players coming back from injury at the right time. He has had injury and Covid problems to contend with all season, but last night had 24 players available.
“I’ve not had that for six months,” he added. “It’s been really hard to patch up the squad game in, game out. We’ve had significant players out, but we’ve got a good squad and at full strength we’re a team to be reckoned with.”
All three managers could say that, which makes for a thrilling few weeks ahead.
Tranent (66 points; 28 games)
Penicuik (66 points; 28 games)
Linlithgow (62 points, 28 games)