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.

Wednesday, 13th April 2022, 3:01 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th April 2022, 5:16 pm

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.

The prize for the champions is three-way play-off with the South of Scotland and West of Scotland League champions for promotion to the Lowland League, tier five of the pyramid.

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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.

Nicky Reid battles for possession with Linlithgow's Willis Hare. The two title contenders will meet on the last day of the season. But Tranent currently lead the way

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.

Tranent were impressive 3-1 winners away to Sauchie last night

“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.

TITLE RUN-IN

Tranent (66 points; 28 games)

The Premier Division standings with six games to go
Inverkeithing (A) 16 Apr
Dunbar (H) 19 Apr
Camelon (H) 23 Apr
Linlithgow (H) 26 Apr
Linlithgow (A) 7 May
Jeanfield (H) 14 May

Penicuik (66 points; 28 games)

Dundonald (H) 16 Apr
Sauchie (H) 19 Apr
Musselburgh (H) 23 Apr
Broxburn (H) 26 Apr
Camelon (A) 7 May
Linlithgow (H) 14 May

Linlithgow (62 points, 28 games)

Sauchie (H) 16 Apr
Jeanfield (A) 23 Apr
Tranent (A) 26 Apr
Blackburn (H) TBC
Tranent (H) 7 May
Penicuik (A) 14 May