East of Scotland: Leith looking for bonuses after surpassing targets
With this week's Siberian blast having wiped out tomorrow's Lowland League, South Region Challenge Cup, and East of Scotland League fixtures, it's provided an opportunity to catch up with Leith Athletic manager joint-manager Steve Chalmers, who is thriving in his first season at the helm.
Both Chalmers and co-manager Leighton Jones have worked wonders in the eight months they’ve been in charge.
There was an initial fear the departure of 2015-2016 East of Scotland League title-winning manager Derek Riddel and a host of players would leave the club with a massive void to fill.
However, the new regime appear to be quite at home amongst, it would be fair to say, some familiar surroundings having made the step-up from the club’s under-21 side.
Currently ten points adrift of league leaders Kelty Hearts in second spot, Leith also have a League Cup semi-final clash with city rivals Tynecastle to look forward to this month. They also have the chance of taking another Lowland League scalp when they host Civil Service Strollers in the South Region Challenge Cup fourth round.
Having disposed of Strollers’ divisional rivals Edinburgh University in the previous round, Chalmers believes his players have more than earned their place as the East of Scotland League’s sole representative remaining in the competition. The squad has also had to contend with the upheavel of relocating to Peffermill while their former home pitch at Meadowbank Stadium is redeveloped.
“We’re absolutely delighted with how things have gone so far this year at the club,” Chalmers said. “You are usually judged on how you fare in your second season because the first one you are kind of an unknown really. Leighton and I were appointed quite late in the day following Derek’s exit and our preparation could have been a lot better, to be honest. However, we’re already planning for next year and identifying ways to strengthen so that we can get off to a good start.
“I said to the guys a couple of weeks ago that the chances of us winning the league are very slim. Ten points is a big ask to claw back on Kelty at this stage of the season. In saying that, I do believe we will have a big say in where the title goes. We’ve still got to play both Lothian and Kelty before the season is out. Lothian twice actually. It’s going to be difficult for them playing catch-up as the games will have to start being played midweek. But, with regards to ourselves, we’ve surpassed our targets already so whatever happens between now and May will be a bonus. We’re the only East of Scotland League club left in the South Region Challenge Cup so that in itself is a massive achievement. We just want to go as far as we can now.”
Following a mid-season slump that saw Leith lose to Kelty and Tynecastle, as well as a goalless stalemate with struggling Ormiston, the club has reeled off five wins on the trot.
“Our first two matches at Peffermill after leaving Meadowbank ended in defeat so I changed where we do our warm-up and the dugout we sit in and since then we haven’t lost!” Chalmers laughed. “We had set ourselves a target of five league wins these past few weeks and we’re pleased we’ve done that so we’re going into a real tricky period in good form. The players have been excellent. We’re getting stronger so that bodes well for the run-in.”