Gary Jardine: A slow start could cripple Strollers

Gary Jardine
Gary Jardine
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Civil Service Strollers boss Gary Jardine says a healthy return of points from his side’s opening four games can lay the foundations for a successful season.

Jardine arrived at Christie Gillies Park towards the end of last year to work alongside former Strollers head coach Alex Cunningham, who has since taken up a position with the club’s committee.

Now at the helm for the first time since leaving SPFL League Two outfit Edinburgh City in September last year, Jardine is relishing the chance to lead Strollers into their opening game of the 2018/19 campaign when Vale of Leithen visit the Capital venue tomorrow.

However, with three away trips to Selkirk, Stirling and Edinburgh Universities to follow over the next 11 days, Jardine appreciates it is vital they pick up points if they are to better last season’s seventh-place finish. Strollers also won the South East Region Challenge Cup with victory over BSC Glasgow in May.

“We’re looking for improvements both individually and collectively and that’s just something I’ve done throughout my coaching career,” Jardine explained. “If the players improve then everything will take care of itself.

“We can’t dictate what other teams do. We need to improve our levels of performance as there were games where we dropped points that we should have really won last season. I think rather than improve on position we would like to do better than our 40 points we achieved lasts season.

“We’ve had a heavy schedule lately but it’s important the guys are up to it as we play four games in the space of 11 days. It can play a big part in how your season pans out but we’re looking forward to it. For a club like ourselves, we’ve got to try and get to 30 points as quickly as we can. How quickly that happens will probably dictate how successful we are this year.”

Jardine has been reunited with former City attacking duo Mark McConnell and Ross Guthrie, McConnell having spent the second half of last season on loan from Bonnyrigg Rose.

Meanwhile, Guthrie decided to team up with his former manager following a frustrating 12 months at Spartans.

Former Preston Athletic and Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale striker Keith Murray has also been brought on board but last season’s top goalscorer Stephen Froude has elected to join East of Scotland side Leith Athletic.

Goalkeeper Stuart Burnside has also moved on to pastures new with Craigroyston.

“We’ve kept the nucleus of last season’s squad together,” Jardine said.

“We’ve brought a few players in and they’ll hopefully add to what we already have. They [McConnell, Guthrie and Murray] come with a bit of experience so that should help us.

“It’s important we get off to a good start tomorrow.

“Chris Anderson has been backed by the committee down at Vale so they’ve brought a lot of players in and I think they’ll be a different animal this season. They got a fright last year finishing second bottom so they’ve acted accordingly.”

Elsewhere, Whitehill Welfare make the long journey to take on Edusport Academy at Galabank, home of SPFL League Two outfit Annan Athletic.

Manager Gary Small will be hoping to improve on last season’s disappointing 12th-place finish. He has given the captaincy to new striker Craig O’Reilly.

Edinburgh University are also on their travels this weekend when they travel to Raydale Park where hosts Gretna 2008 await.

Dorian Ogunro is expected to be without a number of players with students still away on their summer breaks.

And Spartans, who rounded off their Betfred Cup campaign with a 3-0 defeat at home to Kilmarnock on Tuesday night, welcome Stirling University to Ainslie Park. However, the match is scheduled for a 7.30pm kick-off.