Connor McGregor and Lothian Thistle HV come out fighting in cup

Connor McGregor strokes home his penalty for Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale. Pic: Greg Macvean
Connor McGregor strokes home his penalty for Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale. Pic: Greg Macvean
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Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale midfielder Connor McGregor is hopeful his side can translate Saturday’s impressive 3-2 South Region Challenge Cup second-round win over Spartans at Saughton Enclosure into their lacklustre league form.

McGregor fired the East of Scotland side in front from the penalty spot after just nine minutes after Spartans defender Blair Tolmie was penalised for hauling down an attacker.

The 22-year-old then curled a free-kick into the net from 20 yards to double Lothian’s advantage early in the second half, before a quick counter-attack after 56 minutes saw Kevin Brown lob the ball over stranded keeper Scott Costello.

The reigning Lowland League champions set up a tense finish when David Greenhill rifled home on 74 minutes and frontman Stephen MacDonald capitalised on Kevin Swain’s late fumble, but Raymond Carr’s men held on to progress to the next round.

McGregor believes the result will have done his team-mates’ confidence the world of good and reckons a solid run in the competition could go a long way to determining how their season pans out.

He stated: “It was massive for us to get a win under our belts because we really couldn’t afford another defeat. Our results recently don’t do us any justice, but everyone knows we are a top side on our day.

“Spartans were unbeaten in 26 games coming into it, so hopefully a result like this shows that’s us back to our best. Scoring two late goals flattered them but we’re in the next round of a cup which is all that matters.

“We’re not taking this competition lightly. We’re used to being up there challenging in cup competitions at the end of each season, so that’s what we intend to do again this year.

“You’re always going to compare performances and results to last season and by our standard we’ve started the season really poorly.

“We only lost once in the league last year and already this season we’ve lost one and drawn one. It’s quite hard to put a finger on why that’s been the case, but you don’t become a bad team overnight.

“We’re obviously in a much harder league now than what it used to be before. We’ve been drawn in the toughest section and we know there are no easy games any more.

“I think when we played Bo’ness a few weeks ago they caught us off-guard. We didn’t really know what to expect from a lot of these ex-Junior clubs, but we’ve just got to toughen up a bit.

“We need to stand up and be counted, work harder in training and continue to fight for each other. This result will stand us in good stead going forward.”

Lothian were granted their SFA members licence last month and McGregor believes it is a massive step forward in the right direction.

He admitted: “That’s definitely in our sights now,” (becoming an SPFL club). We’ve been saying it for years that we can beat anybody and we proved that again on Saturday.

“It’s just unfortunate we’ve been granted our licence in the same year 25 new teams join the league, considering we’ve dominated the East of Scotland scene for the last five or six seasons.

“It’s a big incentive now for the club to try and strengthen further and push on. Hopefully, we can get into the Lowland League before too long and then aim for a League Two position eventually.”

Elsewhere, Civil Service Strollers thrashed Upper Annandale 5-0 at Christie Gillies Park.

Whitehill Welfare lost out to Ashley Kelly’s 75-minute winner for Gretna 2008, while strike duo James Connington and Patrick Baird were on target as Edinburgh University knocked out Oakley United 2-0 at Peffermill.