Desire of town quartet keeping title chasers on top

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CHRIS ROXBURGH and Conor Thomson are aiming to become local heroes by earning hometown team Penicuik promotion to the Super League.

Both players have suffered the disappointment of having to take a step back in their careers – Roxburgh having been at Hamilton and Thomson at both Dundee and Montrose.

But they’re heading in the right direction again as part of the Penicuik team leading a tight title battle in the Premier Division.

Roxburgh has been a revelation this season for Athletic, the livewire striker leading the line superbly for joint-managers Craig Meikle and Bryan Ryrie.

They’re also delighted to have Thomson available again for the run-in after the talented youngster had a spell on the sidelines due to injury.

Dean Knight is another local lad involved in Penicuik’s promotion push, as is former Motherwell youngster Mark Smith, who also had a spell at Cowdenbeath.

“We’ve got four really exciting youngsters here in Chris, Conor, Mark and Dean,” admitted Meikle, who has been passing on experience to the quartet along with the likes of Ally Reid and Mike McDermott.

“Chris was full-time with Hamilton but was released after they were relegated from the SPL last season. We were fortunate to get hold of him and I’m delighted that we did. Against Ballingry last week, for instance, he produced one of the best individual performances I’ve ever seen.

“On top of what he did with the ball, his workrate was unbelievable and hopefully he can keep producing performances like that until the end of the season.

“Like Chris, Conor is a local lad. He was full-time at Dundee then had a spell at Montrose. He’s another top young player and scored with his first touch last weekend after coming on as a substitute.”

Penicuik won 3-0 at Ballingry, having also picked up three points against Sauchie at home the previous weekend. Those two results were the perfect way to bounce back from a 2-0 defeat prior to that at Downfield that threatened to derail Athletic’s bid to earn a step up to the top flight.

“The Downfield game was maybe a kick up the backside we needed and it could prove to be a blessing in disguise,” admitted Meikle.

“We just didn’t perform on the day up at Dundee but we have bounced back with two great results, putting in a strong shift to beat Sauchie and then coming out on top against a well- organised Ballingry side.

“We’ve kept two clean sheets as well in those games and that helps build confidence.”

Tomorrow, Penicuik are at home to Newtongrange, who are probably out of the promotion race now but, nevertheless, are capable of being dangerous opponents. “I’m almost fed up saying it but this is another big one for us,” added Meikle. “It’s a local derby and Alan Miller, who is one of the top managers, will have his team fired up for it. They will be looking to settle a score after we went there earlier in the season and beat them.”

Among the additions made to the Star squad since then has been Chris King, Miller’s most recent signing from Musselburgh.

“Chris is a top-class player and is certainly someone we’ll need to keep a close eye on,” said Meikle. “If we’ve had an Achilles’ heel this season, it’s been the fact we’ve given away too many free-kicks just outside our box. And, if we do that in this game, there’s a good chance that Chris will be pinging a shot into the top corner of our net due to his set-piece ability.”

Penicuik lead the title race by a point from Oakley, with Tayport a further point back and Sauchie, Glenrothes and Broxburn also still in the mix.

“We’ve got six games to go and, after this one, we’re at Armadale next Saturday, you always get a tough game there,” added Meikle. “It’s all very tight and, while I’m sure it must be exciting for the neutrals, it’s nail-biting stuff for the teams involved.

“Oakley and Sauchie are still in a stronger position than us in terms of the points they can actually accumulate by winning all of their games. But most of the teams up there have still to play each other again, for instance, we’ve got both Glenrothes and Broxburn to play.

“I think the next two or three weeks will see things starting to take shape a bit more. We’ll just need to wait and see how it pans out but, hopefully, we can stay in the mix to the end of the season.”

Elsewhere in the league tomorrow, Broxburn entertain Glenrothes, Armadale are at Tayport, Sauchie play host to Broughty Athletic and Oakley are at home to Downfield.