Dalkeith Thistle co-manager Darren Smith reckons a top-five finish in the ultra-competitive East of Scotland Conference B would be a “remarkable” achievement.
The Kings Park club – currently seventh – visit 2016/17 champions Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale at Saughton Enclosure tomorrow looking to boost their chances of making it into next season’s elite league, with a place in the top five of each three conferences securing a spot.
Considering Dalkeith’s conference is comprised of last season’s Super League champions Bonnyrigg Rose plus a host of other top clubs, Smith believes they would be punching above their weight should they finish within the top five.
“Everybody wants the top five, and not being disrespectful to the other leagues, but if we were in any other one, we would comfortably be in the top five,” said Smith, who took over at Dalkeith alongside Kenny Rafferty in May.
“We got dealt a hand just like other teams in the league – it’s the group of death. If we got top five this season it would be pretty remarkable for what we’ve got.
“I’ve said to the boys, take Bonnyrigg out the league, we’ve got to try and be competitive against everybody else – and so far we’ve done that. We aren’t going to win every week and we are a bit like a bag of Revels – I don’t really know what we’re going to get the now. We are just trying to get that consistency. Since myself and Raff took over, I can’t speak highly enough of the boys, they have been brilliant for us.”
The Jags were denied a stunning victory over Conference B rivals Tranent last weekend, the ten-man Belters scoring twice away from home in the final eight minutes to secure a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw.
It was a point that Smith – managing against his former club – would have taken before the match, but he admitted it felt like a defeat after the double sucker-punch so late on.
Smith continued: “To be fair, I think anybody at the game would’ve seen there was only one team in it and that was us. Realistically we should have been out of sight at half-time with the chances we had, that’s not being disrespectful; you look at Tranent’s squad and the budget they have got compared to what other teams have got and there’s a massive difference. Full credit to our boys, I thought we approached the game well.
“In the second half we threw the game away just through not managing it properly. We were 3-1 up with eight minutes to go and we made stupid decisions, giving the ball away when we should’ve taken it into the corner. If we managed the game for five minutes it would’ve been dead.
“When you look at the differences with budgets and things like that, and what their expectations are compared to ours, massive credit goes to my players. It felt like a defeat. Before it we would’ve probably taken a point, but in the circumstances we should have had the three points.”
Lothian Thistle go into tomorrow’s match on the back of three straight victories over Sauchie, Cumbernauld Colts and Dunipace. Boss Raymond Carr admits they face an uphill task to break into the league’s top five after such a lacklustre start to the campaign.
He said: “We’ve picked up after adding one or two new faces to the squad. It’s been a really, really slow start for us, it has taken a while for us to get going.
“Fitness wise it feels like we’ve just finished our pre-season, to get up to the level that we should be. We’ve started to play a bit better and we are starting to get more confident now.
“It’s been hard. We’ve lost points to teams that we would normally go out and win against. These dropped points early on could cost us.
“We’ve just got to take it one game at a time then go on to the next one. We can’t go thinking about the end of the season yet as there is still a lot of football to be played.”