Spartans host Edinburgh City in a New Year Edinburgh derby today and it’s a clash defender Eddie Malone believes the home side must win if they are to have any chance of winning the Ferrari Packaging Lowland League title.
The Ainslie Park side are currently third in the table, 12 points behind their city rivals, albeit with two games in hand. According to Malone, a Spartans victory would give the reigning champions something to think about. “We need to take points off them when we get the chance,” he said. “We obviously need to win the games in hand as well and first and foremost on Saturday – it’s huge. If we can manage that, it might get them looking over their shoulders a little bit.”
The corresponding fixture at Meadowbank earlier in the season saw 10-man City scrape a 1-0 win in what was a tetchy encounter. Malone admits that Spartans weren’t at their best that day, despite their numerical advantage, and is keen to make amends tomorrow. “I think a draw would have been fair – there wasn’t much in that game at all,” he explained. “It was scrappy and there wasn’t much football played at all. On Saturday if we can get the ball down and knock it about we can hopefully put on a show, because the last game was pretty poor to be honest.”
With the traditional “Ne’er Day derby” on hiatus as Hearts and Hibs operate at different levels for the time being, it’s “wee brother” takes on some extra significance, and Malone is hoping that can help boost the numbers heading to Pilton. “It might get a wee bit more coverage in the media because there’s no Hibs v Hearts game,” he said. “Hopefully that’ll encourage a few more to come along and see it. The last game when Hibs and Hearts weren’t playing, we didn’t put on much of a show for the neutrals, so hopefully this time, if any of them do come along to watch, it’s a bit easier on the eye.”
It’s a view shared by one of the men Malone will be trying to shackle. Ross Allum is in fine form for Gary Jardine’s team, and is glad to have such a big game to kick off 2016. “There’s a full card of games on but I think there’ll still be a fair bit of interest in this one,” said the striker. “It’s being branded as the only Edinburgh derby you’ll see this year so we’re hoping for a decent crowd, especially down at Spartans who get quite good crowds anyway.
“When the fixtures come out it’s one of the first ones you look for, whether we’re playing them at Meadowbank or Ainslie Park. It’s one we’re certainly looking forward too and I’m sure they’re in the exact same boat. We know if we get three points it’s going to be massive. It won’t be deciding the title, but it’ll have a big part to play, especially in terms of confidence.”
While Allum would happily take a similar result to the season’s earlier fixture, he’s hoping things go better for him personally, given he was sent off before half-time. “I’m hoping it goes a bit better for myself – maybe staying on the park for more than 45 minutes would be good!” he laughed. “I thought [the red card] was pretty harsh and so did everybody that I spoke to there. That happens when you run the risk trying to put in the odd tackle. I’m definitely trying to stay on the park for the 90!”