Edinburgh City play hosts for a third consecutive week with East Kilbride making the trip to the Capital for tomorrow afternoon’s league encounter at Meadowbank.
Victories over Gala Fairydean Rovers and Dalbeattie Star are just what manager Gary Jardine demanded from his players upon the squad’s return to league duty at the beginning of the month.
After failing to progress from Group B and missing out on a place in the semi-finals of the Lowland League Cup over the festive period, accumulating as many league points as possible between now and the end of the inaugural campaign has become top priority.
Jardine said: “We had a chat at the turn of the year and I asked the players to be more consistent and try to get more points on the board and, to be fair, they’ve done that so far.
“There is a bit of confidence back and they’ve worked hard on their fitness and they’ve got their rewards. Those six points that we picked up against Gala and Dalbeattie have got us that bit closer to the teams above us, so we want to make it nine out of nine tomorrow.
“East Kilbride are a really top side and have a lot of strength in their team so it will be another close game. The best team on the day will most likely get the right result.
“Top four has always been a target and if we can get another few wins between now and the end of the season then there is no reason why we can’t finish up the top end.”
Jardine doesn’t deflect from what he conceded as a disappointing first half to the season, a four-month period that produced only five wins from 13 league fixtures prior to the club’s recent back-to-back wins over Gala and Dalbeattie – the latter being the only side City have taken maximum points from both home and away.
“Dalbeattie are a real good side, so the fact we’ve managed to do the double over them is very pleasing,” Jardine said. “To take six points off them is really fantastic, so that has been one of the highlights. But also our 5-1 league win over Whitehill Welfare is up there as to score five goals against last year’s champions (East of Scotland) was superb as we were also a few bodies down that day.”
The City manager admits he has already shifted some of his focus to next season’s possible signing recruitments, targeting specific areas of the park he feels requires strengthening.
He said: “I have had thoughts but we plan to sit down with the chairman and the rest of the committee and put our plans forward. We know that we need to improve and we’ve identified players, but you need to sell the club to those targets which is another thing. We also try and promote within and we have a good Under-19 side who we can call upon.
“The emphasis will definitely be on starting next season better because that’s where we’ve made it difficult for ourselves. Had we had a better start then who knows where we’d have been. I’ve been delighted with Mark McConnell’s progression and Dougie Gair has been a real stalwart for us as well. Ian McFarland has also been a standout – he’s a real team player.”
Whitehill, also on league business, make the trip to Selkirk without both Willie Kidd and John Hall, who are on holiday, but both Darren McGlashan and Andy Martin are expected to return after work commitments south of the border this week.
Lowland League leaders Spartans are in South Challenge Cup duty with Chic MacAleavy’s Vale of Leithen the visitors to Ainslie Park, the home side looking to atone for their disappointing 0-0 stalemate last weekend against East Kilbride. Meanwhile, Preston Athletic await the visit of East of Scotland Premier Division strugglers Heriot-Watt University to the Pennypit, also in the South Challenge Cup.