EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY striker James Connington was on cloud nine after scoring his first Lowland League goal against Kelty Hearts on Tuesday night.
However, the 23-year-old biomedicine graduate claims he and the rest of the squad have big boots to fill in the absence of star performer Jack Guthrie this term.
Guthrie, who played more than 200 games and scored 120 goals for the Uni over four seasons, has moved on, paving the way for a new crop of young students eager to impress manager Dorian Ogunro.
The early signs have been positive with the club recording their joint-best start to the division since the 2015/16 campaign. Connington was delighted to get off the mark for the new season in midweek and is pleased to see the goals being spread around the team.
He said: “It’s definitely been one of our best starts to a season I can remember. The league is getting harder and more competitive every year, but we’ve got experience under our belts now and know the demands of playing in this league.
“We always try and improve each season, but it can be challenging when you have so many boys moving on each year.
“We’ve all got to step up now in Jack’s absence.
“We’ve got big shoes to fill because he made such a huge contribution to the team with his goals and assists over the last few years.
“We’ve started well, though. Stuart (McNicholas) has scored three goals already, including two against Gretna 2008 on the first weekend of the new season. Abdul (Yusuf) has a few, I’ve got one and Patrick (Baird) does as well, so the goals have been coming from all areas of the pitch which is great to see.”
Connington has been one of several past-students helping Ogunro’s side during their notoriously challenging start to each campaign due to the absence and arrival of students.
The frontman was given the task of leading the line himself against Kelty at New Central Park, an opportunity he clearly relished after planting a header into the corner of the net to seal a 2-2 draw.
Connington, who is in the process of applying for a place in the RAF, believes the performance outlined their self-discipline and ability to work together as a unit. “We knew it was going to be a tough game, but the fact that we managed to come from behind twice was very pleasing and it shows how good the boys’ attitudes are.
“Some teams don’t expect a huge amount from us early in the season because we don’t often have a settled squad. They underestimate us, but we like to prove people wrong by putting in a good performance.
“It was my first goal in the Lowland League and the boys were giving me a bit of stick for it in the dressing room after the game because I kept going on about it!”
The Uni welcome top-of-the-table East Kilbride to Peffermill this weekend – a team Ogunro’s men fared well against last term. Kilby took just two points from a possible 12 against both university teams in the division last season, which ultimately cost them the title, and Connington is hoping his team-mates can upset the odds again tomorrow.
He joked: “I don’t think they’ll thank us very much for that (killing their title ambitions last year). We really enjoy playing against these bigger teams and always seem to up our game. I think the bigger crowd and an opportunity to test ourselves against such strong opposition really brings out the best in the boys.”
Elsewhere, Spartans make the long journey to Raydale Park to face Gretna 2008, while in-form Civil Service Strollers face Gala Fairydean Rovers in the Borders.
Struggling Whitehill Welfare entertain Dalbeattie Star at Ferguson Park, aiming to pick up their first league win of the season. The Rosewell club are still on the look-out for a new manager, four weeks on since Gary Small’s departure.