Tynecastle manager Stevie Vinter believes the destination of the East of Scotland league title could be between five or six teams this season.
After watching his side lose out 5-4 to Civil Service Strollers in Saturday’s opening League Cup Qualifying Group A match at Marine Drive, Vinter believes the quality on show from both sides proved that either Tynecastle or Strollers could be strong contenders for the 16-team league which commences on August 22.
“It was a great advert for the East of Scotland league and we’re just really frustrated not to have taken anything out of it” said Vinter. “I do think the league will be a very close affair this season. Leith and Lothian Thistle were the main contenders last season and will still be strong favourites, but both ourselves and Civil Service have some really talented players and it would be healthy to have five to six teams challenging for the league.”
Tynecastle were two goals to the good after 35 minutes at Marine Drive with Scott Coleman and Chris Milligan both on target, but a Davy Stewart penalty just before the break brought Alex Cunningham’s side back into the match.
A defensive mix-up allowed Kyle Boggie to pull Civil level on his first appearance since joining from Spartans.
Coleman completed his hat-trick for Tynie in a second-half goal frenzy but Stewart added two further goals with Jordan Finnie also on target for Strollers as they edged a thrilling contest.
Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale were 3-0 winners over Craigroyston at Saughton Enclosure in Qualifying Group B.
After a goalless first half, Scott Taylor McKenzie scored from a free-kick, with Darren Smith netting the other two – one from the penalty spot – for the league champions.
“Losing Alan McDonough and Dean Cummings in the warm-up wasn’t ideal for us, but the goals in the second half were well taken,” said Lothian boss Raymond Carr. Craigroyston manager Andrew Brown revealed: “We had two seventeen-year-olds in the team – with a squad of only 13 to pick from – but it was a good learning curve for them. Players are coming back, though.”
Tonight Lothian Thistle travel to Peebles Rovers (kick-off 7.15) while Craigroyston make the trip to Hawick Royal Albert (7.45pm).
Tomorrow, Strollers host Burntisland Shipyard (7.15pm) whilst Tynecastle face Eyemouth United at Saughton (7.45pm).