Facing title rivals East Kilbride is just the tonic for Spartans

Blair Tolmie
Blair Tolmie
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Spartans defender Blair Tolmie believes their penalty shoot-out defeat by East Kilbride in the Irn-Bru Cup last month won’t have any bearing on tomorrow’s mouth-watering league encounter at Ainslie Park.

The South Lanarkshire club sit a point behind the Lowland League leaders, despite having a game in hand, and will head to the Capital after a two-week absence from their domestic campaign.

Both sides endured mixed fortunes in the Football Nation Qualifying Cup last weekend when Kilby triumphed 2-0 over Bo’ness United and Spartans were dumped out 3-2 by Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale.

Tolmie insists his team-mates have already put last Saturday’s defeat behind them and believes a game of this magnitude is exactly the type of test required to prove they can bounce straight back.

A feisty rivalry has developed between the two clubs off the park in recent seasons but the centre-back claims it is a totally different story on it.

He said: “We’re all looking forward to this one. We obviously had a poor result against Lothian Thistle last weekend and we want to try and put that right.

“Our form in the league has been pretty good so far this season and we need to keep that winning momentum going.

“This is probably the best game we could’ve got after last weekend’s disappointment because we know if we perform like we did against Hutchie then we won’t come away with any points.

“We know we’ve got to be much better as we’re facing one of the best teams outside the SPFL.

“Obviously, we won the league last year and they won it the year before, but there’s not too much needle on the park. I think we both respect each other, but we always look forward to games against them.

“We played East Kilbride in the cup earlier this season and I thought it was a very close game for 90 minutes, but they beat us on penalties. Their squad is full of top players, guys that shouldn’t be playing at this level.

“I don’t think that result will impact this game at all, though. A lot of people spoke last year about how strong we were defensively, but you’ve also got to be a threat at the other end and we’re certainly scoring more goals, which is a positive.”

Tolmie, now in his third season with Spartans after joining from Newtongrange Star in 2016, reckons it won’t be too long before several Junior giants are challenging at the top end of the league.

And the 29-year-old admits he had to adapt his game to the division’s style after plying his trade in the Junior ranks for six years.

He stated: “I played Junior football for a long time and maybe you took a bit of stick from fans when you made a mistake or missed a good chance, but I’ve never really had that at Spartans.

“The biggest difference from playing Junior football is that in this league teams like to get the ball down and play. The conditions suit us well and there are a lot of artificial surfaces, whereas the Juniors was predominantly an aerial battle.

“It’s clear over the next couple of years, all the top Junior sides will be forces to be reckoned with in the Lowland League. Personally, I think they’re on an even keel with teams like ourselves.”

Elsewhere, Civil Service Strollers are in Scottish Cup first-round action when they travel north to face Highland League opposition in the shape of Forres Mechanics at Mosset Park.

Gary Jardine’s team have been in fine goal-scoring form of late and he will be hoping his players can put on another solid display against the Can Cans, who sit in fifth spot having also enjoyed a productive start to the campaign.

Edinburgh University will be searching for back-to-back wins for the first time this season when they take on Whitehill Welfare in an all-Lowland League clash at Ferguson Park.

Dorian Ogunro’s men boast a vastly superior record over the Midlothian outfit, having won seven of their previous eight meetings.