Edinburgh University’s winning run ended with a heavy 5-0 defeat at Spartans last week, but goalkeeper Mark Tait is desperate to reignite that run of form with a win over Gretna in tomorrow’s Ferrari Packaging Lowland League fixture at East Peffermill.
Prior to last Saturday, the Students had won three on the bounce and Tait is keen to return to winning ways as soon as possible. “It’s been a long week” he admitted. “Myself and the rest of the boys are desperate to get back on track after two very good results prior to the Spartans game. Going into it, defensively I think we had one of the best records in the league. As a goalkeeper, it’s never good to concede five goals. It’ll be good to get back on the scoresheet and try to keep Gretna out.”
Uni are now in their second season as a Lowland League team, and Tait thinks having that year’s experience has increased their belief. However, last year was also a lesson in the need to be more clinical. He said: “It’s obviously a big step up, but having the year under our belt, we’ve realised that although we maybe didn’t finish where we wanted to last year, our performances let us know we could compete at this level. As we’ve seen so far this season, every team has the capacity to beat everyone else.
“We still need to be more clinical. We keep the ball well and we have spells in games when were on top but we need to make those periods count and score goals.
“In previous years in the East of Scotland league, you could get away with missing five or six chances then score and it was enough to get you through the game. In the Lowland League you get a lot less of those opportunities and you have to score when you’re on top.
“We normally have a reasonable defensive record but the longer you go in a game without scoring, the more pressure it puts on the defence. It’s a cliché, but the best way to defend is to score goals and it’s sometimes an area where we haven’t delivered. We’ve scored five against Duns and four against Threave so if we can keep being that clinical, it’ll give us a platform to get more out of games.”
One challenge that is harder to overcome is replacing experienced players. Dan Ward’s summer transfer to Spartans is a prime example and it’s something Tait has seen happen a lot duriing his eight years between the Uni sticks. “Each year you’ll lose some of your experienced players who are replaced with young but hungry guys” he explained. “You’re always faced with the job of giving them experience in the league and getting to know the team and how we do things.
“That’s why the University normally has a better second half to the season. It does give the younger guys an opportunity to step up and fill the big shoes that were left behind. In Wardy’s case, he was a great servant and we were lucky to have him, but it’s not just the gap on the pitch, it’s also his experience in the dressing room.
“This is now my eighth season at the club so I’ve seen cycles and the different Uni teams that come through and me being a constant there, especially in the position I play, hopefully that goes some way to help.”