Manager Kevin Twaddle cited a “brilliant” playing squad and backroom staff as major factors in his Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale team claiming an historic first championship title.
Twaddle’s men were crowned Central Taxis East of Scotland Premier Division champions after a thrilling comeback that saw them beat second-placed Craigroyston and gain a crucial three points that left Stirling University, the long-time league leaders and Lothian’s last remaining challenger, unable to catch them.
Former Hearts and Motherwell player Twaddle, who took charge of the Saughton Enclosure side in November after the departure of Grant Carnie from the Lothian hotseat, has presided over the just one defeat in almost six months as his dynamic young team overtook their title rivals to reach, and remain at, the summit.
“I’m delighted to have led the lads to winning the league,” said Twaddle. “But, I couldn’t have done it without the help of the staff and especially the players. They’ve been nothing short of brilliant since I came in, and it will be great to see them playing in the Scottish Cup next season. They’ve beaten a lot of good sides along the way.
“It’s the first time in the club’s history that they’ve won the league, which makes it all the sweeter.”
Goals by Kyle Boggie and Gary McCormack saw Craigie threaten to spoil the champions-elect Lothian’s title celebrations. However, a double by the home side’s Craig Stevenson and a further strike by the on-form John Williams rescued Twaddle’s side and saw them continue their positive run en route to a title win. Lothian will receive the championship trophy prior to tomorrow night’s fixture at home to Stirling University.
Gary Sutherland, the Craigroyston assistant manager, congratulated Twaddle and Lothian on their title win but bemoaned his own side’s lack of discipline – they allowed Lothian to equalise via a penalty and a freekick on the edge of the box – and poor decision-making.
“Our decision-making cost us the game,” said Sutherland. “The manner in which we gave away goals was disappointing. The table doesn’t lie, though, and I’d like to say well done to Kevin and his players.
“As for us, we have to regroup and try our best to finish second in the league and win a cup. There’s plenty still to do.”
Tynecastle ensured they remain in with a chance of a second-place finish after Lewis Russell netted the decisive goal late on in their 3-2 win at home to Leith Athletic. Leith took the lead through an own goal, but Ousman See equalised for Tynie prior to half time. A second from See edged Tynie in front, but Jack Combe levelled for Leith. However, Russell’s long-range strike on 80 minutes left Dougie Dalgleish’s side with a runner-up spot still to chase.
“The game was spoilt by the wind, but it was a good three points for us,” said Dalgleish.
Leith manager Derek Riddel was critical of his side’s approach to the match after having secured their Premier Division status.
“We went into yesterday’s game knowing that our place in the Premier League was secure and, unfortunately, we played the game like an end of season game that meant nothing. Tynecastle worked harder than we did yesterday and they probably had the better chances in what was a pretty poor game.”
Heriot-Watt University boss Chris Smith said his players ought to “shoulder some responsibility” after his already-relegated side turned in a poor performance in defeat at home to third-bottom Coldstream. Watt assumed the lead through an own goal, but Streamers fought back through strikes by Dean Powling and Conor Devaney.
Smith said: “We are really disappointed with the performance. We were 1-0 up at half time and would have been clear had we been more clinical in front of goal. However, the result was deserved given our second half performance, and the players need to shoulder the responsibility for the defeat.”
Civil Service Strollers, another side consigned to relegation, showed further evidence of improvement as they ran out 1-0 winners at Stirling University thanks to a Craig Newalls goal.
Strollers boss Ross McNeil said: “I thought we bossed the game and deserved the win.”