LEITH ATHLETIC really couldn’t be in a better place as they welcome Lowland League outfit and city rivals Edinburgh University to Meadowbank this weekend on South Region Challenge Cup third-round duty.
The East of Scotland League’s early-season title contenders are riding on the crest of a wave having suffered a solitary defeat from their last 14 league and cup outings, their extended run stretching as far back as the beginning of August.
And, as the they prepare for the visit of Dorian Ogunro’s students tomorrow, joint-manager Steve Chalmers believes the chance to rewrite the history books and seal their place in the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time couldn’t be more within the grasp of his players.
“Our form has been great so far this season so we’re looking at it as a free shot. The university sides are always well organised and fit so we won’t be taking them lightly. But there are no expectations or pressure on us to come through the tie,” Chalmers explained.
“I doubt the bookmakers would have us as favourites to win the game just because of the level Edinburgh Uni are at.
“If we were to win tomorrow then it would be the first time the club has got passed the third round so that’s another incentive for the boys and would be an achievement in itself.
“But the guys really have been excellent and, if I’m being honest, we’ve taken to the East of Scotland League like a duck to water. The only games we’ve had setbacks in was the opening game against Peebles and the Alex Jack Cup final to Tynecastle a couple of weeks ago.
“We also lost on penalties to Whitehill Welfare in the Football Nation Cup after a 3-3 draw so it’s been a really positive start. There will probably be a dip at some point but I’m just hoping it’s not going to be anytime soon.”
Chalmers and his co-manager Leighton Jones only took up the vacant position following the resignation of predecessor Derek Riddel who moved on to pastures new with Spartans in the summer.
However, having nurtured a hugely successful under-21s side, many of whom have since made the step up, Chalmers insists it was only a matter of time before they were given the opportunity to showcase their potential.
“I know a lot has been said about Preston being up there challenging table toppers Kelty [Hearts] at the moment but we’re the only team to have beaten Preston in the league so far,” he said.
“We’re not just here to make the numbers up and are up for the challenge as well. We lobbied for years when we were in charge of the 21s that there were players good enough to play at this level but for whatever reason Derek didn’t choose to use them, so I am not surprised.
“There were times when we didn’t have league matches and we’d end up playing friendlies against East of Scotland, Junior clubs and even Lowland League sides, and we more than held our own against them. Our players are hungry for success and they want to prove people wrong.”
Elsewhere in cup action this weekend, there is a real blockbuster in store as ground-sharing rivals Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale and Tynecastle go head-to-head at Saughton Enclosure in second-round action. Lothian are undefeated in all competitions so far this term, while opponents Tynie won the Alex Jack Cup last month.
Gary Small’s Whitehill are also involved at the second-round stage, South of Scotland club Creetown will attempt to undertake the trip to Ferguson Park for a second time following last month’s postponement.
Meanwhile, Lowland League clubs Spartans and Civil Service Stollers are in third-round action with the former visiting Galabank where hosts Edusport Academy await whilst Strollers entertain Dalbeattie Star at Christie Gillies Park.