Leith Athletic joint-manager Leighton Jones says reaching Sunday’s East of Scotland League Cup final is a huge bonus for the club.
Both the incoming Jones and Steve Chalmers had quite a task on their hands in rebuilding a squad that was decimated by former boss Derek Riddel’s departure last summer.
However, fast forward nine months and the duo have steered their players to the Alex Jack Cup final, which they lost to Tynecastle in October, a top-four finish (they are currently third and a point better off than Preston who have a game in hand), and are now just 48 hours from their second cup final appearance of the season.
It’s also worth noting the club had to relocate to Peffermill for the second half of the season following the closure of Meadowbank in December.
Standing in their way of silverware at Newbattle Complex in Easthouses this weekend are city rivals and this year’s league runners-up, Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale. The duo played out a 5-5 draw three weeks ago as Lothian relinquished a three-goal lead to drop their first points of the campaign.
But Jones revealed he is over the moon at how his first season at this level has panned out and says that a cup win would be the icing on the cake.
“We are absolutely delighted with how things have gone this year,” he said. “We only had one player over the age of 23 so it’s been such a young squad we’ve had to work with.
“We set a target of finishing in the top four and when you think Preston were coming down from the Lowland League and Lothian and Kelty already there, it was a tough ask but we’ve managed it.
“We also targeted reaching the final of the Alex Jack Cup and although we didn’t get the result we wanted, we still made it to the final. So the game on Sunday is a bonus. It would be the perfect ending to finish off the campaign with silverware. But Lothian are in the same boat. They’ve had a great season but they haven’t won a trophy yet so we know how difficult a game it’s going to be.”
With the addition of newly-crowned league champions Kelty Hearts this year, not to mention 13 teams from the Juniors set-up entering the fray in August, Jones thinks his side have more than held their own this season.
“I think Kelty have given us a tester for what it might bring next season. We’ve played them twice and we held our own in both games. So if that’s the best that the Super League has to offer then I don’t think we’ve got anything to fear with these teams coming in. It’s a good thing for the league, though, as it’s only going to get stronger.
“But our only focus is on Sunday. I have no doubt Lothian will come out to try and make amends for last weekend having lost the league. That’s something we’ll need to cope with. But we only played them a couple of weeks ago and we competed with them.
“We played well and scored some really good goals that day. Cup finals are completely different, though. It’s not about performances as nobody remembers that you played well and got beat. It’s all about the result.
“We’ve got about eight out injured at the moment but we’ll still have a strong 13 or 14 available. But with the amount of games Lothian have had I’d imagine they’ll be in a similar position. We just need to play the game and not the occasion. I expect the guys to be champing at the bit.”
Meanwhile, Preston round off their league campaign where a win would see them leapfrog Leith into third. Tynecastle, who were thrashed 7-1 by Peebles Rovers on Wednesday night, host Ormiston at Saughton Enclosure.