Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale head into tomorrow’s top-of-the-table clash with Kelty Hearts having played two games in 24 hours.
The reigning East of Scotland League champions are playing catch-up on their Fife rivals, who are eight points clear at the summit. The Capital side do, however, have two games in hand.
A combination of a successful run in this season’s William Hill Scottish Cup – they were eventually knocked out in the third round by Ladbrokes Championship winners St Mirren – and a spate of postponements due to the weather, has left Raymond Carr’s players twiddling their thumbs far too often for the manager’s liking this season.
However, Wednesday night’s 4-0 victory over Eyemouth United started a run that will see the Saughton-based club complete their remaining five league fixtures in just eight days. The victory over Eyemouth was mirrored by the 4-0 defeat of Burntisland last night.
And now Carr is hoping his squad can recover in time for what is likely to be one of their toughest tests of the season.
Lothian will also play ground-sharing rivals Tynecastle in a double-header on Monday and Wednesday.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous it’s been allowed to happen this way but obviously they’re looking for Kelty to win the league,” Carr raged.
“They’ve told us we have to be finished up by the 28th of this month to allow the play-offs to go ahead. But, with the run we had in the Scottish Cup, the league really should have gone to the SFA and asked for an extension.
“It’s a travesty we’re having to cram all these games in in such a short space of time.
“I know there’s no control over the weather but we’re trying to get alternative pitches to play on but teams don’t want to come and play us. And, to make matters worse, the league then tell us that we can’t force these teams to play us other venues. We can’t win.”
Carr’s side have already landed two wins over Kelty this season, striker Samuel Nhamburo’s stoppage-time header enough to see off their opponents in the Scottish Cup preliminary round in August while an own goal gave them a League Cup semi-final success in February. However, Kelty head into tomorrow’s encounter with a perfect record in the league whereas Lothian dropped their first points of the campaign last weekend after an action-packed 5-5 draw with Leith Athletic.
“Tomorrow will be the decider so it all depends on how much Wednesday and last night’s game has taken out of our players,” Carr said. “We’ve got to be ready for Kelty but it was always going to be a difficult enough game without having played two games in the space of 24 hours. There’s no respite as the guys cannot recover in that time. What about their health and safety? What happens if one of them has knocked their pan in on Wednesday and Thursday and then drops down? Where’s the consideration there? The best response is for the players to go out and give everything they can to win the games. If we lose tomorrow then the league is over. We’ve had a terrific season and the players have never let anyone down.”
Touching on last Saturday’s goalfest with city rivals Leith, Carr added: “If you’re 3-0 up you should come out and win the game. We’ve never lost five goals in a half in any game apart from the St Mirren match. It was one of these days where we were punished for our silly mistakes. They thought it was over at 3-0 and went to sleep. We were punished but all credit to Leith because they deserved it. They took their goals really well but our younger ones have got to learn from this.”
Elsewhere this weekend, Tynecastle make the short journey to Oriam to play hosts Heriot-Watt University. Ormiston welcome Tweedmouth to Hibs’ East Mains Training Centre and Preston Athletic play Leith at the Pennypit.