Despite being the club’s top goalscorer this season, Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale striker Jamie Devlin faces an anxious wait to learn whether he will be restored to the starting line-up for Sunday’s Football Nation Qualifying Cup final against Spartans.
Having incurred a two-match suspension for being sent off during last month’s 1-0 East of Scotland League win over Peebles Rovers, Devlin, who has netted 27 goals so far this term, made his return to the squad last weekend as Raymond Carr’s men booked their place in the South Region Challenge Cup semi-finals with victory over Whitehill Welfare.
The 23-year-old, however, was forced to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench, replacing team-mate Willis Hare after 56 minutes. Nonetheless, the former Whitehill attacker is hoping his goalscoring exploits this season will be enough to earn him a starting berth for the showpiece match at the indoor pitch at Oriam.
“I’ve scored in all the big games this season so I don’t think it would be justified if I were to be left out,” Devlin said. “In saying that the boys have done well in the games I’ve been out so maybe the two-week lay off wasn’t a bad thing. I’m certainly hoping I’ll get back in. It was 0-0 last Saturday until I came on and I was involved in both goals so that should stand me in good stead.
“I didn’t think it was even a red card a couple of weeks ago. I shouted at their manager and the referee sent me off for it. In hindsight it was a stupid thing to do and it could have been avoided. If I was to start on the bench then I’d only have myself to blame.”
Having played second fiddle to Lowland League champions elect East Kilbride, Devlin is of the opinion Spartans will be under even more pressure to deliver on Sunday.
“I hope Spartans give us the respect we deserve and have a look at our results so far this season,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve been given the credit that’s due for how well we’ve done so far. But, if we could get a result on Sunday then it might open a few people’s eyes. The incentive is massive for us. We actually played East Kilbride in pre-season and I didn’t think they were anything special. Spartans are a decent side and I think Ross Allum has been a good bit of business for them. We’ve been watching them closely, but with the facilities and the squad they have, they should probably be doing better than they have been.
“I’ve never won a senior trophy until this season when we won the Alex Jack Cup so to have another crack is really exciting. It’s going to be a hard task though.”
Meanwhile, Spartans midfielder Alan Brown says he and team-mates would be foolish to write off Lothian and believes they would be a great addition to the Lowland League.
“They really are a team that are playing in the league below,” Brown said. “They’d probably be a top-six side I reckon so we won’t be underestimating them at all. They’ve only been beaten once this season so no matter what level you’re playing at, that is a phenomenal record. But we’ve only been beaten once in the last 17 games so both teams will be going into the game with a lot of confidence.”
Brown’s last-minute winner saw off East Kilbride at K-Park in the last round and he admits he will be giving everything he’s got in trying to repeat his heroics this weekend.
“It was great to score the winner in the semi-final so I’d love nothing more than a repeat of that this weekend,” the 30-year-old said. “It’s even better when there’s a trophy up for grabs. I think winning this cup and then trying to do the same in the Lowland League Cup would go some way to making up for missing out on the league title.”
In the Lowland League, there is a derby as Civil Service Strollers host Edinburgh University at Christie Gillies Park on league business and bottom-of the-table Preston Athletic visit Whitehill Welfare.