Civil Service Strollers boss Alex Cunningham has revealed former Edinburgh City manager Gary Jardine is set to take over first-team affairs next season.
Jardine was the prominent figure in the dugout on Saturday as ten-man Strollers fought back to earn a share of the spoils in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Gala Fairydean Rovers. The 40-year-old parted ways with the SPFL League Two club in September and has been helping out at Lowland League outfit Strollers since the beginning of December.
And now Cunningham, who has been in charge at Christie Gillies Park since June 2015, says he feels ready to hand the baton over.
“At the moment, we’re just trying to raise the whole profile of the club. Gary will stay until the end of the season and hopefully beyond that,” Cunningham explained. “The thinking is I’ll stay on and do bits and pieces next season and help out where I can, but I just feel my network of players is shrinking, whereas Gary has a lot of contacts in the game. He’s been doing the team talks and taking training these past few weeks so I think he’s enjoying it.”
Cunningham and Jardine would have been pleased with the response from their side after James Hainey, who had cancelled out Grant Rose’s unstoppable opener for Gala, was given his marching orders midway through the second half by referee Barry Reid for a high challenge on Ross Aitchison.
“Jimbo’s foot was raised but it wasn’t high,” Cunningham said. “If anything, it was a booking but I think the reaction of their players and bench got him sent off.
“When you go down to men I suppose you’ve got to be pleased to have taken a point. They scored a fantastic goal out of nothing and then we get back on level terms only to concede 60 seconds later. Our defending is our Achilles heel at the moment because going forward we’re great so we’ve got a lot to improve on in that front.
“If you’re a supporter, it’s great to watch but, if you’re a manager, it’s not so nice. The mistakes we made were unbelievable, to be honest.”
Rose’s strike that had given the visitors the lead on the half-hour mark really was something special, the ball falling favourably for the No.9, who sent a curling effort into the postage stamp corner from 25 yards.
Hainey’s equaliser three minutes before the interval completely caught visiting goalkeeper Patrick Martin cold as the former Leith frontman’s cross-cum-shot looped in off the far post.
Rose, however, restored Gala’s lead 60 seconds later, shambolic defending in the Strollers defence allowing him to sneak the ball in under Kyle Rankin.
The hosts suffered a blow when Hainey was sent off but they were level for a second time when substitute Paulo Buzzi netted on the turn despite the appeals for offside from the Borderers. Rhys Craigie thought he had won it for Gala in stoppage time but saw his effort cleared off the line.
Civil Service Strollers: Rankin, Newall, Fee (Buzzi 70), Laird, McConnell, Cunningham (Froude 46), Churchill, Clapperton, Hainey, Downie (Deevers 81), Mair. Subs: Burnside, Brown.
Gala Fairydean Rovers: Martin, Guiney, Main, Aitchison, Miller, Smith, Kelly (Noble 46), Rose, Heugh, Craigie, Riddel (Crawford 60). Subs: Muir, Molloy, Ainslie.
Elsewhere, Whitehill Welfare were beaten 4-1 by reigning league champions East Kilbride at K-Park.
Connor McGregor’s penalty had Gary Small’s players ahead at the break in South Lanarkshire only for Sean Winter to restore parity seven minutes after the restart. Craig Malcolm edged the hosts in front just minutes later before Whitehill were reduced to ten men when Joe Murray was shown a second yellow card. Bryan Prunty increased Billy Stark’s side’s lead and Malcolm added a fourth late on.