Newtongrange Star defender Dale O’Hara reckons tomorrow’s South Region Challenge Cup third-round clash against Civil Service Strollers at New Victoria Park presents them with an ideal opportunity to prove they are more than capable of beating a team from a higher division.
The East of Scotland outfit stretched their unbeaten run to TEN games in all competitions last Saturday after O’Hara’s free-kick deep into injury-time secured victory over Dunbar United, leaving them just a point off top spot in Conference A. However, the 25-year-old left-back is looking forward to a break from league action this weekend as Star gear up for a showdown with one of the Lowland League’s most improved teams in recent seasons.
O’Hara is relishing the chance to test himself against Civil, a club he knows well from his time spent at Preston Athletic and Whitehill.
He said: “Civil will be a very difficult team to beat, they were when I played against them. In Gary Jardine, they have a manager who did a brilliant job with Edinburgh City and I’m sure they’ll be well organised.
“We know just how tough a game it will be because they had a flying start to the season and have gone on a good run in the Scottish Cup. They’ve lost their last few league games, though, so they’ll be looking to bounce back, but hopefully that won’t be against us.
“A cup run in this competition could go a long way for the club, especially to get our name back out there because it’s been a while since we last won a trophy and Newtongrange is a massive club.
“I think when we’ve got our full squad available we could easily challenge most teams at Civil’s level. We’ve been short of bodies in recent weeks, but the gaffer has built a solid, close-knit group this year and we’ve been winning games and scoring plenty of goals, which brings confidence.”
O’Hara has enjoyed a new lease of life with the Midlothian club after re-discovering his love of football. And the defender is hopeful he can prolong his scoring streak against Strollers after ending his lengthy goal drought in recent weeks. He admitted: “Moving to the Juniors with Newtongrange was the best move of my career because I wasn’t really enjoying my football at Whitehill.
“I had a few injuries and put on some weight, but when I moved here I started finding the net again and got my confidence back.
“I get on really well with Stevie (manager, McLeish) also. He demands a lot from the boys in training and on a matchday and that’s partly the reason we’ve been on this good run. We all demand high standards from ourselves and each other.
“Last weekend, it was just important to get the win and keep the momentum going. I never practise free-kick’s in training, but I’ve scored five goals in four games now, so long may that continue.
“I’d been going through a bit of a dry spell and it was George (Hunter) and Sean (Jamieson) who were scoring most of them. I scored seven times last season and it seems like when one goes in the rest seem to follow suit.”
Meanwhile, Civil Service Strollers will be looking to steady the ship after suffering back-to-back defeats.
A 4-3 defeat by East Stirlingshire last weekend threatened to derail their promising early-season form, and they will be without defender Chris Milligan, who is set to join Craigroyston on loan.
Elsewhere, Edinburgh University take on Edinburgh United at East Peffermill. Dorian Ogunro’s students will be favourites to progress, but they’ll face a team eager to impress new manager Ian Flynn.
Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale are in for a tough encounter when they take on Cumbernauld Colts and a youthful Leith Athletic entertain East Kilbride.