PENICUIK player-boss Craig Meikle is backing his side to overcome their injury troubles and do themselves justice in their biggest game in years tomorrow.
The high-flying Premier League outfit welcome West Super League giants Irvine Meadow to Penicuik Park, with a place in the quarter-final of the Scottish Junior Cup awaiting the winners.
Penicuik’s best run in the competition came in 1970, when they reached the final, but if they are to prolong this year’s adventure after knocking out Pollok in a replay in the last round, they are probably going to have to do so without some key men.
Meikle has seven players toiling through injury, with Craig Dickson likely to miss out and Murray McDermott and top scorer Ryan McCallum battling to be fit. The only bonus fitness-wise for Penicuik is that player-boss Meikle is now fit again and back in contention after injury.
“I’m just coming back to fitness after a long injury and I wondered whether I should interfere with the central-defensive pairing of Dougie Cunnison and Darrell Young because they were immense in the games against Pollok,” said Meikle.
“But young Craig Dickson got injured which means I have to switch things around anyway. The main problem I have though is we have seven players all struggling with injuries out of a squad of 21. Ryan McCallum is possibly a week away from being ready and could make tomorrow if I asked him, but we have a huge game the following week against Fauldhouse and I need him for that.
“Michael McDermott is another who may make the squad but we’ll have to wait and see what the weather is like and how heavy the pitch is going to be. At the end of the day, the players who pull on the shirts will just have to get on with it, and they will.
“It’s a huge game for the club and the players who take the field will be facing every bit as tough a challenge as Pollok were and possibly a bit more. Irvine Meadow are a good side who have a great record in the Scottish but we have the players who can cause them problems.
“There will be a big crowd tomorrow, the same as we had against Pollok and they will be a huge help to the young players. Some of our youngsters have never played in front of big crowds but they’ll manage.”
All Penicuik fans will be waiting anxiously to learn if McCallum, who has scored 20 goals this season, is deemed fit enough to lead the line.
“In the last three or four games it’s been the central defence who have scored most of the goals meaning our strike force needs a lift, so getting Ryan back would be a big lift for them,” admitted Meikle
McCallum himself is desperate to feature but will leave it up to Meikle to decide whether he plays or not. Even if he doesn’t make it, however, he is confident his team-mates can keep alive their cup dream.
“I’ve been scoring goals here because I feel comfortable with the club. The management and the committee are second to none and when you are happy then you have the confidence to try things and it’s working out nicely for everyone here.
“There’s a good balance at the club with some youngsters and some more experienced like Mikey McDermott, Ryan Gay and myself there to help out. It’s a huge game for the club, the biggest for years and hopefully we can get the right result.
“I’ve been impressed with the two at the back, Darrell and Dougie. Dougie has found his true position as centre-half and being captain now, he’s lifted his game. I can’t believe Darrell is so young and playing the football he does.
“Really, though, all the players feel this could be our year, not only with a good run in the Scottish but in the league as well. We feel we are a Super League club in the making and many of us have Super League experience so we know what it takes.”