Penicuik Athletic boss Craig Meikle tore into his players after they were dumped out of the Scottish Junior Cup by Lochee United two weeks ago and he hopes it has given them the wake-up call they badly needed.
Attendances at training took a nosedive ahead of their match against the Premier League outfit after a three-game run without a win derailed their bid for the Super League title.
The Cuikie had stamped their authority at the top of the table, moving clear after just one defeat in ten, but they lost their way with back-to-back defeats by Hill of Beath and Newtongrange Star.
The Cuikie’s bid to get their season back on track starts tomorrow at Penicuik Park when they welcome league leaders Musselburgh Athletic. Stevie McLeish’s men are on an excellent run and will arrive in Midlothian in buoyant mood having won their last seven in the league.
Penicuik got the better of them in August with a 3-2 triumph at Olivebank, and with numbers back up at training, Meikle is looking for his men to reclaim top spot with victory, but has warned his players that if their standards drop, they’ll be on the transfer list.
“We had ten players at training heading into the Lochee match and normally we have good numbers at training but when you go into Scottish Cup tie on the preparation we had, we got exactly what we deserved,” said Meikle.
“You win games on a Tuesday and Thursday night. You win games when you are working hard at training and that’s why you go to training and work hard. That’s something that I’ve always advocated as a player, I’ve always been a good trainer and I’ve always pushed myself.
“The penny has dropped after the Lochee game and numbers have been back up at training. Hopefully the boys can now go and kick on. I’m hoping that wee spell and my rant after the game will maybe the kick up the a*** that some of the boys needed to focus their minds again and get their standards back. I’m not messing about, if the standards drop again then there will be boys on the transfer list. Players get you the sack if you allow it to happen as a manager.
“I made it quite clear to the players after the Lochee game that boys had a decision to make whether they wanted to be at the club or not be at the club. I want to be at the club and if we continued to go the way we were going then I wouldn’t be at the club – I’d get sacked.
“I take my share of the responsibility for what’s happened at the football club in recent weeks. That result in the Scottish has allowed me to re-focus my mind as well, because you can’t just let things flow along, you have to be constantly working at it. Hopefully we’ve not left it too late that we can get ourselves back into the title race because a few teams round about us are now in a stronger position than what we were looking back six weeks ago.”
Meikle has bolstered his squad since their third-round Junior Cup exit with the addition of attacking midfielder Conor Thomson from Bonnyrigg Rose and defender Jack Blaikie from Broxburn Athletic.
Blaikie is set to make his debut with centre-back Darrell Young out with an ankle injury and player-boss Meikle himself still recovering from an operation on his ankle.
One man Penicuik will have to stop is Musselburgh’s top goalscorer Sean Jamieson who has scored 18 goals for the season so far and Meikle admits his players will have to defend better as a team if they are to knock their opponents off the league summit.
He added: “It’s going to be a hard job for us to stop them scoring. They are scoring for fun at the moment and they’ve got top players. We aren’t defending well at the same time so it’s not a very good combination for us.
“The goals we’ve been losing have been horrendous because we’ve been defending so badly and that’s not just the back four – as a team we’ve been defending badly. I can’t remember the last time we lost a good goal where a team has carved us open.”