Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale boss Raymond Carr hailed his players’ desire to win the Central Taxis East of Scotland Premier League title after a 3-2 win over nearest challengers Leith Athletic.
A Sean Wringe double had them two goals to the good before James Hainey netted a brace of his own to peg them back. However, Jamie Devlin’s late strike won it for Lothian, meaning the hosts finished top by six points, securing Scottish Cup football next season too.
Lothian’s mammoth 11-0 victory at Tweedmouth Rangers in midweek meant Leith went in to the final day requiring a three-goal margin of victory to snatch the title on goal difference.
Carr was delighted that his players ensured that never really looked like happening. “It wasn’t a game we needed to win, but it’s one we wanted to win,” he said. “We didn’t want to finish the season winning the league on goal difference, so it was rally important that we got the win so we won it outright.
“This season it’s 50-odd games the lads have played, four defeats in the league, two semi-finals and a final. We’ve won four trophies with one still to go, so it’s been a tremendous season. It’s been hard work – we don’t have a massive squad and the under-20s have helped out at times, so I’m really pleased.”
Any nerves that Carr’s players may have been feeling were banished when Wringe opened the scoring with just under half an hour played. He collected a pass in the area before spinning and drilling the ball low past Iain Gordon.
It was essentially job done on the hour mark when Wringe got his second, turning home the rebound after strike partner Devlin had seen his initial effort saved by Gordon.
Leith weren’t for surrendering meekly though and got themselves back in to the game when Hainey set himself up with a good first touch before sending a screamer of a volley over the helpless Kevin Swain and in to the top corner.
That quick fire response lifted Derek Riddel’s men, despite the title looking well out of their reach by that stage. Hainey levelled things up with 15 minutes remaining, firing low across Swain from the edge of the area and in off the post.
Carr attributed his team’s loss of control to the efforts exerted in midweek. “We put so much effort in midweek to get the goals,” he explained. “It was hectic – they were running in to the back of the net to get the ball back to the centre circle. It wasn’t a case of switching off – it was down to tired legs.”
Devlin had enough left in the tank to win it late on though, racing on to a long ball in behind and coolly slotting past Gordon.
Given how the table ended up, Lothian’s 3-0 win in the corresponding fixture at Meadowbank in January proved crucial in hindsight. “That 3-0 win could have been 10-0 if I’m being honest,” Carr insisted. “Maybe that would have helped their goal difference. I think a key point was when we played 75 minutes with nine men against Peebles and managed to win the game. That was a big, big game.”
With even more silverware possible, Carr rates this is one of his best seasons at the club. “This is close to the under-21 team I had that won the Scottish Cup and four or five other cups,” he recalled. “The players have worked hard, training has been tremendous and I just hope next season a lot of them hang about.”
Lothian Thistle HV: Swain, Moore, Munro, Crawford, McKenzie, Muir, Hare (Guy 84), Brown, Wringe (Hutchison 70), Devlin, O’Donnell (Sherlock 73).
Leith Athletic: Gordon, Black (Ferguson 57), Fee, Melvin, Lewis, Burns, Tracey, Wilkie, Hainey, Mason (Allan 13), McKinlay (Craigie 69).