Seniors: Leith looking to spring surprise on Lothian

Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale boss Grant Carnie. Pic: JULIE BULL
Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale boss Grant Carnie. Pic: JULIE BULL
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If Sunday’s Alex Jack Cup final plays out as predicted by the managers of Leith Athletic and Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale, then the latter will emerge comfortable winners.

Lothian boss Grant Carnie has voiced his confidence in winning, while Derek Riddel, in charge of holders Leith, admits there exists a widely-held perception that his side will merely ‘make up the numbers’ at Edinburgh Colleges Sportsground.

However, Leith’s ability to raise their performance against more illustrious opponents this year could supply a potential twist in the cup final script, says Riddel.

“I’m really looking forward to the final,” said the Leith boss. “We set ourselves the task at the start of the season to defend the Alex Jack Cup, and we’re close to achieving that.

“Lothian and Stirling Uni were pinpointed at the start of the season as favourites for the Premier Division title, and that probably remains the case. We’re underdogs – they are expected to win, and we’re just ‘there to make up the numbers’.

“We performed well against Hibs twice this season – ourselves and Craigroyston are the only teams to have stopped them winning this year. We relish playing against good football teams.”

Carnie, now in his second season with Lothian having taken over at the start of the 2012-13 season, bullishly predicted that his team should emerge on top.

“We’ve had blips this season,” said Carnie, “but we went to Stirling University and got a great result in the semi final to get to this final. If we can reproduce the form we showed that day, I’m going for my team to win.

“We’ve had a tougher run to the final than Leith, but they won’t give up their trophy easily. I always like playing them because they play properly.” The Lothian boss is keen to overturn his club’s reputation as underachievers, citing an overhaul of the squad during his tenure as sufficient reason for believing the Saughton side can end their long wait for silverware.

“When I took over just over a year ago, Lothian had always had good teams but always failed to do anything,” said Carnie. “We’ve worked hard to turn the squad around and we now have players who can play the way we want them to play.

“The big thing for me this season is that, in the early weeks when we were missing around eight players due to injuries and holidays, the younger guys filling in were exceptional.”

Such has been the form of his men, Carnie admits the enforced exclusion of a large portion of his sizeable squad will provide a pre-match headache.

“In the last couple of weeks, we’ve had maximum numbers at training. We have a squad of 20, and it’s hard in every game – never mind a cup final – to leave players out.”

Despite their respective league positions – Leith are bottom of the top tier while Lothian are in the mix at the top of the table – both camps will, after the pre-match predictions have been pushed to one side, harbour belief in their ability to grasp the first chance of silverware this season.