SPARTANS manager Dougie Samuel has urged his side to all but seal the inaugural Lowland League at the first time of asking tomorrow when they travel to Rosewell to face arch-rivals Whitehill Welfare.
The Capital club currently lead the table by 12 points from second placed Stirling University, with Dalbeattie Star and Vale of Leithen trailing behind by 13 and 15 points respectively. Spartans’ goal difference is also vastly superior to those three. A victory, coupled with a Vale win tomorrow against Threave, would mean only Vale could catch them thereafter by winning every game, Spartans losing every game and overhauling a +36 goal-difference advantage.
“If you look at our goal difference and assume that it is worth a point, then we know that if we win tomorrow then the title is ours,” said Samuel.
“We have played Whitehill on five occasions and so far they have beaten us once over 90 minutes so I think we can go into the game full of optimism.
“I have a lot of respect for what Whitehill have achieved in previous years, but we know that we are only one win away from making history and now have three opportunities to win the Lowland League. However, we would love to take it at the first opportunity, which means tomorrow.”
Games involving Whitehill and Spartans are always special occasions, the latest battle having been the Image Printers East of Scotland Qualifying Cup Final two weeks ago which Whitehill won on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw involving extra time.
Samuel added: “Whitehill have lots of players we need to focus on, but it’s more a collective thing when you play them. I think that the team that settles, gets a hold of the ball and imposes their game plan on the other is the team that will come out and win.
“The recent cup final at St Mark’s Park smashed the myth that Spartans [whose home pitch is synthetic] cannot play Whitehill on grass. My players deserve a lot of credit for their performance level in that final so there is no issue at all with playing on grass. I think that Ferguson Park is a unique park and, at our level, it has its own personality.
“We have several players missing this weekend. Our goalkeeper Scott Bennett’s season is over after picking up a groin injury at work as a PE teacher and he will be out for three months. He joins long-term absentees Jack Beacher, Robbie Ross and Alasdair MacKinnon. We also have one or two players unavailable due to personal commitments.
“We have not had a game this season where we have had a full squad to choose from so it is to the players’ credit that we have been able to produce such a consistent run.”
Whitehill Welfare boss Mikey Lawson, who will miss the match as he is on holiday in Spain, said: “Over a season the most consistent team will end up on the top of the pile and Sammy and his players have definitely been that this season and will deservedly pick up the title some time soon.
“However, we still have a lot to play for with the City Cup Final, the King Cup and as high a league finish as possible all still goals. Nothing, however, is bigger than trying to turn over our biggest rivals and that’s what we’ll be trying our utmost to do tomorrow.”