Despite it being just a couple of days shy of November, Spartans boss Dougie Samuel believes the Lowland League title already looks to be heading to East Kilbride.
The Ainslie Park outfit, who won the inaugural championship in 2013/2014, had title aspirations of their own this season but haven’t had a sniff of top spot due to the relentess form of the South Lanarkshire side who have yet to drop points this season.
Kilby are ten points clear of nearest challengers Dalbeattie Star with Spartans a further three points adrift.
But Samuel concedes his players haven’t been consistent enough for his liking to be considered genuine title contenders.
“I don’t think people are deluded. It’s going to be extremely difficult to claw that sort of gap back but you’ve just got to hope,” Samuel said ahead of tomorrow’s home encounter with Hawick Royal Albert. “Anything can happen in football. But if you look at the make-up of the squad they’ve got a lot of experience.
“Martin [Lauchlan] inherited a great job because Billy [Ogilvie] had done so much work behind the scenes before leaving. Billy really set the ball rolling so I’ve got a lot of admiration for what they’ve done. Certainly right now they’re strong favourites so it’s going to take one helluva job to catch them.”
Tomorrow’s hosts haven’t won in the league since a late Craig Johnston penalty was enough to sink East Stirlingshire five weeks ago – a statistic, Samuel insists, he and his players are desperate to put right against their Borders opponents.
“We’re desperate to win after recent results in the league,” he said. “But I think some of our performances have deserved better than what we’ve got. It’s the same at every single club, you can only control what goes on in front of you.
“We’ve had some highs but there has been one or two lows as well. We want to try and put an unbeaten run together and see where that takes us.”
Samuel isn’t taken the league’s newcomers lightly, though. A Josh Morris hat-trick eliminated SPFL League 2 outfit Berwick Rangers from the William Hill Scottish Cup at Shielfield Park six days ago. And Samuel is predicting anything other than an easy ride tomorrow.
“I’m really not surprised how well Hawick have done. I know their manager Dean Shanks really well and he knows how to get his team to play,” he said. “I knew the standard of player he was going for before the season even started and he sets his team up very well.
“They’ve scored a lot of goals so far so they’re a really positive addition to the Lowland League.
“He’s [Morris] arguably the hottest striker in the league just now so we’ll need to keep an eye on him. But when you’re setting your team up you’re doing it collectively, not to stop individuals. They will come to Ainslie Park looking to score goals, as do we, so I don’t think it will be 0-0. It could be a real high-scoring game.”
Elsewhere, Civil Service Strollers welcome an in-form Dalbeattie Star outfit to Christie Gillies Park.
Alex Cunningham’s men are just two points better off than bottom side Preston Athletic and have found results hard to come by since making the step-up from the East of Scotland League in the summer.
Edinburgh University, meanwhile, travel south to take on former Hibs striker Garry O’Connor’s Selkirk at Yarrow Park.
The students have won just twice in the league this season and are also hovering just two points above the bottom of the league. And, after last weekend’s ten-hour round trip to Highland League side Wick Academy in the Scottish Cup – a tie Whitehill Welfare lost out 4-1 – Steven Hislop’s side will appreciate their home clash with BSC Glasgow.