Victory over Spartans can ignite Lothian Thistle’s season

Liam O'Donnell
Liam O'Donnell
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LOTHIAN Thistle Hutchison Vale winger Liam O’Donnell hopes they can exact some revenge when Capital neighbours Spartans visit Saughton Enclosure on South Region Challenge Cup duty this weekend.

Raymond Carr’s side have already endured contrasting fortunes in cup competitions this season compared to last, having been knocked out of the William Hill Scottish Cup and Football Nation Qualifying Cup in the early stages.

An underwhelming start to their East of Scotland campaign on the back off last April’s dramatic final-day defeat by Kelty Hearts which handed them the title, hasn’t made things much easier.

O’Donnell claims Saturday’s second-round tie against the current Lowland League pacesetters presents them with an opportunity to inject some much-needed momentum into their season.

But the 25-year-old is also desperate to banish memories of the previous meeting of the teams, in which Spartans came from behind to lift the 2017 Football National Qualifying Cup Final at Oriam.

O’Donnell is determined to ensure lightening doesn’t strike twice this time.

He said: “It’s been hugely disappointing to go out of the cup competitions early on this season.

“Over the last two season’s we’ve won four of five cups, a league title and had a good run in the Scottish when we beat Stirling Albion 5-3.

“But we lost out narrowly to Beith Juniors (3-2) this year and again to Whitehill Welfare (2-1) in the Football Nation Cup, so it’s been frustrating.

“We know Saturday is going to be another really hard game against Spartans, but hopefully we can get one over them and with the match being at Saughton, that will suit us.

“They’re a really good team and have brought in a few good signings over the summer 
like Jack Smith from BSC Glasgow.

“Obviously, they beat us in the Football Nation Qualifying Final last March, but I think we should’ve won that day.

“We switched off for ten minutes and when you do that against a top side you’ll get punished, so we just need to remember that on Saturday.

“We can’t show them too much respect and we have to be on the ball for the full 90 minutes, but hopefully we can pick up a good result.”

O’Donnell, in his fifth season with the club, admits a 7-0 thrashing by Edinburgh City in the East of Scotland Cup semi-final on Tuesday night wasn’t the ideal preparation ahead of today’s clash.

But he was full of praise for James McDonaugh’s young squad and reckons his Hutchie team-mates need to put the result to bed quickly.

He admitted: “We started really well but then gifted them a couple of cheap goals. As the game wore on, their fitness levels took over a bit and they were ruthless.

“They’ve got a really talented young side this season and I’d fancy them to challenge for the League Two title this year.

“I think we’re going through a little blip just now. We need to get a few wins under our belt, starting against Spartans, and give the boys a confidence boost.”

Elsewhere, Whitehill Welfare lock horns with Gretna 2008 in an all-Lowland League clash at Ferguson Park. The Midlothian club will know a victory could prove to be a major turning point in their mediocre start to the season.

Civil Service Strollers, who began their defence of the trophy with a 9-0 thrashing of Wigtown and Bladnoch in the previous round, entertain fellow South of Scotland league side Upper Annandale at Christie Gillies Park.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh University boss Dorian Ogunro will be hoping his team can put last weekend’s disappointing 5-1 defeat behind them when the students host Oakley United at East Peffermill.

Elsewhere in the same competition, Tranent host Haddington Athletic for the second week running with the Belters running out 7-2 winners last Saturday. Bonnyrigg are away to free-scoring Blackburn United, while Penicuik Athletic have a trip to Nithsdale Wanderers.