Welfare ordered to raise game for Spartans

Spartans and Whitehill meet in the Lowland League tomorrow. Picture: TOBY WILLIAMS
Spartans and Whitehill meet in the Lowland League tomorrow. Picture: TOBY WILLIAMS
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Whitehill manager Mike Lawson has warned his players they must improve if they are to take anything from tomorrow’s Lowland League clash with Spartans at Ainslie Park.

Despite taking an acceptable seven points from their opening four fixtures, Lawson was less than satisfied with last weekend’s display as league leaders Vale of Leithen left Ferguson Park with a point after Danny Rennie’s strike cancelled out Steven Manson’s opener for the hosts. The Welfare boss, who was visibly disgruntled afterwards, said: “I was that fed up on Sunday that when I was writing my blog for our website, it was as if we had been beaten.

“The performance was so disappointing, it felt like a defeat. The good thing about football is that there’s always a game around the corner and the previous game is forgotten about. Spartans probably have the best squad overall, so we’ll have to be at our best to get anything.”

Some Whitehill players aren’t keen on synthetic pitches, to the extent that striker Wayne McIntosh asked to be left out of the starting XI for the recent defeat at East Kilbride, who recently installed a similar pitch to the one at Ainslie Park. However, Lawson has no qualms about playing on plastic.

“I think every footballer likes playing on a pristine grass pitch,” he said, “but how often do you get that in a season? When I was at Spartans when we got the 3G, I never thought too much about it, but when you are away from it, you do think about it a lot more.

“Some players just don’t like it, but we don’t want to use that as an excuse and I don’t want the boys having negative thoughts before the game because of the state of the park.”

Lawson, who hopes to have captain Michael Bruce fit for tomorrow’s encounter, managed Spartans for 11 years before being sacked at the just over a year ago and subsequently returning to Whitehill at the start of last season.

He said: “Spartans changed a lot when I was there. We went from playing at City Park and being an ex-university team to having about 15 teams where we suddenly had a youth section and a ladies team. The facilities then came along, so it’s a well-run club.

“Of all the teams who have entered the Lowland League vying to get into the SPFL, they are probably the best prepared on and off the park. I’ve got no issues with Spartans. Three points is three points and I want them no matter who we are playing against.”

Spartans will be looking to bounce back from last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at East Kilbride. So far, the Ainslie Park side have been pretty solid defensively, conceding just three goals in their opening five league games. However, despite sitting nicely in third position, Dougie Samuel’s side haven’t found goals as easy to come by as they would like.

Full-back Gary Cennerazzo, 23, said: “It’s disappointing because we have got goalscorers in the side. We’ve got Keith McLeod, Robbie Ross and guys from midfield who also chip in, but, just recently we have been firing blanks and maybe just been a bit hectic in the final third. It’s something we’ve been working on though.

“It was a really frustrating to lose to East Kilbride last Saturday, as we had more than enough chances to win the game, but didn’t take them. On the day, the quality wasn’t there and credit to East Kilbride as they worked hard and got their break with the goal.”

Despite reeling from their first defeat of the season, Cennerazzo has been satisfied with the start Spartans have made. He added: “The gaffer has developed a good squad here so last Saturday’s result was totally uncharacteristic. We’ve started off well and I think it’s going to be ourselves and Whitehill up there challenging come the end of the season, so tomorrow is a massive game.

“Whitehill are a good team and have got some cracking players. I know a few of their lads well and the games between the two clubs last season were very close.”