Whitehill boss hopes sickness bug won’t hurt squad for Spartans clash

Gary Small is eyeing up cup glory with Whitehill Welfare. Pic: TSPL
Gary Small is eyeing up cup glory with Whitehill Welfare. Pic: TSPL
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Whitehill Welfare boss Gary Small revealed a sickness bug has hampered his side’s preparations ahead of tomorrow’s Football Nation Qualifying Cup second-round clash with arch-rivals Spartans.

The former Tranent head coach, though, still hopes to be able to call upon the services of those affected and insists he will give them every opportunity to prove their fitness for the Ferguson Park clash.

The Rosewell club have been in fine form lately, having reeled off four consecutive victories since the defeat to Spartans at Ainslie Park at the beginning of October, the last-gasp 3-2 win over Stirling University six days ago epitomising the spirit in the home camp these past few weeks.

However, Small is fully aware of the task his side have in trying to overcome this season’s Lowland League title contenders.

“We’ve had quite a few in the squad who have been struck down with a sickness and diarrhoea bug this week so we could be missing quite a few,” Small said. “It’s not ideal, but we’ll just have to get on with it. They’ve been toiling but I’m still hopeful a couple of them should make the game or at least be fit enough to take a place on the bench.

“If they don’t make it then it’s an opportunity for some of the other guys to come in and stake a claim.”

Spartans got the better of their old foes 2-0 in the last meeting between the sides almost eight weeks ago, a result and level of performance that left Small scratching his head.

“We didn’t equip ourselves nearly as well as we should have but I shouldn’t have to ask for that commitment, it should be there regardless. They should have that desire to go out and win games,” he said.

“But we’ve won six out of our last ten matches so we’re on a decent run of form at the moment. Tomorrow will be a tough test regardless of who we have available so we’ll have to be ready for that.

“We’re in better shape going into this match than we were against them the last time as we had lost quite a few matches.

“Spartans will be desperate to get back to winning ways having gone out of the Scottish Cup a couple of weeks ago, so we’ll have to rise to the challenge. I know it’s an old cliche, but we are the underdogs so the pressure is all on them.

“We want to do well in the cups this year because we’re realistic enough to admit we’re never going to be challenging for the league.

“We know that our best opportunity to achieve something this year is to go on and lift a trophy. If you want to progress then you need to be beating teams like Spartans.”

Meanwhile, the visitors will be looking to atone for their William Hill Scottish Cup exit to Fraserburgh when they make the short trip to Midlothian.

Dougie Samuel’s men were left idle last weekend following the postponement of their game at Dalbeattie Star and the former Edinburgh University boss may hand striker Jason Stevens a place from the start following his move from Vale of Leithen last week.

Stevens himself is delighted to have made the move up from Innerleithen. The 26-year-old said: “The team are doing very well this year and as a player I am looking forward to being a part of it.

“I am delighted to have signed for Spartans, they are a well-known club with a great set up. I’ve had a bit of an injury but I’ve been training so I hope to be involved this weekend.”

Elsewhere in the Football Nation Qualifying Cup, East of Scotland outfit Tynecastle pay a visit to Spartans striker Stevens’ former club on third-round duty and Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale, who overcame Stirling University 3-0 in the second round on Wednesday night, host the Lowland League’s bottom side Hawick Royal Albert at Saughton Enclosure.