Whitehill seeking to regain top form

Whitehill Welfare No.2 Scott Cantley
Whitehill Welfare No.2 Scott Cantley
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A 9-2 rout of opponents Preston Athletic was the perfect remedy after Whitehill Welfare’s Scottish Cup late heartache against SPFL League 2 opponents Stirling Albion last month.

You might have assumed the Rosewell club had erased former Hearts striker Graham Weir’s 94th-minute winner from their memory and now turned their attention to progressing up the Lowland League table.

However, since that emphatic triumph over their East Lothian counterparts almost four weeks ago, Whitehill have suffered something off a mini-slump, with three straight defeats in which they have conceded nine goals.

Tomorrow, they receive a welcome break from league duty as the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup second round takes precedence with East of Scotland Premier side Civil Service Strollers the visitors to Ferguson Park – an opportunity the home side should embrace according to assistant manager Scott Cantley.

With manager Mickey Lawson missing from the home dug-out for tomorrow’s encounter due to a holiday on Majorca, Cantley says it is an opportunity for the reigning East of Scotland Premier champions to get back to basics.

“Tomorrow is a cup competition so it’s a nice distraction to have,” Cantley suggested. “It’s a good game for us to have, although it will be a difficult match with Ross McNeil taking over as the new manager and will give everybody at the club a lift. But if we stay disciplined, work hard and take our chances then I’m sure we can achieve a positive outcome.

“With the stature of Whitehill Welfare, three defeats in a row could be deemed as a crisis. Over the years the club has set its own high standards and we are failing that.

“I don’t think there is any valid reason why. Sometimes you get the breaks on the day and other times you have to give praise to your opponents for being the better side – that’s just football. The turnout is still good at training and you can only praise the boys for that as it would be easy for them not to turn up.”

Spartans, meanwhile, host Borders side Gretna 2008 at Ainslie Park in the tie of the round with both sides buoyed by their current positions in the league table. The Capital side have opened up an eight- point lead over tomorrow’s opposition, a points margin, even at this stage, will take a valiant effort to overhaul.

Spartans’ Keith McLeod has been in scintillating form, netting eight goals last month and consecutive hat-tricks against both Preston Athletic and Vale of Leithen. The 35-year-old’s proficiency in front of goal has not gone unnoticed from the league’s rival clubs as “Cloudy” has been voted the Colin Campbell Player of the Month for October.

“I am delighted with the award, it means a lot to be named he first player in history to receive the award,” McLeod said. “There are so many good players in the league, so to be nominated by clubs that I am playing against makes it all the more special.

“It’s a great league to play in. All the clubs are capable of taking points off each other which is happening week in, week out. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season holds for us.”

Preston Athletic are the third and final Lowland League team involved in cup duty tomorrow as they travel across the Forth to take on East of Scotland First Division strugglers Burntisland Shipyard.

The Pennypit club have picked up four points from their previous two fixtures. A 5-2 victory at home to Gala Fairydean was followed by a creditable 3-3 draw at Islecroft away to an impressive Dalbeattie Star side.