“It’s game over” was the response of Whitehill Welfare boss Steven Hislop when asked if any team could stop league leaders East Kilbride from winning this season’s Lowland League title.
Kilby have raced into a seven-point lead over nearest challengers Dalbeattie Star, who have played one fixture more, following a busy spending-spree in the summer.
Whitehill’s opponents this weekend, Spartans, are three points further adrift in third with Welfare themselves lying mid-table.
Hislop, though, doesn’t talk up his own side’s aspirations this term, reiterating his remit is geared towards rebuilding and having a settled squad in time to launch a title-challenge of their own next season.
“It’s game over. It’s as simple as that,” the former Inverness and Livingston striker stressed. “Other teams might not concede it but it certainly is for Whitehill. There’s no point in pretending. I don’t want people reading the papers and thinking ‘oh he’s been too defeatist’ but for me it’s game over. Everyone else is fighting for second.
“There’s no pressure on us whereas some of the other clubs with bigger budgets the pressure is there. We just get on with our own business.
“Our season so far has been a bit stop-start really. We’re just not consistent enough. Every time we think we’ve turned the corner we get kicked back down again.
“This was always going to be a season of rebuilding but we need to be doing better. I had a meeting with the chairman and the secretary last weekend and they’re not too fussed about this season. But that’s them and I am different and I want to be winning football matches more regularly.”
He continued: “I know we played East Kilbride in the first week of the season and lost 3-0 but the scoreline clearly didn’t reflect how the game panned out.
“They went 1-0 up but for the next hour we were the better team, we just didn’t put the ball in the net.
“They’re a confident bunch of guys but there is a bit of cockiness and a swagger about them. How the manager keeps them all happy? I don’t know but that’s none of my business. He’ll need to spend big again though if they want to go up because you’ve seen what’s been happening with Edinburgh City. I spoke to Gary [Jardine] last week and he was saying they have been finding it a bit of a culture shock.”
Hislop is desperate for all three points tomorrow from the clash with their great rivals at Ferguson Park.
“They say form goes out the window but in saying that there isn’t much form between us as we’ve both coming off the back of defeats,” he said.
“It’s a very competitive game, I had three last season after coming in so I know what it’s like. I was aware of the rivalry before I got the job and I was made well aware of it when I took up the manager’s position. It’s good to get the bragging rights.”
Opposite number Dougie Samuel however, will be hoping to keep his side’s title aspirations alive following a disappointing 4-3 defeat by Dalbeattie Star last weekend.
Spartans have found consistency hard to come by so far this term but have a good record at the Rosewell venue.
Elsewhere, there’s a bottom-of-the-table clash at Christie Gillies Park as hosts Civil Service Strollers welcome Preston Athletic .
Strollers could leapfrog their opponents should Alex Cunningham’s men pick up maximum points but visitors Preston have found a bit of form lately following a poor start to the campaign.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh University aren’t much better placed in 13th position and are away at Forthbank tomorrow where Stirling University await their visit.