Lowland League: Struggling Whitehill Welfare need to find a perfect match in Gretna

Four years have passed since Whitehill Welfare’s last win at Raydale Park, but none of their previous visits have carried so much importance as tomorrow’s trip south to face Gretna 2008.
James McPartlin, left, in action for Whitehill Welfare. Pic: TSPLJames McPartlin, left, in action for Whitehill Welfare. Pic: TSPL
James McPartlin, left, in action for Whitehill Welfare. Pic: TSPL

The statistics might not shine a positive light on the Midlothian outfit – their last victory over Gretna coming in May 2017 – but full-back James McPartlin is maintaining a positive mindset as Ian Little’s basement battlers prepare to play their first game in four weeks.

Maximum points are a necessity for the Rosewell club, who simply cannot afford to lose any further ground on second-bottom Dalbeattie Star.

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And seasoned campaigner McPartlin admits his team-mates are itching to get back out on the pitch after an enforced absence which has affected several clubs.

“Looking back, Raydale hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for us in recent times but there would be no better time to banish those demons,” stated the the 32-year-oldformer Tranent, Penicuik and Haddington defender.

“Gretna have always been a bit of a bogey team for us. They’ve beaten us twice this season, including once in a cup competition, so we’re using that as motivation to end our bad run against them.

“It’s been a few weeks since our last competitive game, but we’ve been training hard and had a few bounce matches against the under-21s, so the boys are ready to go again.

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“We’ve looked and worked on various phases of our play and you’d think training would be doom and gloom considering where we are in the table, but the mood around the camp is still very positive.

“We’re running out of games and every match is now a must-win, but the gaffer said at training on Tuesday night that he’s still confident we can get out of the position we’re in.”

Like the majority of the Whitehill squad, McPartlin watched on from afar with interest last weekend as fellow strugglers Dalbeattie crashed to a heavy 4-1 defeat against BSC Glasgow.

“We’re just trying to concentrate on ourselves, but we’ve been keeping an eye on Dalbeattie’s results,” said McPartlin.

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“I’m sure they have doing likewise, but the boys were certainly buoyed when we saw Dalbeattie’s result last weekend.

“I was faced with a similar situation at Hawick a few years ago. We got points on the board early on and had a good Scottish Cup run but then fell away in the second part of the season.

“One win can turn things around. I’ve been here before and know what the pressure is like going into each game needing to win.

“The team is young, so having that bit of experience under your belt at this stage is vital. The younger lads do appreciate when you have a quiet word with them in training.”

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Elsewhere this weekend, Civil Service Strollers can open an eight-point gap on fifth-placed Spartans if they beat Gala Fairydean Rovers at Christie Gillies Park.

Gary Jardine’s side stretched their winning run to four games last weekend and, with their Capital neighbours in South Challenge Cup action, they can give their top-four aspirations a massive boost.

Meanwhile, leaders East Kilbride will be crowned league champions with a victory over Cumbernauld Colts in South Lanarkshire.

The K-Park outfit hold a ten-point advantage at the top of the table over their closest pursuers BSC and Stuart Malcolm’s men are firmly on course to seal a place in the Pyramid Play-Off semi-final.