Edinburgh City travel to Forthbank this evening in the knowledge that anything other than victory over hosts Stirling University will virtually see them eliminated from this season’s Lowland League Cup.
The Meadowbank club travel up the M9 carrying the slimmest of hopes that they can still clinch top-spot in Group B and seal qualification for this season’s semi-finals. However, with tonight’s hosts currently occupying that position and City four points adrift lying in third, Edinburgh boss Gary Jardine appreciates his side must return to the Capital with maximum points.
Jardine said: “If we don’t win tonight then I think that’s us out of the competition. Stirling are four points ahead of us and if we don’t get the three points then I think that’s another trophy that’s gone amiss. We won the League Cup last season, albeit at East of Scotland level, and we would have loved to have won it this year. But to stand any chance of doing that, we definitely have to pick up all three points.”
City failed to come up trumps in the reverse fixture nine days ago as the students emerged comfortable 3-0 winners – a performance Jardine accepts was not on par against what he conceded as “very strong opposition”. With city rivals and current league leaders Spartans also in contention of making the last four, the best-placed runners-up from each of the three groups also qualifying for the penultimate stage, Jardine says there is no bigger incentive for his players tonight.
“They’ve (Stirling) got some really good players,” Jardine acknowledged. “When they play, you have to be at your very best to match them. I think all the teams in our league appreciate that and that all their players have come from a professional background, so the better team won last Saturday.
“Tonight is hopefully going to be different. We’ve got a few players back this week and a bigger pool to call upon.”
This season’s inaugural Lowland League is, of course, a learning curve for the players, clubs’ management and the league’s committee itself.
Jardine added: “It has been a tough group. If I’m being honest it’s a trophy that’s up for grabs and we want to win it. But I think it should have been a proper draw in determining the groups, but that’s not to take anything away from us playing the three sides who are probably the best three in our league.
“But we are more than a match for those sides and we’ve run them close this season.”
Meanwhile, Preston Athletic’s trip to Vale of Leithen in Group A was rightly postponed due to adverse weather on Friday afternoon. Whitehill Welfare’s tie with Spartans at Ferguson Park on Saturday suffered a late call-off an hour before kick-off. Both fixtures have yet to be rescheduled.