Penicuik Athletic boss Stevie McLeish: Linlithgow Rose and Tranent not the only dangers to title bid
Penicuik Athletic boss Stevie McLeish says every team in the league is a potential danger to his side’s title challenge.
The battle to land the East of Scotland Premier Division crown is shaping up as a three-horse race between Cuikie, fellow early pacesetters Tranent and a resurgent Linlithgow Rose.
Penicuik are a point clear of Linlithgow with a game in hand, with Tranent a further four points back in third.
Since losing to 3-1 at home Penicuik in August, Linlithgow are unbeaten and have won their last 13 games in a row.
But Cuikie themselves have lost just once all season while Tranent, despite falling slightly off the pace, remain very much in the mix.
And, with so many matches and potential hurdles still to go, McLeish says it’s still far too early to talk about who is going to win the title.
He said: “It really has been – and will remain – one game at a time. That's been the strategy all season and it's stood us in good stead.
"There are 14 games to go and every single team we, Linlithgow or Tranent play becomes a danger.
"Linlithgow have done really well. The run they've put together is phenomenal and Gordon Herd has turned a squad around to get to where he wants to go. I'm sure they've got their goals, putting pressure on us now and overtaking Tranent.
"But nobody gets anything in January. It's going to be April or May.
"You could say Linlithgow are a danger to us but we don't play them until the last game of the season. We've got 13 games before that and every other team up to that point is a danger."
McLeish took over as Cuikie boss at the end of August, following Tony Begg's departure to Hibernian a month earlier. By then, Cuikie had already started the season with nine wins in a row before their solitary defeat at Musselburgh, leaving McLeish in the happy position of not having to make drastic changes.
He said: “It wasn't broken so there was no need for anything to be fixed.
"I went into a club that was quite stable with good players. The staff at Penicuik are absolutely tremendous staff, so the support's there and you've got the committee behind that, the team within the team. So the club was only going in one direction and there was no point in trying to change that direction.
"The players have been absolutely outstanding. To keep focused right to the end of the year and go 16 games winning and drawing three from 20 games in a four-month period is tremendous in anybody's league.”
Cuikie kick off 2022 with a Midlothian derby at Whitehill Welfare. The Rosewell outfit are bottom, but McLeish is taking nothing for granted.
He said: “Derbies are never easy, as was proven against Newtongrange (a goalless draw) in our last game. Both teams are always up for it.
"Whitehill have got some quality, experienced players in their squad so we'll not be taking them lightly at all. They are a decent side.
"They've got their own agenda, which will be to get out of the bottom four as quickly as they can, and we've got ours to win the three points and keep challenging for that title.”