Penicuik Athletic finding home form at right time but title is Tranent's to lose

Tranent remain in the driving seat, but Penicuik Athletic boss Stevie McLeish hopes his team have rediscovered their home form at the perfect time as the East of Scotland Premier Division title race goes to the wire.

Penicuik are still two points behind the leaders with three games to go, but with third-placed Linlithgow Rose still in the mix and with some massive head-to-heads coming up between the three contenders, more twists and turns are inevitable.

The three-horse race will be reduced to two on Tuesday night if Linlithgow fail to win away to Tranent at Forresters Park (7.45pm). Although McLeish will have half an eye on events on that match, he is concentrating on preparing his own team for their own must-win game at home to Broxburn Athletic (7.45pm) on the same evening. After that, his team travel to bottom-of-the-table Camelon before hosting Linlithgow on the last day.

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McLeish knows Penicuik probably need to win all three games to overhaul Tranent, but after a patchy run of results at Penicuik Park since the turn of the year he is confident that they have now found a way to win on home turf.

Penicuik will host Linlithgow on the last day of the season

“That’s two wins at home on the bounce plus a draw,” he pointed out. “We’re unbeaten at home for the last three games, so we’re turning it round now.”

He added: “All the games have been massive for weeks. It’s so tight between the three teams. Linlithgow have lost ground, so they will have to make it up on Tuesday against Tranent.

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“If they don’t, then Tranent will become firm favourites. It is at the stage where all three teams are on edge. All three teams have been a bit nervy recently, although it looks like Tranent have got over that.

“If we win all our games and Tranent win all theirs, they win the league and rightly so. We can only control what we do.”

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Top three

P Diff Pts
1 Tranent 31 +57 75
2 Penicuik 31 +32 73
3 Linlithgow 30 +53 66
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Tranent run-in

Linlithgow (H) Tue
Linlithgow (A) May 7
Jeanfield (H) May 14

Penicuik run-in

Broxburn (H) Tue
Camelon (A) May 7
Linlithgow (H) May 14
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Linlithgow run in

Tranent (A) Tue
Blackburn (H) May 4
Tranent (H) May 7
Penicuik (A) May 14

Tranent were comfortable 3-0 winners at home to Camelon on Saturday, but third-placed Linlithgow drew 0-0 at fourth-placed Jeanfield Swifts and now have to win their remaining four games and to keep their fading title hopes alive.

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Down to ten men, Penicuik kept up the chase on Saturday when captain Kieran Watson headed home with the very last touch of the game in the 95th minute to edge out Musselburgh 1-0 and spark euphoric scenes at Penicuik Park.

The result was obviously far more important than the mediocre performance, especially after Liam O’Donnell – on as a half-time sub – was sent off for a second yellow card offence in the 77th minute. McLeish also had to leave key centre-back Cammy Dawson on the bench due to a back strain.

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He explained: “We’d lost two right backs before the game as well, so I thought the world was caving in on us. I was thinking it wasn’t going to be our day. Everything seemed to be going against us and we couldn’t get going, but we got there in the end.”

Musselburgh Athletic boss Joe Hamill felt his team deserved at least a point from a scrappy game of few chances and a confetti of yellow cards. He was frustrated when one scrambled attempt following a free kick into the box appeared to cross the line but was not given.

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“It doesn’t matter how well you play, if you switch off at crucial points you get punished,” said Hamill. “We’ve let the club down over the last couple of weeks, but we showed that our pride was back. We’ll take it on the chin.

“We’re trying to build the team, but performances like that are encouraging.”

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