SLFL Preview – Matchday 22

Oh hi, we didn’t see you there. We’ve just been taking a look back over the last few weeks in the Lowland League. Snow, ice, rain. Kind of a pity. Luckily there is a full fixture card in prospect this weekend (weather permitting). As always, let us know where you’re heading and what your predictions are on Twitter or our Matchday 22 thread on Pie & Bovril.


Derek Robertson

With both teams coming off defeats last time out, Gretna 2008 travel north to Edinburgh looking to snatch three points from the grasp of hosts Civil Service Strollers.

The Strollers are nervously looking over their shoulders as we approach the league’s final stretch, sitting six points clear of a potential relegation berth having played two games more than both Dalbeattie and Vale of Leithen. Alex Cunningham’s men are winless going back to mid-November and desperately need to turn their draws into a win or two. Matty Cunningham is usually involved when CSS hit the back of the net, and he will be key to any rebound in form with wide man Andy Mair seeking to provide quality crosses. 

A bright start from the Black & Whites has stalled somewhat in the middle third of the season, with a winless run in the league as long as their hosts. The recent 7-1 cup demolition of Peebles proved that Aitken and Irons’ squad are still more than capable, but concerns remain at the back having leaked 7 goals in their last 2 league fixtures (without scoring). Kingsley Grandison grabbed a hat-trick in the Peebles match and will look to hit the goal trail again, however keeper’ Johnny Jamieson figures to be the key man here.

Ones to Watch

Civil Service Strollers  – Matty Cunningham
Gretna 2008 – Johnny Jamieson


Michael Park

Edinburgh University travel to Yarrow Park looking to pull themselves clear of the developing relegation battle but Dorian Ogunro’s men will know that a win is a tough ask against Ian Fergus’ resurgent Souters. Uni have had a couple of landmark results in the league this season and have only lost by more than one goal three times all season. They will be looking to build on some solid defensive displays to complement the goals of star man Jack Guthrie.

Last time out against Hawick Royal Albert, Selkirk showed the force that they can be. Calum Helm grabbed two to put Selkirk into fifth place with three games in hand over Cumbernauld Colts. Yarrow Park hasn’t quite been a fortress for the Souters in recent months but a positive result here would keep them very much in the hunt for a top four place.

Ones to Watch

Edinburgh University – Jack Guthrie
Selkirk – Calum Helm


Ronan Alexander

An improving Vale of Leithen welcome consistent top half side University of Stirling to Victoria Park on Saturday. The home side come into the match full of confidence after an emphatic 5-1 win over Border rivals Gala Fairydean Rovers last time out in the league, and a 2-0 victory over Tynecastle in the Football Nation Qualifying Cup Quarter Final last weekend. Young left sided player Tommy Patterson is one to keep an eye on after he netted in last weeks 2-0 win. Ainslie Hunter picked up man of the match in that game and will be looking to continue that form this weekend.

The students come into this fixture on the back of an impressive 2-0 win against Cumbernauld after an extremely difficult set of fixtures in December. The three defeats were all narrow defeats to East Stirlingshire (2-4), BSC Glasgow (1-2) and Spartans (1-3) so will be hoping to get some momentum back this weekend. Attacking trio Kieran Hall, Lewis Bonar and Chris Geddes have netted 18 goals between them and will be aiming to hit the back of the net again on Saturday.

Ones to Watch

Vale of Leithen – Ainslie Hunter
University of Stirling – Kieran Hall


Sam Jenkinson

Whitehill Welfare boss Gary Small may have had a tough start to life as a Lowland League manager, but a recent turnaround in form has totally changed the outlook of his first season in charge. After only picking up 10 points from their first 12 matches, former Tranent Juniors boss Small has guided his side to five wins from their last six, including impressive victories over Stirling University and Edinburgh rivals Civil Service Strollers.

Their opponents, Cumbernauld Colts, currently find themselves in sixth place in the Lowland League, but with more matches played than anyone else wins are required for co-managers Craig McKinlay and James Orr if they want to leapfrog Selkirk into fifth place and improve on last season’s sixth place finish. Consistency will be the key for Cumbernauld in the latter stages of their season, having not picked up two wins in a row since September. Encouragingly for Colts fans, they won the reverse fixture in October at Broadwood, and will be hoping their side do the double over an in-form Welfare this Saturday.

Ones to Watch

Whitehill  Welfare  – Jack Wright
Cumbernauld Colts – Gavin Lachlan


Ronan Alexander

Unbeaten in their last five matches, East Kilbride will be looking to extend the gap at the top of the table with a win over Gala Fairydean Rovers. The arrival of prolific striker Bryan Prunty from Arbroath will certainly be a boost to the table toppers. Recent 4-0 and 2-0 victories against Gretna 2008 and Dalbeattie Star will also breathe confidence into the Kilby side.

Gala come into Saturdays game after three straight defeats, including two Border derby losses to Vale of Leithen and Selkirk. Hibs loanees Adam Watson and Jamie Gullan have also returned to Easter Road after a solid few months at Netherdale. Their last victory came in a 2-1 triumph over Edusport Academy. After it taking a late penalty for Kilby to defeat Gala earlier in the campaign, the Braw Lads will be looking to push the title contenders all the way again.

Ones to Watch

East Kilbride – Bryan Prunty
Gala Fairydean Rovers – Sean Paliczka


Sam Jenkinson

East Stirlingshire have officially hit their stride again. Unbeaten since October, eight wins in nine, and a barrel-load of goals has seen John Sludden’s side return to join the Lowland League top four.  The league’s form side can boast about wins over BSC Glasgow, Cumbernauld Colts and Stirling University during that run as they throw their hat in the ring for the Lowland League title.

And Sludden will see no opportunities for his side to slow down with the visit of Dalbeattie Star this Saturday.

The Dumfries and Galloway side have only picked up two wins since the reverse fixture at the beginning of August, and currently sit second bottom of the table, albeit 13 points clear of Hawick. The two sides drew that day at Islecroft, but Star boss Darren Kerr will be hoping he can do his job from the sideline – and not end up between the posts like he had to following an injury to regular goalie Vinnie Parker last time the sides met.

Ones to Watch

East Stirlingshire – Andy Rodgers
Dalbeattie Star  – Greig Thorburn


Derek Robertson

Title-chasing BSC have a tough visit to Galabank in prospect, with a young and talented Edusport Academy side sure to provide difficult opposition.

Ricky Waddell’s charges sit comfortably in mid-table as things stand, but have played more games than most of the sides beneath them. Unbeaten in the league since late November last year, the reigning South of Scotland champs have adjusted extremely well to this level and will be looking to finish the campaign strongly. In terms of who to look out for this weekend, Louis Besnard is proving himself to be a threat up front, and with a recent hat-trick against Gretna 2008 is sure to be full of confidence.

BSC’s form has slipped a little after defeating all comers early on, a goalless draw with fellow challengers Spartans last time out sending East Kilbride back to the summit. Manager Stephen Swift is clearly keen to bolster his ranks, having picked up James Stokes & Kyle Prior on development loans and Danny Stoney on a permanent deal from Stranraer. Look for Stoney to make an impact if he can stay injury-free, a pacy striker of undoubted quality who is just as adept at assisting team-mates as he is scoring himself.

Ones to Watch

Edusport Academy  – Louis Besnard
BSC Glasgow – Danny Stoney


Michael Park

Hawick Royal Albert are in deep trouble at the bottom of the Lowland League. With just one point from a possible 51 in the league, Craig Tully’s side are firmly rooted to the foot of the division with a goal difference of -65. They had enjoyed a relative spell of defensive solidity under their new boss but a 5-0 loss to Selkirk in their last outing has brought the fear back to Albert Park.

The Spartans on the other hand are looking strong coming into this one, but will be wary of complacency against an Albert side with several points to prove. Dougie Samuel’s men have three games in hand over table-topping East Kilbride and will be looking to build on a strong first half of the season.

This match has been postponed

Ones to Watch

Hawick Royal Albert  – Unpha Koroma
The Spartans – Ian McFarland