Month: September 2016

McLeod draws on Scottish Cup experience in hope of creating more memories

Keith McLeod has Scottish Cup memories aplenty, and he is out to make more with Vale – starting this weekend.

The veteran was an integral member of Spartans’ giant killing squads in 2003-04, 2005-06, 2008-09 and more recently in 2014-15. He scored goals against league sides Arbroath and Alloa, while Berwick Rangers, Queens Park, Clyde, Morton and Elgin City were all put to the sword by the Edinburgh side during those runs, with First Division side St. Mirren being taken to a replay. McLeod twice reached the fourth round of the competition with his old club, and they played in the fifth round under the new format in 2008-09.

His focus this weekend turns to the East Kilbride tie, which presents Vale with a tough nut to crack. Kilby are top of the Lowland League with a 100% record and only three goals conceded from eight matches. They reached the fifth round last year before bravely going down 2-0 to Celtic. McLeod is aware of how difficult it will be, but knows more than most how to cause an upset.

He said: “At this stage of the competition it is one of the hardest draws you could get. You’re looking to avoid the top junior sides, and you would be looking to avoid East Kilbride as well. But we have nothing to fear. A cup game can be a lottery and we will go there looking for a result, while being under no illusions about who we are up against.”

Vale have won their last four matches, moving up to fifth in the league, and McLeod added: “At any level, a good run of form breeds confidence. We have had some hard games in that run and overcome different challenges. So we have grown in confidence and the group, which is a new one, has gelled through that period. We go with confidence as we have shown we have something about us.”

The striker is not the only member of the squad with vast experience in the cup. Danny O’Donnell, Kevin Motion and Robbie Manson were also part of those historic Spartans sides and manager Chris Anderson said after the draw: “East Kilbride are certainly a challenge but we’ll go there and give it our best shot.

“We have a few players who have enjoyed runs in the Scottish Cup over the years and we will be looking to them to use all their experience against East Kilbride.”

McLeod is confident their other team-mates have enough in their locker to see them through but is willing to lend a hand where required.

“There are a few other lads within the group with lots of experience. We will try and pass that on but most of the boys know what it’s about.”

Invited to go down memory lane, he picked out two games from different stages of his Spartans career which stand out in his mind.

“Early on in my time at Spartans we played Arbroath when Mickey (Lawson) and Sam Lynch were the managers. They were top of the third tier which was called the Second Division at that time and were flying. We went 1-0 down and then I equalised and we went on to win 4-1. We were phenomenal that day, absolutely terrific.

“And a couple of years ago we played Morton who are full-time and beat them 2-1. I would have been 36 or 37 and I just felt it was a good way to bow out of the club. It had been a bit of a goal of the club’s to beat a full-time team so it was good to get that monkey off the back.”

After all that nostalgia, McLeod slipped back into the present day and stated excitedly: “They are great memories but hopefully this weekend we can make more.”


Match Preview: Creetown

South of Scotland side Creetown will be a bit of an unknown quantity for Vale, although they compete in the same league as Threave Rovers who were in the Lowland League previously.

Creetown are currently ninth in the table, having finished tenth last season. They will be looking to bounce back having been beaten 5-2 by Abbey Vale in their last match, and 9-0 by St. Cuthberts Wanderers prior to that.

The Vale on the other hand, go into the match in good form, having won three on the bounce. Last weekend’s impressive 2-0 win at Whitehill Welfare was preceded by wins over Hawick Royal Albert and Preston Athletic.

Manager Chris Anderson had this to say ahead of the cup tie: “Over the next two weeks we will be putting our impressive league campaign to one side and focusing on progressing in two cup competitions.

“Today’s focus is firmly on our Challenge Cup match with South of Scotland side Creetown and it is one we are eager to impress in after previous cup disappointment.

“For me, the cup competitions provide us with a fantastic opportunity to achieve success and for clubs like ourselves gives us a chance to compete for silverware. We want to continue the momentum we have at the moment and take our fine form into today’s game.”

Captain James Elliot added: “I don’t really know much about them. I know they play the likes of Threave who we have played in the past, but I don’t really know what to expect.

“But it’s been a good last three games and we want to keep the run going. It’s a cup game so anything can happen. We would really like to win a cup this season, or at least do well in one.”

Ben McGregor, Danny O’Donnell, Brendan Edwards and Jay Stevens have all been struggling with injuries, with McGregor likely to be out for a while. The rest will be looking to return in the coming weeks.

Skipper speaks ahead of facing Creetown in the cup

Vale captain James Elliot stressed the importance of a cup run to the club’s season ahead of the South Challenge Cup match against Creetown. But the match itself is a leap into the unknown for the skipper and his team-mates, with Elliot admitting he does not know a great deal about the visitors.

Creetown play their football in the South of Scotland League, hence why he has never come across them before.

Elliot said: “I don’t really know much about them. I know they play the likes of Threave who we have played in the past, but I don’t really know what to expect. But it’s been a good last three games and we want to keep the run going. It’s a cup game so anything can happen. We would really like to win a cup this season, or at least do well in one.”

The run he refers to is the three wins against Preston, Hawick Royal Albert and Whitehill Welfare which has moved the Vale up to fourth in the Lowland League. Prior to that, results had been up and down. Asked about the importance of consistency, Elliot explained: “It’s massive. If teams round about us are beating each other and we can have a run of consistent wins then that is massive.

“We want to beat everybody and we want to stay in the top half. Last year we struggled against the bigger teams but we also lost to some of the so-called smaller teams towards the end.

“So far this season we have played a mixture of teams, but we have played some of the ones you would expect to be near the top and coped well. We are fourth and we want to stay there so we have to continue to win games. We can’t afford to lose every other game, we need that consistency.”

Stewart’s Sending Off Doesn’t Stop Success

With a goal and a sending off, Sean Stewart had an eventful time against Hawick Royal Albert on Saturday.

He then watched on as his team-mates fought back from 3-1 down to win 4-3, while playing with a man down. The midfielder heaped praise on them for not giving up when the chips were down.

 He said: “I thought the boys were outstanding the way the never gave in and kept fighting until the end despite being a player short. They showed great character to get the win. I thought it could have gone from bad to worse.

“Obviously when a team concedes again as well as being a man down you fear the worst. 

But I was delighted that the team fought back and we managed to get the 3 points. Every player dug in for the last 40 minutes and it paid off with the win.”

Stewart will now be suspended and he feels that he was harshly treated. He is of the belief that his tackle was not out of the ordinary, explaining: “I was shocked to be honest. I thought I won the ball and I have tackled like that in previous games and nothing has been said. I thought it was firm but fair.

“I also felt really disappointed because I had let the team down by going down to ten men. After the game I spoke with the referee and he didn’t overly convince me that he had made the right decision. I’m gutted I’ll be sitting out of the next game, I want to play all the time.”

The victory was Vale’s third in the league and moved them up to sixth in the Lowland League, with two draws and two defeats. Manager Chris Anderson earlier in the week bemoaned a “frustrating” lack of consistency, but feels the team can start to fulfil its potential.

Stewart agreed: “I feel that we can push on and I believe consistency is definitely key. The team looks a lot stronger now as we have all gelled together as a squad.

“From the board, to the coaching staff, to the players, we all want to bring success. Ando set us a target of six points against Preston and Hawick and we knew we were more than capable of delivering so it was pleasing. Also winning our first game at home was important.”

The former Spartan now has three goals to his name in competitive fixtures and seems to have taken to Lowland League football in his first season.

He added: “I haven’t really set myself a target as such in terms of goals. I am pleased that I have scored a few for the club so far and definitely want to continue. The only target I set myself is to play well week in week out.”