The East of Scotland League kicks off this weekend with a round of fixtures in the Qualifying League. Here are how the local sides shape up.
Eyemouth United will go into their new season in the East of Scotland League with a fresh look following the arrival of a handful of new signings.
They also have two players coming back from injury, and with the bulk of last season’s squad returning, competition for places is going to be keen at Warner Park.
Eyemouth’s problems last summer were well documented, so this close-term has been a lot less stressful for manager Carl Hudson.
He has seen Connor Lough step down to join the Amateurs, whilst the experienced Mark Bolton has gone into ‘semi-retirement.’
But the squad has been boosted by the addition of Kieran Bowen from Berwick; Kyle Wood, who was previously with Springhill in the North Northumberland League; ex-Coldstream midfielder Martyn Tait; Jeff Collin, who is stepping up from the Amateurs; and Mark Lockhart, the former Spittal Rovers striker who has spent six or seven years with Kelso United.
In addition, goalkeeper Paul Tansey has signed a full contract from Civil Service Strollers, having played previously on loan, whilst there is a possibility that Stuart Coyle could also be on his way back after a year at Coldstream.
And with central defender Andrew Hastie now playing his way back to full fitness, as is Jake Rutherford, both players having missed almost the whole of last season, it gives Hudson a sizeable squad to choose from.
“The most important thing for me is that it gives us options,” he said, “and that’s a luxury we didn’t really have last season.
“I could have gone out and signed another six or seven players, but the simple truth is the lads who were with us last season did a good job and they deserve a chance to prove themselves again.
“I have gone out and added the players I wanted to bring in, so yes, I am happy.
“We now have two goalkeepers so there will be competition there.
“Once Andrew gets back to fitness after his knee injury he will give us an added dimension at the back.
“Young Kieran is a good, tidy footballer, and Martyn will give us an attacking option from midfield as he likes to get forward.
“Of course we have Stevie Shennan back again up front, and once again we will be looking to him for the bulk of our goals, but the arrival of Mark will also give us options up top.
“He played with me at Spittal and will bring a wealth of experience.
“This season is going to be tough and if a team puts any sort of run together they will be in with a chance.”
Coldstream’s promotion to the East of Scotland Premier League has presented the Home Park side with new goals in 2013-14.
Striker John Crawford said when the club first knew they were going up the aim was simply try and avoid the drop straight back down again.
But following the restructure of the divisions with the formation of the new Lowland League, Crawford says their target now is to finish in the top half of the table, and if everything goes according to plan, press for an even higher placing.
“The formation of the Lowland League has meant we have lost some quality sides from the Premier Division,” said Crawford. “There is no question it is not the same standard it might have been, but that can work to our advantage.
“When the Lowland League was first formed there was a lot of uncertainty as to what might happen in the East of Scotland, and to be honest, despite winning promotion, the atmosphere for a while in the Coldstream camp was a bit flat. But now that the leagues have been restructured everyone is up for it again and we can’t wait for kick-off.”
Last year Crawford was one of the top goal scorers in the EOS netting 28 in the league.
“I would like to think I could do the same again,” he said, “but this year there will be fewer games, so it might be difficult to match.”
Coldstream have drafted in two new faces in the shape of Jake Birkett, who previously played with Tweedmouth U19s and Des Chisholm, who was with Duns.
“We have managed to keep the nucleus of last year’s first team,” said Crawford,
BERWICK RANGERS RESERVES
Berwick Rangers Reserves kick off their competitive season away to Peebles Rovers on Saturday in the East of Scotland Qualifying League. Originally set down for Berwick, the match was switched because of the evening’s big speedway event at Shielfield.
The Reserves had mixed results against Peebles last season, suffering a shock league defeat at home but were comfortable winners in the return game. However, Rovers manager John O’Hara, who has joined from Gala Fairydean, will field an almost completely new team. Signings include the experienced Gerri Rossi from Gala and Michael Holness from Selkirk. Peebles have also enjoyed some encouraging pre-season results culminating in a rout of a visiting Dutch team last weekend.
Reserves coach Mark Lamb, again assisted by Jimmy Rae, is also rebuilding his squad and is cautious about his team’s prospects in the Qualifying League in which they are also at home to Coldstream the following Tuesday, August 13th ( kick off 7.45pm).
New signings include goalkeeper Lyle Sloan who was with East Fife, midfielder Shaun Meikle, ex-St.Johnstone, utility player Stephen Anderson ( Preston Athletic) and 18 year old striker Keith Buckley from Spartans. James Elliot, a midfielder from Earlston, has also signed from Edinburgh City whilst Glasgow-based wide left player Ryan Scanlan has linked up from Bo’ness United in a bid to resurrect a Scottish League career which saw him have spells at Motherwell, Ross County and Aberdeen. Ewan Saunderson (ankle ligament) and Allan Hay (knee damage) are both extremely doubtful.
Duns kick off their East of Scotland Qualifying League campaign with an away game against Ormiston on Saturday.
They also play Hawick Royal Albert at home on Tuesday, but following a 1-0 win over Premier side Heriot Watt in their final pre-season game at the weekend, they will go into the matches with plenty of confidence.
At the club’s AGM this week, Clive Black stood down as chair, and was replaced by Colin Pike. The new vice chair is Brian Stanley.
The club is in the process of setting up a financial steering group, focused on the goals they have set for the next few years.
Duns players James Brydon and new treasurer Steven Burns, said new chair Colin, “Are the ideal pair to get in for this. Steven works in accounting and James is a bank manager, and it was great that they wanted to step up to the plate.
“As a club, we’ve moved from Borders Amateur status to the East of Scotland League very quickly. It’s very exciting. We need to have really robust books in order to attract the larger funders that are needed to attain our goals in the next two to three years.
“We’re looking at starting the next season playing on the redeveloped pitch at the old high school, and we’re looking at work on the old games hall too.”