Oliver bidding to make step up

by Kirsty Smyth

DUNS Amateurs are bidding to make the step up to senior football ahead of schedule by applying for East of Scotland League membership next season.

Manager Neil Oliver underlined the extent of his and the club’s ambitions by revealing that an application was submitted to the league’s management committee ahead of the March 31 deadline. “We’ve applied to join the East of Scotland League and there will be a vote in June,” said Oliver, whose team sit top of Border Amateur League Division A. “Hopefully that will come off – the lads need it.”

With 10 back to back wins behind them, table toppers Duns are in a two-horse race with Leithen Rovers for the title and have the chance to book their place in the South Cup final this weekend.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s semi-final against Carnwath, Oliver added: “It would be nice to win something before we leave this league.”

Given what his team have achieved so far this season, there can be no doubt that Oliver’s men will be in the mix when the trophies are handed out over the next few weeks.

Whether the club is ready for East of Scotland League football, however, is another matter. Duns have long-term plans to move to a new ground at the old Berwickshire High School and redevelop their current home at Gavinton, however the club is unlikely to have all the necessary upgrades in place in time for the start of next season.

Membership criteria for the East of Scotland League is more stringent that it was in the past, so much so that many of the current members would fail to satisfy all the requirements if they were forced to re-apply. Hutchison Vale and Links United from Edinburgh, as well as Gala Rovers, have tried and failed in recent years.

The town of Duns has a long association with the East of Scotland League, of course. The original Duns Football Club, who were full members of the Scottish Football Association and played against both Celtic and Rangers in the Scottish Cup, played in the East of Scotland League from 1928 until 1974.

In more recent times, the town has been well represented in the Border Amateur League. Oliver, the former Berwick Rangers, Falkirk and Blackburn Rovers defender, is aiming to secure the club’s first Division A title in 12 years and the first South Cup in 13. The winners of Saturday’s semi-final against Carnwath, which will be played at Victoria Park in Innerleithen, will face Leithen Rovers in the final.

Oliver said: “I don’t know too much about the South Cup, but people in the town talk about it so it would be nice to do well.”

And with league rivals Leithen Rovers - the only team to beat the Dingers so far this season (they knocked them out of the Border Cup in the second round) - already through to the final, Duns are hoping to meet them there to extract revenge.

Semi opponents Carnwath scraped through the early South Cup stages with an extra time winner against Lauder in the second round. They went on to beat Jed Legion in the third round and Newtongrange Star 2-0 in the quarter final, while Duns dismissed Greenlaw 3-0 in the last eight.

“I don’t know much about Carnwarth, only what you hear,” admitted Oliver.

“I know they played one of the teams in our league in a previous round and scraped through.

“But with the level of team I’ve got I don’t need to worry about them, I can just concentrate on us.”

Duns continued their winning ways at Stewart Park on Tueday night, putting three goals past Berwickshire counterparts Gordon. But Oliver says he won’t necessarily field the same team on Saturday. “I have got a good squad of players and I never stick with the same 11. It never really weakens the team whoever I play,” he said.

“I’m confident, yes. I’m always confident going into games with the quality of the team we have.”

Duns are unbeaten in their league campaign, winning 14 of their 16 games and dropping only four points all season.

Asked why his team are in the hunt for more than one trophy going into the final few weeks of the season, Oliver replied “It’s down to fitness. The fitness is there, we’re playing regular football, and we have got better players.

“I have managed to bring some good players into the club – I made four or five signings in the summer – and the lads that were here already have improved as well. Ninty-five per cent of them are local which is great, I wouldn’t want it any other way because it’s their club. There’s a lot of talent in the Duns area.”

Oliver’s team furthered their league title hopes with a 3-0 win at Gordon on Tuesday night to on a very windy night at Stewart Park.

Duns went 3-0 up with the wind in first half, with goals from Steven Burns (2) and Jamie Lackenby.

Gordon squandered a golden chance to get one back before the break when Scott Lumsden in the Duns goal saved a Greg Porter penalty right on half time to keep score 3-0.

Gordon attacked with the wind in the second half and hit the bar straight from a corner, but they couldn’t find the back of the net, and Duns went away with the spoils.

But although Duns are building themselves an ever increasing cushion at the top of the table, Oliver isn’t gting ahead of himself.

“It’s going well, but there’s still lots of football to be played,” he said.

Meanwhile, Greenlaw manager Jim McLean believes his team can still avoid relegation, despite a 3-0 home defeat to Chirnside on Tuesday night.

Robbie Armstrong, with his second goal in two games, put the visitors ahead before Jack Windram and Jamie Stobie wrapped up the three points, leaving Greenlaw rooted to the bottom with just six points from 14 games. But McLean insisted: “We’re not down yet. We’ve still got eight games left and a couple of wins would put us back in striking distance of the teams above us.

“We were outgunned by a far more experienced Chirnside team, but we have a a very young team and the nerves showed. It was disappointing, but I believe we can still turn it round.”

Greenlaw have a chance to bounce back at home to West Barns Star on Saturday. Although West Barns are third in the table, they go into the game on the back of a 3-0 defeat at Pencaitland on Tuesday night. Chirnside will be aiming to keep up their momentum when they entertain Gordon, who are six points behind them, in the league on Saturday.

In Division B, Chirnisde Colts will expect to be given the points after third-placed Eyemouth failed to raise a team on Tuesday. Colts are away to Tweedmouth on Saturday, while Coldstream host Ancrum.