Coldstream face crunch match without key men

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Coldstream will be without their manager, captain and at least three other players for their relegation crunch match at Heriot-Watt University.

With five points separating the teams and just two games to play, the outcome of Saturday’s penultimate East of Scotland Premier Division fixture at Riccarton could be decisive in the battle to avoid the drop.

A draw would be enough to guarantee Coldstream’s survival, but their prospects are not helped by the absence of so many key personnel.

With manager Neil Oliver unable to make the game in Edinburgh, Phil Johnson will take charge of the team.

He will be without captain John Crawford and defender Michael Allan, who are both unavailable. Sean Simpson is suspended and recent signing Callum Peoples is injured. With Jonny Simpson also struggling to make it, the Streamers are down to the bare bones.

“It is far from ideal,” said Johnson. “Connor Devaney has been out with a hamstring injury as well, but we hope he will be OK.

“The manager is aiming to draft in a couple of players in from somewhere for the bench. As for the starting 11, it will be a case of finding out who is available and shaping a team from there.”

Coldstream are third bottom going into the game, but have a five-point advantage over the students, who were held to a 2-2 draw by Leith Athletic on Tuesday night.

Rock bottom Civil Service Strollers have already been relegated, but either Heriot-Watt or Coldstream will join them.

When the teams met in the league at Home Park a month ago, Heriot-Watt scraped a 1-0 win to give themselves a lifeline and suck Coldstream into trouble.

“There wasn’t much in it that day,” recalled Johnson. “It could have gone either way.

“They are a decent team,so this will be a difficult game, especially with so many players missing. But the pressure is all on them. They need to go out and win the game or they will be relegated.”

If Coldstream lose it will go down to the last day of the league campaign a week on Saturday when Oliver’s men host Leith Athletic and Heriot-Watt travel to face Strollers.

Even then, with league reconstruction likely to be on the agenda in the coming weeks, there might well be no relegation at the end of the season. It is understood one division rather than two will be among the options under consideration.

But Johnson said: “Nobody knows what will happen and we can’t do anything about that. All we can concentrate on is making sure we don’t finish in the bottom two.”