Relief as East of Scotland League is revamped

Hawick Royal Albert Football Club.
Hawick Royal Albert Football Club.

The retention of two divisions in the East of Scotland League has been welcomed by representatives of two Borders clubs, writes Kenny Paterson.

However, both Peebles Rovers’ new manager John O’Hara and Hawick Royal Albert secretary Dougie Purves believe Leith Athletic and Berwick Rangers Reserves should have earned promotion to the new-look Premier Division.

The association’s Extraordinary General Meeting last Thursday was prompted by nine teams leaving to join the new Lowland League, including Gala Fairydean Rovers, Selkirk and Vale of Leithen.

With only 18 teams left, including a Hibs reserves side, it appeared only one league would be used.

Instead, members allowed Spartans, Stirling University and Edinburgh City to retain reserves sides in a 10-team Premier Division which includes newly-promoted Coldstream as well as Tynecastle and Edinburgh University, despite both finishing in the bottom two spots last season.

The decision to have no relegation means Leith and Berwick both miss out, and will face Peebles, Hawick and Kelso United in the 11-team First Division this season.

O’Hara said: “It is tough on Leith and Berwick to not earn promotion when you see second teams of Edinburgh City and Spartans taking the place of their first teams in the Premier Division.

“It looks a wide open First Division and obviously the big attraction is Hibs, which we are looking forward to.”

Purves added: “I personally thought four teams should have been promoted and the bottom two sides in the Premier relegated.

“I think the campaign was so close in the First Division that Leith and Berwick deserved it. The problem the league had was that these changes came on us so quickly, so to end up with the two leagues we have is good.”

Lowland League sides will still be entered into the EoS cup competitions, meaning O’Hara could yet face his former side Gala. He resigned last month as manager following proposals from the new club’s committee.

O’Hara is currently building his squad for next season, and has recruited Geri Rossi, Michael Holness and Ross Glass, while Jason Darling and Calum Conaghan have also signed.

Peebles will face new Lowland League side East Kilbride in a friendly on July 27, and O’Hara said: “We are working hard and want to make things more professional.

“We have recruited four or five new committee members and are actively looking for sponsorship.”