New Vale of Leithen boss gets off to losing start but hopeful ahead of relegation six-pointer against Gretna 2008

Having lost by a 24-0 aggregate scoreline in their previous two Scottish Lowland Football League fixtures, there were far more grounds for optimism for Vale of Leithen followers as they produced a much better display in losing 3-0 at Edinburgh University on Saturday.

Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 11:08 am
New Vale of Leithen manager Grant Sandison watching his side losing 3-0 to Edinburgh University (Pic by Bobby Craigie)

The Innerleithen club, at the bottom of the table after being beaten in all 16 of their league games so far this season, created and missed a few chances before losing out to two goals by Ben Spelman and one from Innes Lawson.

Although that still adds up to no points from his first game in charge, new manager Grant Sandison appears to be making a positive impact already considering that the last two results before his arrival were losses of 13-0 and 11-0 to Bonnyrigg Rose and Berwick Rangers respectively.

Sandison told the Southern Reporter: “To be honest, I thought we played well in the first half. We had a game-plan to be organised and hard to break down and we limited Edinburgh Uni to very few chances in the first half and we had a couple of really good chances ourselves that we never managed to take.

Edinburgh University hosting Vale of Leithen on Saturday (Pic: Bobby Craigie)

“They scored directly from a free-kick right on half-time, which deflated us a little bit, and then early on in the second half we made a wee mistake that led to the second goal for them.

“We just ran out of gas after that. The boys weren’t quite at the level of fitness required in this league yet so that’s something we’re going to have to work on, but considering that we had two training sessions this week, we were pretty pleased with our first half.

“I said to the boys after the game that I couldn’t fault their effort and their commitment and we stuck to the task in terms of our shape.

“It’s something to build on, that’s for sure.”

Vale, six points adrift of second-bottom Gretna 2008, get a chance to bridge that gap when they play the Dumfries and Galloway team away this Saturday at Raydale Park, with kick-off at 3pm.

Sandison, previously part of Penicuik Athletic’s interim management team, is hopeful of making up ground on Gretna, saying: “There are plenty of positives from Saturday.

“Obviously we didn’t get the result that we wanted but, all things considered, with it being our first week – and we have another two training sessions this week – we can build on and tweak the things we saw on Saturday.

“Hopefully it will make for a more positive performance for 90 minutes rather than just for 45.

“We’ve got two, three or possibly four guys coming in this week that we’re hoping to get signed so we’ll definitely have a bigger, stronger squad come Saturday and we’ll be more prepared than we were on Saturday there.

“There are definitely grounds for optimism.

“Like I said when we first came in, we never came in here just to prepare for next season and the East of Scotland Football League.

“We want to stay in this league so the game on Saturday’s a big one in terms of trying to achieve that, and we’re going there to try and win the game.”

Vale vice-chairman Michael Hogarth is in no doubt as to why the team showed such big improvement at Edinburgh Uni, saying: “To start with, we had a full squad of 14 or 15 players. Previously we have been on matchdays with 11 with not quite the quality, so Grant and his team have brought in five or six players during the week and we had that bit of quality there, not only on the park but also guys that could come on and do something from the bench.

“Also, pre-match preparation and pre-match warm-up was at another level to what it has been and the organisation going into the match was better.

“In the first half, we made three or four really good chances and that gave the players belief. Their goalkeeper was tested, and the guys built on that.

“Before, we were hardly getting a corner in a match but this time the guys were playing really neat football from the back and looking for the ball.

“They looked sharper than us in the second half. Their fitness was slightly better than ours.

“Grant has a lot of good player contacts and that’s what we’re looking at now.”