Leitch ready to show Blue Toon’s title credentials
Little scope for error after frustrating start to promotion push
Peterhead are already five points adrift of League 2 leaders Stirling Albion, but midfielder Jack Leitch feels his side is more than capable of challenging for the title.
The Blue Toon conceded a last minute equaliser against secondplaced Montrose last weekend when towering forward Chris Templeman scored a late leveller to cancel out Leitch’s first goal for Peterhead.
Jim McInally’s side began the season as favourites for the title, but have taken only seven points from their opening five games, including defeats by Stenhousemuir and Stirling Albion and 22-year-old Leitch said: “That game against Montrose was actually the best we have played and we should have scored a lot more.
“To concede an equaliser in the last minute was hugely disappointing, we couldn’t do too much about it as it was a great cross into the box and their forward is huge, it is difficult to stop him when he gets the right delivery.
“But I feel we can take a Cowdenbeath have lost four matches in a row but Peterhead manager Jim McInally has warned his players not to expect an easy afternoon against the Blue Brazil.
The Balmoor men are looking to bounce back from last week’s 1-1 draw with Montrose with a victory at Central Park and lot of encouragement from the way we played and we are confident we will be up there pushing for promotion come the end of the season.
“I know we have lost a couple of games but I don’t think we have anything to fear. We know we are going to face some difficult games throughout the season but we have enough quality in the team to be right up there.”
The midfielder, the eldest son of former Motherwell captain Scott, began his career with the Steelmen. He made his debut in the club’s surprise 1-0 Scottish Cup defeat by Albion Rovers.
He suffered a cruciate ligament injury that curtailed his involvement during the 2014-15 campaign and was released by the club at the end of the following season after making 32 appearances for the Scottish Premiership team. McInally said: “Cowdenbeath don’t lose many goals. Their last three games have all finished 1-0.
“I think a lot of that is down to their manager Billy Brown, he is a really good organiser and Central Park is never an easy place to go.
“We deserved three points last week against Montrose but that can happen in football, we will play worse and win.”
McInally has a number of injury worries but the
Leitch moved to Airdrie at the start of last season, scoring one goal in 11 appearances for the Diamonds.
He joined Peterhead on a one-year deal last month and is relishing the opportunity to play for the Balmoor side, who are attempting to win promotion back to League One at the first time of asking following demotion through the play-offs last term.
Leitch, who is optimistic he will shrug off a knee injury to feature against Cowdenbeath today, added: “I have really enjoyed my time at Peterhead so far and the players and the manager have been really good with me. The manager sold me on the move to Peterhead, I liked the ambition he has for the club and it seemed like it would be a good fit for me.
“We haven’t started the season as well as we would have liked in the league but I feel we can build on last week’s draw with Montrose.
“Cowdenbeath have lost a few games in a row recently but we won’t be taking them lightly. Hopefully we can start a winning run this weekend and start moving up the table.” Blue Toon manager still believes he has enough players available to pick up all three points.
Rory McAllister (thigh), David McCracken (Achilles), Jamie Stevenson (hamstring), Nicky Riley (calf) and Jack Leitch (knee) are among those who could miss out but midfielder Jordon Brown is back available after suffering a stress fracture of the fibula against Annan Athletic on the opening day of the season.
McInally added: “Our injury situation is quite bad, I will probably need a couple of them to go on the bench injured, but we just need to get on with it.
“I have basically only got 11 or 12 fit players to choose from.
“We are down to the bare bones and it will be a challenge but we still feel we have enough players available to get a result. We played a couple of cup ties this year where we changed our team dramatically and still won and there will be no excuses from us.
“The pleasing aspect is we have Jordon back available.
“We got his leg scanned a fortnight ago but we have only just received the results. Hopefully the rest will have done him good.
“Jordon is keen to get back involved as quickly as possible, which is why he was on the bench last week. But the injury hasn’t fully healed yet so we just need to be cautious with him.
“Hopefully it won’t be too long before we’re closer to full strength. Attacker Isma Goncalves has admitted Hearts players lacked fitness in the early stages of the season.
A number of players at Tynecastle have hinted at a poor fitness regime under the watch of former head coach Ian Cathro, but that is all changing under the new management.
First Jon Daly and now Craig Levein have been quick to address the problem, and Goncalves suggested the lack of fitness may have been holding Hearts back.
He said: “All the players have said it, we are working more now because I think we were not fit enough, so we are working more on that now.”
When asked if he personally had felt underprepared, he added: “A little bit, all the players did.
“Now we are working more, we can see a difference from before.
“Everybody wants to play, so if you want to play, you have to do what the manager says.”
Levein has wasted no time in shaking up the training schedule for his players, and the new focus has been welcomed by Portuguese forward Goncalves.
He said: “It’s been a different week, we have been working more physically and from Thursday and Friday we worked tactically, which is different but it has been good because I think we needed to work more physically.
“He has a different way of thinking about football, he likes the players to be fit and scrap before everything, and then to play.”
Hearts travel to Hamilton today hoping to pick up their second win of what has been a turbulent season so far, and Goncalves recognises the importance of the fixture.
“It’s a game that we have to win and we will do everything we can to win,” he said.