Leitch ready to show Blue Toon’s ti­tle cre­den­tials

Lit­tle scope for er­ror af­ter frus­trat­ing start to pro­mo­tion push

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen) - - SPORT -

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.

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