Stephen Halliday: East Kilbride on the up as they chase SPFL place

East Kilbride played Celtic in the Scottish Cup back in 2016. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
East Kilbride played Celtic in the Scottish Cup back in 2016. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
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Since enjoying their day in the sun three years ago when they reached the fifth round of the Scottish Cup, losing only 2-0 to Celtic, the ambitions of upwardly-mobile East Kilbride FC have remained unfulfilled.

Today, the club from the sixth most populated town or city in Scotland can take another significant step in their bid to reach the Scottish Professional Football League.

If East Kilbride, currently on a 14-match winning streak, defeat Cumbernauld Colts at K Park, they will clinch the Lowland League title with four games to spare.

It’s an achievement in its own right but East Kilbride have their eyes firmly fixed on the greater prize of a place in League 2 next season. To get there, they have to negotiate a pyramid play-off system heavily weighted in favour of the club which finishes bottom of League 2.

East Kilbride must first overcome a two-legged tie against the Highland League champions, likely this season to be either Cove Rangers or Brora Rangers who face each other today. The winner of that play-off semi-final will then face the SPFL’s basement side, an unwanted status currently being scrapped over by Berwick Rangers and Albion Rovers.

Since the play-off was introduced four seasons ago, only Edinburgh City have gone all the way when they ousted East Stirling from the SPFL in 2016. East Kilbride’s only previous tilt at promotion saw them agonisingly lose out on penalties to Cowdenbeath in 2017.

There is much misplaced sentimentality afforded to the established clubs who find themselves in danger of dropping out of the SPFL. If Scottish football is to be a genuine meritocracy, then it is to be hoped clubs as progressive as East Kilbride can fulfil their potential.