News: Kilby are the League Champions!!!
Written by Zag Flash on May 27, 2016
Joao Victoria’s hat-trick helped East Kilbride wrap up their maiden Lowland League title in style this afternoon.
The Portuguese striker grabbed a treble and Craig Howie also netted during a first-half goal blitz in Galashiels before a Paul Woods brace and Darren Smith’s consolation for Gala completed the scoring.
Martin Lauchlan’s side, who have been top of the table all season, have now booked their place in the League Two play-offs as they made sure there was no repeat of last week’s slip-up at Civil Service Strollers.
It also means they are the first Scottish side to clinch a league title this season, beating Celtic by at least 24 hours.
Proud Kilby gaffer Martin Lauchlan said: “Getting over the line before Celtic, a team who have been so successful this season, is a fantastic thing to say.
“It really shows just how good a season we’ve had.
“But to win the the club’s first ever title after only a year in charge is very special and the biggest achievement of my career.
“When we came in here the club were fifth in the table, 25 points behind the leaders, so we knew we had a big job on our hands.
“We had to rebuild the team and get the players to have a winning mentality and a sheer desire to push themselves to the max in every training session.
“Doing this enabled us to play our high tempo, high energy, pressing game to hurt teams in every area of the pitch.
“That can’t happen without quality players and they have been nothing but terrific.
“Every single person in the squad has played their part and I’m delighted for them.
“With a great mix of youth and experience they have been top of the league from very first day and they are worthy champions.
“EK are an ambitious club that are going places and we are delighted to win this for everyone at the football club.
“But this is only the beginning. Now we go for promotion.”
Kilby – eight points clear of second place East Stirling with two games to go – got off to a dream start with a couple of early goals in the space of 60 seconds.
They took the lead after seven minutes when Paul Woods raced to the byeline and crossed for Victoria to stab home his 21st goal of the season from close range.
Seconds later the league leaders doubled their advantage. Adam Strachan whipped in a free-kick from the left and Craig Howie flicked the ball past the keeper at the front post.
With the visitors in dreamland things got even better for Lauchlan’s men in 15 minutes when Victoria notched his second of the day. Sean Winter’s lofted through ball broke the offside trap to find the Portuguese striker and he kept his cool to slot the ball into the far corner.
Gala had a great chance to get back into the contest on the half hour mark when Darren Smith’s corner broke to Kieran Ainslie unmarked, but he blazed over.
Two minutes before the break Kilby put the result beyond doubt when Victoria pounced on Darren Smith’s short back pass and rounded the keeper to slam home number four.
Kilby keeper Matt McGinley had to be at his best at the start of the second half to deny Ainslie from pulling one back for Gala, palming his acrobatic effort over the bar.
The visitors pushed for a fifth goal and Strachan should have found it in 52 minutes, heading over from two yards out after Capuano’s driven cross picked him out.
But they eventually hit the net again in 63 minutes when Victoria turned provider, slipping in Woods to round the keeper and find the net from an acute angle.
Woods grabbed his second of the day in 70 minutes when Winter chipped the ball to the back post and he nodded over the line from a yard out.
The hosts had something to cheer about seven minutes later when Darren Smith’s thumping 20-yard drive flew past McGinley.
But Kilby saw the rest of the game out comfortably.
The winners of the Highland League await Kilby with the victors from that tie facing the bottom side in League Two for the chance to earn promotion.
(Source: East Kilbride News)