CARLUKE ROVERS boss Colin Slater reckons his players have got their Central Second Division campaign off to a flier…despite succumbing to a 2-1 defeat against derby rivals Lanark United last weekend.

Their disappointing reverse saw the previously league leading Rovers drop down to fourth top spot ahead of a “milestone” sixth league game at home to one point worse off Bellshill Athletic on Saturday and experienced gaffer Slater says the crunch clash will hold no fears for his playing charges.

He insisted: “To lose a local derby is never a nice feeling but overall I cannot complain with our league results up to now.

“Lanark was only our first defeat and if we can bounce back with a victory over Bellshill then we will have amassed 13 points which is anything but unlucky when you think we had just four points to our name after the opening six games last time out.

“Getting out of the bottom tier has to be our number one target with league reconstruction on the way next summer and it’s satisfying to think we have given ourselves a chance by making a good start and putting points on the board.

“But we are not alone in this respect as I fancy there may be as many as eight challengers for the promotion places so the key is to get back to winning ways as soon as possible.”

Supporters of the 130-year-old Lanarkshire club endured some rollercoaster pre-season friendly results and a poor return from Central Sectional League Cup contests, however an unbeaten run of four league games (before last Saturday) had raised expectations and put the smiles back on faces.

Slater admitted: “Some of our early showings were sloppy and not to my liking but I put that down to players needing time to gel after we made a whole raft of personnel changes during the close season.

“We conceded too many goals last season so stiffening our backline was a priority and there’s no doubt our bringing in the ex-Hamilton Accies centre-back Aldin El Zubadai has made a difference as has the recovery from long-term injury of Gary Gow whose return is just like a new signing.

“Our goalkeeper David Thomson has also looked the part since arriving from Larkhall Thistle and we have unearthed a real shot-stopping find on our doorstep in local teenager Ryan Lawrie who has figured in our last couple of outings.

“If we can keep the back door shut then I believe we have goals in us at the other end of the pitch with Chucky (Ian Watt) finding the net regularly and receiving decent support from our close-season signings Greg Kane(Rutherglen Glerncairn Under 21’s) and Mark Cassidy (Newmains Utd).

“We’ve also brought back Alberto Vezza from Stirling Albion as well as retaining the older heads of Mark Weir and Mark Haddow so I’m happy with the dressing room mix and feel confident we can meet the challenges going forward .”

The long-serving Rovers gaffer thinks current tabletoppers Gartcairn will take some shifting from atop the pile.

He added: “Davie Greig has put together a strong squad and has a wealth of young talent coming through his club’s Academy to call on so they will be there or thereabouts and I was also very impressed with the revamped Vale of Clyde when we drew 1-1 with them in a recent game.

“They are a physically big and strong side with one or two gifted individuals and will only get better as their players acclimatise to the Juniors.

“And I would be amiss to ignore the threat of Lanark now that Paul Burns is in their manager’s chair as he has a wealth of contacts at this level of the game that I can see being put to good effect over the coming months.”

Latest word from Moor Park suggests Burns is already making moves to put his own stamp on team matters after granting free transfers to Jason McRorie as well as close season recruits Martin Hannaway and Connor Stewart.

However, the new boss will not be happy at the prospect of losing highly regarded goalkeeper Gareth Halford who has been placed on the open to transfer list at his own request.