A DAUNTING baptism of fire awaits Peter Leonard after his confirmation at the weekend as the new team manager of Cumnock.

Taking up the task of reviving fortunes at the Super Premier Division bottom markers was always going to represent a huge challenge but the road back to the top for the highly-regarded Leonard has been made significantly steeper by Nock’s arch rivals Auchinleck Talbot providing the opposition in his first game in charge.

And further tests of the ex-St Mirren and Motherwell striker’s resolve are coming thick and fast with a Scottish Junior Cup second round tie away to in-form Ayrshire District League frontrunners Craigmark next up on Cumnock’s agenda followed by an intriguing head to head with his former club Girvan back at Hamilton Park.

Last night Leonard insisted: “The game at Auchinleck will be one to savour and we will look to do well but my appointment here along with Chris Flanagan and Gerry Philips is all about achieving the targets we have set ourselves for Cumnock’s long-term future and not just one, two or three games.

“There’s no escaping the fact it’s an extremely tough start but if I remember right the previous manager John McKeown also kicked off with a derby game and he didn’t do all that badly in his three years at Townhead Park.

“I am looking no further forward than getting to meet the players when taking our first training session tomorrow night and I cannot wait if truth be told.

“They are not all strangers as I worked with Stevie “Dingus” Crawford during my coaching stint with Ayr United Youths as well as Darren Johnstone while the other goalkeeper on the books, Ally Semple, was loaned out by Troon to Girvan last season so we know all about his qualities.

“Probably the toughest part of the job as Cumnock manager is to manage expectation levels however Chris, Gerry and I have all been around the block a few times and we are not running scared of the challenge.”

Leonard's departure from Girvan is thought to have been sorely felt which is only to be expected following his eventful three years at the helm which got underway in January 2015 with the Seasiders sitting rank bottom of the Ayrshire District pile.

By the end of his first season in charge Girvan had risen to second bottom spot, however his team-building skills then kicked in to spark back to back title winning seasons (inclusive of going through their entire Ayrshire District campaign unbeaten) that culminated in him leading the remote South Ayrshire outfit into the West Region top flight where they currently sit ninth in the table…a mere three points better off than Cumnock.

Peter added: “I absolutely loved my time at Girvan and all the success we achieved there is down to the players because we simply got them fit and instilled a bit of organisation to go along with a great team spirit fostered in the dressing room.

“The only downside I discovered in my time there was the club’s location making it difficult to attract top players unless they were South of Scotland based and that’s one of the reasons why I felt it right to have a shot at the Cumnock job.

“I was offered the post a number of years ago but had to turn it down because of pressing non-football matters and I’ve always wondered how things would have worked out had I been able to move so I was never going to turn down the opportunity again.

“Our Girvan side lost 4-1 when coming up against Cumnock towards the end of last season so Chris, Gerry and I are aware there are a lot of good players at the club who are maybe short of confidence right now so our immediate aim is to do no more than try to get the best out of them over the coming months.

“I’ll be fully focused on the job in hand from the moment we arrive at Townhead Park, however it certainly helps ease my conscience somewhat to know Lawrie Dinwoodie is stepping into the breach at Girvan to take interim charge of playing matters as he is a terrific coach and motivator as I know from having worked alongside him at both Maybole and Girvan.”

Junior internationalist midfielder Paul Burns is a likely non-starter against Talbot after picking up a calf muscle injury in the Umbro Quadrangular Tournament and Leonard is also resigned to being without Adam Hunter and Del Esplin.

He added: “In an ideal world we’d have liked to have a full strength squad, however there is a more than decent pool of players to choose from so I'd like to think we can replace the guys who are missing.”


(Kick-offs 2pm)

McBookie.com Super Premier Division: Glenafton v Rob Roy, Clydebank v Girvan, Auchinleck Talbot v Cumnock, Arthurlie v Kilbirnie Ladeside, Hurlford Utd v Kilwinning Rangers, Beith v Pollok.

McBookie.com Super First Division: Cambuslang Rangers v Shettleston, Kilsyth Rangers v Troon, Cumbernauld Utd v Kello Rovers, Larkhall Thistle v Maryhill, Renfrew v Largs Thistle, Darvel v Petershill, Rutherglen Glencairn v Irvine Meadow.

McBookie.com Central First Division: Glasgow Perthshire v Forth Wanderers, Port Glasgow v Shotts Bon Accord, Rossvale v Wishaw, St Roch's v Neilston, Benburb v East Kilbride Thistle, Thorniewood Utd v Yoker Athletic, Blantyre Vics v Greenock.

McBookie.com Central Second Division: Lanark Utd v Newmains Utd, Johnstone Burgh v Gartcairn, Vale of Clyde v Royal Albert, Dunipace v Vale of Leven, Carluke Rovers v St Anthony's, Bellshill Athletic v Ashfield.

McBookie.com Ayrshire District League: Ardrossan Winton Rovers v Muirkirk, Lugar Boswell v Annbank Utd, Whitletts Vics v Craigmark, Maybole v Dalry Thistle, Irvine Vics v Ardeer Thistle.