CRAIG McEWAN has laughed at critics questioning whether his Glenafton players have the desire to play themselves back into the Super Premier Division title race.

The reigning champions currently occupy seventh place in the standings and rarely get a mention when talk turns to teams likely to finish top of the pile this season, however the Glens boss has set his sights on being part of the mix.

"What’s even more important is that my players share this vision and are in the mood to make a lot of people eat their words,” insisted Southy last night as he took time out from preparing his New Cumnock charges for tomorrow’s league game away to Girvan.

“The guys are sick to the teeth of hearing themselves described as one-season wonders and I firmly believe their anger can be channelled into getting us back into contention.

“There are other encouraging signs with Cammy Marlow declaring himself fit again following a three-month injury meaning we have a full squad of 19 players to choose from for the first time this season ahead of facing Girvan and I have every confidence in them coming good.”

Glenafton’s outstanding run in the Scottish Cup proper resulted in them playing fewer games than any other Super Premier Division side but the prospect of playing catch-up is not fazing McEwan in the slightest.

He added: "We have three games in hand over every team above us in the table and turning those games into points will make a huge difference to our league position.

“It’s a tough ask and I’m not going to pretend otherwise but I firmly believe the players at this club are capable of going on a winning run so nobody should be writing us off as no-hopers.

"Girvan are nobody’s pushovers in their own backyard but the players have worked their socks off at training this past week and I sense a determination to get the right result down there.”

The only other scheduled top-flight fixture taking place is a clash between teams at either end of the Super Premier spectrum which has bottom markers Clydebank hosting the visit of league leaders Kilwinning Rangers.

The news that Bankies gaffer Kieran McAnespie has strengthened his playing hand with the acquisition of ex-Kilmarnock and Linlithgow Rose winger Cammy McClair as well as procuring former Pollok and Motherwell hitman Stevie Higgins from Lesmahagow did not escape the notice of the Ayrshire club’s boss Chris Strain.

He admitted: "Both are good players and likely to be fired up to do well on their debuts, so it’s crucial that we defend well and don’t give them any encouragement.

“We showed a lot of character to play out a 1-1 draw in our last outing against Glenafton despite playing with 10 men for most of the game and I cannot help but think the guys will need to man up again at Holm Park.

“Kieran’s team are much better than their league position suggests and gave us a tough time of it at Abbey Park where they actually led 2-1 before the introduction of Finlay Frye off the substitutes bench led to us winning 4-2."

Set to be posted missing from Kilwinning defender Craig Pettigrew, serving the second game of a two-match ban for his red card in a recent game against Hurlford United, however Strain has no fears over dropping midfield playmaker Liam McGuinness into his backline.

He said: “Liam replaced Petty against Glenafton and he is such a clever footballer that you would never have known he was playing out of position."