Just one season on from finishing fifth in Central Division 1, a catastrophic late season collapse has seen Carluke Rovers relegated from the division.
Three defeats in their final three games – culminating in Saturday’s critical 4-1 home loss to drop rivals Vale of Clyde – have seen Rovers go down to Central Division 2.
“I feel total disappointment,” said Rovers match reporter Craig Martin. “We went out with a whimper rather than with all guns blazing.
“There are a lot more important things in life but unfortunately when you are a football man relegation is very important.”
Although Rovers went 2-0 down early on against Vale of Clyde, Ian Watt’s fine header into the net from a Lewis McDougall cross meant that they trailed by just a single goal at half-time.
“Ian was probably the smallest player on the park so it was a great header,” Craig said. “We were doing well at that point but the second half was basically a non event for us. We didn’t play at all and I have no idea why.
“There was a lot of talk that Vale of Clyde wanted it a bit more. I don’t know if that was the case.
“I would never accuse the team of not trying but they didn’t have a lot of belief in the second half.”
Despite the heavy defeat, Rovers still led Vale of Clyde by two points ahead of Vale’s game at Lesmahagow on Monday night. Vale needed three points from their remaining three fixtures to send Carluke down.
And, in a cruel twist of irony, Carluke’s local rivals ’Gow duly lost 1-0 to Vale to seal the John Cumming Stadium team’s fate.
Going down means that Carluke will once again be in the same division as Lanark United next season.
“The only positive we have is that the majority of the squad – including Ian Watt who is our top scorer this season – have signed for next season,” Craig said.
“It is very pleasing that Ian has signed because he is an excellent player who gives us a wee chance of doing something. Hopefully we will make a couple more additions this summer and take it from there.”
Rovers drop down to the the second division for the first time since they won that league in season 2011-2012.
What makes this year’s relegation surprising is that Rovers have finished seventh, fifth and fifth in the three campaigns prior to this one.
Craig said Rovers manager Colin Slater would still be in charge for next season.