CUMNOCK Juniors boss Murdo MacKinnon is eyeing a record breaking season at Townhead Park - just months after taking over the reins.

The 'Nock manager, who was only appointed in late September, took the time to reflect on his time in East Ayrshire so far as the club passes the halfway stage in the league campaign this season.

It has been a rollercoaster season to date, though last year's Scottish Junior Cup winners lie firmly in mid-table in the West of Scotland Football League (WoSFL) Premier Division as 2024 begins.

MacKinnon - who was appointed after the abrupt departure of John Doyle, who had only been in the Townhead Park hotseat for three months - says he has big things planned for the club - but wants to make sure some more short-term expectations are met first.

“It’s a fantastic club," he told the Chronicle. "It’s a really big club with great people in the background who want to be successful and have shared their vision.

“We’ve all agreed it’s not a magic wand we’ve got. Success is built gradually; it takes a wee bit of time to get there.

“With that, we’ve got to put in short, medium and long-term goals.

“Personally it’s short-term at the moment – dealing with this season. Taking over mid-season is difficult in terms of making changes to the squad."

That, though, does not mean MacKinnon doesn't expect improvements in early 2024 after a first half of the campaign that saw Nock lose their grip on the Junior Cup - at the hands of bitter rivals Auchinleck Talbot - as well as exiting the South Challenge Cup and the West of Scotland Cup.

He continued: “At the moment the goal is getting ourselves up that table. Then we’ll see where we are going to move forward to really start building.

“That’s not to say there needs to be wholesale changes. We’ve got good players at the moment. There’s a good infrastructure there. We’ve got a lot of things to be positive about at Cumnock.

“We just need to continue forging forward with everybody pushing in the same direction and we’ll see where it takes us."

With a mixed bag of league results so far this season, MacKinnon says hitting a consistent run of form will be key in the second half of the campaign.

"On the pitch it has been a wee bit up and down," he said. "We’ve lacked a real consistency about our play.

“We’ve got a good group of players. There’s a good dressing room there, the boys have been working to make improvements.

“We’ve been in training over the Christmas period and there has been good turnouts and good attitudes from the boys.

“We’ve got our mind set on adding more points to our league tally as we move forward.”

And the way to do that, he says, starts at the back.

“We’ve shown in spells in previous games that we’re capable of hurting teams and being dangerous," he continued.

“Truth be told I would like to shut the back door a wee bit more and start to get some clean sheets on the board – they’re one thing that has been missing.

“We’ve been working on that and trying to improve upon our work defensively. The boys have been working hard and looking to make progress with the team.

“Me coming in, a new manager with new ideas, new ways of playing, boys have taken a bit of time to get used to my ways but they’ve bought in which has been important.”

And though the club's current league position offers equal worries about sides below them and catching those above, MacKinnon has his sights firmly set upwards.

He told the Chronicle: “The aim for me, and I’ve made this clear to the boys, is to get as many points as we can and climb as high as we can in the table.

“Our goals and our end game is very different to some other clubs in the top half of the table.

“Seventh is the highest Cumnock have finished [since the WoSFL was formed] so we’ve got that in our sights.

“We’ll not be the only team with that in our sights. Clubs around and about us will be looking to catch us so we’ll be looking to get points on the board to push us forward.”

And MacKinnon is hopeful his side can use their cup disappointments to their advantage in the new year.

He commented: “We’re very disappointed to be out the cup competitions at this point.

“I don’t think we did ourselves justice in the Scottish Cup against Broomhill, to be honest.

“In the West of Scotland Cup, we got knocked out by Troon on penalties when we were winning the game, but they scored in the last five minutes.

“There’s been a bit of hard luck there, but it’s disappointing - the supporters like a cup run and an opportunity to go compete for a trophy.

“On the flip side of that, our concentration is now fully on the league. I’m not saying that’s something we wanted, it’s just something that has happened.

“Our focus is just on us. We need to not worry about anyone else and just focus and concentrate on ourselves.

"We have a lot of improving to do, so that’s the only place we should be looking.”

Nock start their new year at home to Kirkintilloch Rob Roy on Saturday, January 6; kick-off at Townhead Park is at 1.30pm.