They may not have racked up the victories they did on the way to winning successive Lowland League titles, but Dougie Gair believes Edinburgh City have proved they can rise to the occasion when they know that winning is vital.
The evidence over the past year or so backs up the captain’s claim. They blew Cove Rangers away in their Pyramid play-off first leg, a 3-0 half-time lead in Inverurie meant the remaining game and a half was almost academic.
That was followed up by what was, arguably until Tuesday night, the most significant result in City’s history when they overcame East Stirlingshire to win a first ever promotion to the SPFL.
That was the last win for a while, until they went to Forfar in November and won in the Scottish Cup, before following that up with a win at then bottom Montrose to kick-start a three-month unbeaten run.
No wins since the turn of the year meant this week’s clash at Central Park was one that could have serious repercussions if either team lost. For Cowdenbeath it looks like it will, leaving them seven points adrift at the foot of the table after City came from behind to win 2-1.
Gair revealed the players needed no reminding as to how important a win could be, and that this City squad is suited to winning the big games. “After Saturday at Stirling, we knew that Tuesday night was going to be a big game,” he said. “Gary [Jardine] didn’t have to say too much – he got his point across but the guys themselves, we know when we need to win a game more than anything and I think we raise it for that.
“Getting the first win of the year was big as well. We’re in to the third month; now it was a huge result in terms of confidence. It wasn’t the best of games but we dug it out and I think that’s what we have to do at this stage to get the wins. That’s how we started our run the last time. Not the prettiest, but a massive, massive result for the club.”
It didn’t look like that was going to be the case when Dale Carrick’s wayward cross hit the post and crossed the line, summing up the luck City have endured this season. “It was myself that was out there and I probably could’ve got out quicker to stop the cross in the first place,” Gair conceded. “But you’re not expecting the guy to miss-hit it and it come off the post and go in. You’re looking round and thinking ‘when’s it going to start turning our way?’ and thankfully it did about there minutes later. Going behind didn’t help, but that shows the character of the boys to come back.”
It was Gair himself who drew his side level from the spot. Having not been on the pitch for their last penalty award [missed by Ouzy See at 0-0 in the home defeat by Forfar], City’s all-time record goalscorer wasn’t for letting anyone else take it. “I wasn’t selected to start the last time we got a penalty so when the whistle blew I was always going up to take it,” he explained. “Josh [Walker] was trying to get it off me but I said to him ‘look, I take them and I’m taking this one as well’.”
Walker wasn’t to be denied a say, and struck the winner in the second half. It was his second in three games for his new club, and Gair acknowledged that having that extra quality can make all the difference. “It was a great finish,” he appraised. “He tried to leather the ball before that and thankfully it’s rebounded to him. He faked to hammer it again then placed it in the bottom corner. His added quality has certainly improved us, no doubt.”
Cool heads were also required in a game that saw plenty yellows and straight red for Cowdenbeath’s Fraser Mullen. “I’m not a captain that will scream and shout at boys, I’ll just have a quiet word,” said Gair. “Wee Aaron [Dunsmore] was booked in the second half for a bad lunge so I just went over and told him there’s no need to do that, the ref’s booking you whenever he gets an opportunity at the moment. It was case of us standing firm and letting Cowdenbeath get on with their thing.”
Next up is Berwick Rangers at Meadowbank, and a repeat of the last encounter when City were 2-0 up after three minutes at Shielfield will suit the skipper.
“I’d take that,” Gair laughed. “It’s just about the points though; 1-0 and scrappy or 3-1 and easy, we’ll take it no matter what.”