A trip to Scotland’s north coast in January wouldn’t be top of most people’s wish-list under normal circumstances. For Edinburgh City defender Shaun Harrison, recently returned from Thailand, it could prove to be even more of a shock to the system.
Gary Jardine’s team head to Borough Briggs tomorrow in search of their first goal, never mind win, of 2017. Of course, the fact they have encountered Ladbrokes League Two’s top three teams in successive weeks should be acknowledged.
Harrison made his playing return during last Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat by Forfar. Having missed August’s initial trip north [a 3-0 defeat], he has no first-hand experience of facing Jim Weir’s Elgin – the only certainty is that it won’t be the tropical temperatures he has been used to until recently.
“It was a wee pre-booked holiday, so I had to get away,” he said of his travels to South East Asia. “With work and stuff it’s not exactly the best time to go away, but I need to take the holidays when they come. Back to it now, though.
“I never played in the first game up at Elgin but I believe it was a hard game. It was pretty much done in the first 25-30 minutes. The second time we played them at Meadowbank, again they started off really well in the first half but we dominated the second and were really unlucky not to get something out of the game with the chances we created. They’re a good side though, no doubt, but we’ll be going up there full of confidence and hopefully get the points.”
That will be easier said than done, as illustrated by Premiership outfit Inverness Caley Thistle’s need to come from behind to win last week’s Scottish Cup fourth-round tie at the same venue.
“As Scottish Cup games go, it was a decent result and apparently a good performance from them,” said Harrison. “It was only 2-1 and they had a good crowd there as well. That shows they’ve got a good side but hopefully they don’t do the damage tomorrow.”
This run of fixtures was always likely to test City following an excellent finish to 2016. A postponed game against bottom side Cowdenbeath didn’t help, according to Harrison, who would have been keen to play what was, on paper at least, a winnable game.
“I would have definitely preferred that we had played that game against Cowdenbeath,” he said. “A win there would have given us a bit more confidence going in to the matches against Forfar and Elgin. As I’ve said before, though, confidence isn’t low and we’re playing well.
“It hasn’t been stupid errors costing us. Arbroath scored two good goals against us [in a 2-0 defeat on January 7] and it was a penalty against Forfar. You can see that the mistakes that were definitely happening at the start of the season have been cut out.”
That is testament to the work being done on the training ground with Jardine and his coaching staff, which Harrison explains is far more detailed than many may expect for this level of football. “Gary gave us a stat on Monday at training. We made something like 100-odd completed passes in the first half against Forfar, who made 20. You can look at those sort of stats and say ‘aye, but you still got beaten’ but it’s our job now to look at these things. We’re working on trying to create more chances as well as having a lot of possession. We need more goals.”
Only a penalty miss prevented a first one of the year last weekend, Grant Adam saving well from Ouzy See. At the other end, David Cox converted after Harrison was adjudged to have brought down Jamie Bain. “Dubious penalty!” he laughs when the subject is broached. “In my opinion, it definitely wasn’t. I never touched him. We get the video analysis now, we’ve looked at it and there’s no contact. I knew that at the time and he knew it as well. Streetwise and cheating are a bit different, but I wouldn’t say he’s cheated. Listen, we’ve had loads of penalties when it’s been something like that, so we get on with it. I’m not happy as it shows me in a bad light, but that’s football.”