Illness prevented Edinburgh City goalkeeper Andrew Stobie taking his usual place between the sticks for their 4-1 aggregate win over Cove Rangers in the Pyramid Play-Off semi final, and he’s desperate not to be left feeling sickened after the upcoming final against East Stirlingshire.
The first instalment of the biggest 180 minutes in the Meadowbank club’s history takes place at the old Commonwealth Stadium tomorrow, with a place in SPFL League Two the prize.
Gregor Amos deputised for Stobie in Inverurie and at home last Saturday. Despite being available for the second leg, he admits Amos did well enough to keep the gloves. “I’m back fit and I was training all last week,” explained Stobie. “I picked up a bug on the Friday night going in to the Saturday of the first leg so unfortunately missed out. Gregor did really well in the first leg and kept his place so no complaints about that. He’s come in and kept a clean sheet so it was an easy choice for the gaffer to make.
“I believe Cove didn’t have one shot on target in the first leg, which is surprising as we know they score a lot of goals. We know what we’re good at – we’re defensively very strong so not many teams do get a lot of shots on target against us and we’ve built on that. That’s been Gary’s way – clean sheet first and we try and win the game from there. They troubled us a bit more in the second leg but again, Gregor didn’t need to make too many great saves, but what he did, he did well.
“Whoever Gary picks tomorrow will be ready. We both want to play, no doubt about that, but we get on really well, we train well together and class ourselves as good friends so whoever plays, me or Gregor, the other will be supportive. The team’s the main thing. As long as we win I won’t care who’s playing.”
With goalkeeping coach Alan MackIntosh a regular emergency option from the bench last season, Stobie has welcomed the arrival of Amos from Falkirk last summer. As well as developing a bond, having someone there to challenge for the number one spot has been of great benefit. “At the start of the season, Gregor started the first half dozen games, then I came in and we’ve pushed each other all the way,” Stobie reflected. “When he first came we were introduced and we both said ‘every training session, let’s push ourselves to the absolute maximum’, and we’ve done that. I know Gary will probably say we just stand about and talk all the time, but we do push each other to perform! It’s been a good, healthy battle for that number one jersey.”
Playing behind the best defence in the Lowland League – just 27 goals conceded to date – has been a massive help to Stobie. A big part of that defence is Joe Mbu, who the keeper will be very sad to see go in the summer. “Joe’s been an absolute revelation the last two seasons,” he raved. “He’s given everybody that confidence and belief that we can win the league and get promoted. When he first came in, he spoke to us all. He’d played at a higher level and knew that the team was capable of taking that step up. I think we maybe needed that experienced head to come in and tell us. You saw his performance at the weekend when he’s carrying a bit of a knock. He’s hanging up the boots at the end of the season so he’s maybe on his last legs, but he’s still instructing everybody. Chris McKee and Frazer Paterson have been great, but Gary’s got a lot of work to do to try and replace Joe. He’s been the best signing since the Lowland League formed. You never know, if we get promoted he might decide to give it another year.”
If they do, Stobie won’t face former club East Fife after Gary Naismith’s men won the League Two title. “They did really well. I saw them earlier in the season and they weren’t up there, then all of a sudden they’re top! I’m disappointed on one hand that I won’t be playing them next season regardless of what happens, but I’m pleased for them – it’s a really nice, well run club up there. Hopefully they can go on a wee run through the league like other clubs – and hopefully so can Edinburgh City!”