Edinburgh City are potentially 90 minutes away from creating history and becoming the first ever club to be promoted to the SPFL via the Pyramid Play-Offs.
But Shaun Harrison perhaps has extra motivation ahead of tomorrow’s momentous second leg against East Stirlingshire.
The defender saw his spot kick sail over the bar in last year’s agonising semi-final shoot-out defeat by Brora Rangers. Despite having gone one stage further this time around, Harrison is desperate to make it count by winning promotion at Orchilview today and rendering last season’s pain a distant memory.
“Last year was a heartbreaker, especially for me,” he reflected. “I missed one of the penalties and took it quite badly. I know it’s a team game, but I’d sometimes think ‘what if I’d scored?’ I hit the first pen so maybe it would have been slightly different as it went on. It probably took the me summer to get over it. As soon as we got back to pre-season I was okay but I did dwell on it so the summer wasn’t great. You could tell in the changing-room after the game that it wasn’t just myself. We were sitting there for about 20 minutes, half an hour and not a word was said. A couple of the boys were emotional and we’ll definitely not want to have that same feeling on Saturday.
“This year’s been a bit different – we’ve been more relaxed about it whereas as last year I think we let the occasion and nerves get the better of us a bit. We’ve done well, but it’s all about tomorrow and making sure we don’t get ahead of ourselves and get the job done.”
Gary Jardine’s squad is a tight-knit group, and getting the job done with the club that Harrison and several team-mates have played for since their teens would mean that little bit more.
“It would make it extra special,” he admitted. “I came to the club when I was 18 nearly seven years ago. Ian McFarland, Ross Guthrie and Gordon Donaldson too, the four of us are still here. Peter Stenhouse was in that group as well but he’s in Australia now, and Dougie Gair had only been there a couple of years. We weren’t all mates when we first started but we’ve definitely become friends, so to do it with those boys would be brilliant.”
Harrison’s level of involvement today is likely to hinge on the performance of Joe Mbu who has had his first leg red card rescinded so he is free to play.
Harrison slotted in at the back following his team-mate’s dismissal, and while he’d prefer to see Mbu take to the pitch, he’ll be ready if required.
“We need him – he’s a big player for us.”
East Stirlingshire have won their appeal against the dismissal of Reece Donaldson, who was sent off for a dangerous challenge on Harrison – himself surprised at the Shire player’s recklessness.
“If he’d caught me or anyone else with a challenge like that, he could have seriously hurt somebody,” Harrison asserted. “I did’t think it should be rescinded – that was reckless, especially when there’s not long left to go in a game. To be fair he didn’t protest at the time and none of their players did, he knew just to walk away from it. You usually judge by the player’s reaction whether it was a red or not and I think he knew.
“I actually know the lad, I used to play football with his brother. I did react to it, because I’ve had a few injuries over the last couple of years and it’s not nice being out of football, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The way he went in was needless so I just had a wee quiet word in his ear. That was maybe a bit harsh given I know him. He’s young and doing alright for himself but I definitely wasn’t taking a tackle like that.”