Chris McKee made it a 26th birthday to remember by notching a decisive double as Edinburgh City beat Edusport 2-0 Galabank to reach the South Challenge Cup final.
A header in each half eased Gary Jardine’s men into the showpiece occasion to be played at the end of May – the defender admitting even one goal is a rare occurrence. “I don’t think anyone will believe me when I go back up the road,” he joked. “I’m delighted though – I don’t think we played our best, but it was just about getting the result.
“I was just right place right time. Sparky [Mark McConnell] put the first one on a plate for me, and the second one Juney [Frazer Paterson]’s flicked it on into a great area, so I couldn’t miss.”
McKee was replaced by Shaun Harrison with just over ten minutes to go while on a hat-trick and, despite the two being in the midst of a personal goal-tally bet for the season, McKee was diplomatic about his manager’s decision. “He’s the gaffer!” he laughed. “I was cramping up a bit. I’d have like to have stayed on but I’d probably have got nowhere near a hat-trick. That’s me and Shaun equal now. so the next few games will be interesting.”
John Dunn’s early shot from the edge of the area was the first for either side, but was easily held by Edusport keeper Julien Gregiore.
Dunn again tried his luck from a similar distance and a deflection took it just wide of Gregory’s far post. The follow-up presented Mark McConnell with a great chance from close range, but the midfielder dragged his shot wide from a central position.
The Lowland League champions were ahead on 25 minutes. Joe Mbu’s free-kick was flicked on by Frazer Paterson, and McKee was able to stoop and nod the ball home at the back post.
City were by far the more dangerous side as the half wore on. Ross Guthrie looked for all the world to have doubled the lead with a vicious drive from the edge of the box, only for a deflection to divert it away from nestling in the bottom corner.
City started the second period where they’d left off, Gregiore springing to his left to palm away Dean Carse’s well struck free-kick. Dougie Gair was inches from heading them 2-0 up shortly after from John MacDonald’s cross from the right.
Another free-kick and another header brought City’s second with 15 minutes remaining. Mark McConnell’s in-swinging delivery from the left was met by McKee, who firmly headed past Gregoire for his and his team’s second to send them though to the final.
Jardine felt City were worth their win in a competition he’s been targeting as a source of silverware. “Although we’ve played well this season and last season, we’ve only had one trophy to show for it,” he explained. “I’ve said before this cup has eluded us. A few times we’ve got close over the last few years, so we want to go on and win it. We’re just delighted to get into the final.
“I felt we were always in control. I felt if they were going to get back into it, it was going to be one of our mistakes. There were one or two sloppy moments at the back and we need to discuss that, but I felt that we were in control. We could have passed it better, but we scored a couple of good goals that we’d worked on, and we we’re delighted to be through.”
Spartans’ home win over Gala Fairydean on Saturday now means City’s attention turns to Vale of Leith on Wednesday, where a win in Innerleithen would see City crowned champions for second successive year. “We know what we need to do. We want to keep picking up the points so we’ll have a good session on Monday and prepare for Vale. I’ve said it before, there’s no easy games in this league and we’re certainly not taking anything for granted. We know exactly what we’ve to do and we’ll prepare well for it.”
Edusport Academy: Gregoire, Checkoumar, Longche, Siffredi (Nyami 80), Brunet-Debaines (Saadi 90), Gentina, Lafont, Ribeiro, Toure, Gakou (Millet 62), Masetto.
Edinburgh City: Stobie, MacDonald, Donaldson, Guthrie (Muhsin 64), Paterson, McKee (Harrison 79), Mbu, Gair, Carse (Caddow 86), Dunn, McConnell.