Blair Henderson hat-trick puts Edinburgh City top of League Two

Blair Henderson is congratulated after scoring his penalty
Blair Henderson is congratulated after scoring his penalty
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A Blair Henderson hat-trick helped Edinburgh City to a thumping 4-0 opening day win over Albion Rovers and left them top of the Ladbrokes League Two Table – their highest ever position since promotion to the SPFL.

A first-half spot kick preceded two second half-strikes before close friend and travel companion Allan Smith rounded off the scoring.

It sets up Henderson nicely in his bid to reach a self-set target of 20 goals this campaign. “There was a running joke on the pitch because the boys were giving me a bit of stick in changing room for saying I want 20, telling me it was a bit ambitious,” he laughed. “They were like ‘that’s 19 to go, that’s 18, that’s 17’ after they went in.

“I scored a hat-trick a couple of years ago and two last season so it’s always nice to get another match ball. The players we have, it’s set up perfectly for me with fast guys round about me who can do my running, which lets me concentrate on getting in the box. I’ll not be able to give Allan quite as much gip in the car after he scored as well!”

James McDonaugh’s side got off to the perfect start when they were awarded a spot kick inside ten minutes, although referee Duncan Williams only showed any interest in giving it after being implored to go and ask the far side assistant if Alan Murdoch had handled Conrad Balatoni’s delivery.

His answer was yes, and Henderson calmly rolled the ball in to the opposite corner as Greg Halford went the wrong way.

The hosts were unfortunate not to double their lead soon after when Graham Taylor was forced wide by Halford. He was able to tee up Danny Handling, but the former Hibs man saw his effort cleared off the line by Bryan Wharton.

Rovers had offered virtually nothing in terms of attacking threat for half an hour, Graham Gracie’s low strike that bounced harmlessly into the side netting the only attempt on Calum Antell’s goal.

Some brilliant one-touch football on the edge of the area between Handling and Smith gave the latter a sight of goal, but he could only shoot straight at Halford.

City were two to the good and looking comfortable ten minutes in to the second half. Skipper Craig Thomson showed great vision and technique to lob an angled ball over the full back for Henderson, who took a fine first touch before lifting the ball over Halford and in off the far post for his and City’s second of the afternoon.

Henderson then outmuscled Wharton and tried to stab the ball past Halford for his third, but the Rovers keeper did well to save before smothering Handling’s follow-up.

The big number nine wasn’t to be denied however, and lashed in his hat-trick goal shortly after the hour when a loose ball fell to him in the area following a Thomson corner.

They added further gloss to the scoreline late on when Handling ghosted past a challenge before chipping a clever ball in to the middle for Smith to nod in.

McDonaugh was delighted with the contribution from Henderson, and has challenged his new striker to score consistently. “We just need to keep him hungry to keep doing the same again,” he said.

“He’s got a good record at this level and good attributes in addition to his size. He took his second his third goals well. It’s one game though – if he’s still on three goals at Christmas I’ll not be saying the same!”

Edinburgh City: Antell, Thomson, McIntyre, Black, Balatoni, Laird, A Smith, Henderson, Handling (Hall 84), Taylor (Dunn 76), Rodger (Stewart 8).

Albion Rovers: Halford, S Smith, Forrester, Wharton, Murdoch, McGoeugh, McLear, Fisher (Gallagher 71), Gracie (Cunningham 62), Watson, Kearney (Watters 62).

Referee: Duncan Williams.

Attendance: 303.