The Ainslie Park side lost 5-0 in Aberdeenshire four weeks ago but have responded by winning each of their past three League Two matches to race up to second place, just a point behind Paul Hartley’s much-vaunted SPFL new boys.
“The first game was a real eye-opener for us,” goalkeeper Antell said. “We didn’t turn up at all. Nobody in our team played like they can do and it was a really disappointing result. But if you’re going to have a bad performance like that, it’s probably best to get it out the way at the start of the season when there’s still another 35 games to fix it.
“We had a heated exchange after that game and, to be honest, I think it’s done us good because we’ve bounced back really well in the last few weeks. I think it’s probably helped focus us. We’re a scalp now – you could see after the first game how much it meant to Cove to beat us. It was a reminder that we can’t afford to be five or six out of ten, we need to be eight or nine every week if we want to be successful.
“I always believed we’d come good because the squad is a lot stronger than it was last season. The gaffer’s brought in some really good players with a lot of quality. I feel like we’re getting back to the level we need to be at.”
City make the long trip to Elgin City tomorrow, but it is another team from northern Scotland who are widely tipped to win the fourth-tier title. However, Antell insists City are perfectly capable of competing with Cove. “Last season we started off on fire and we’re looking to do something similar this time,” he said. “We’re definitely capable of it. We’ve got two of three boys for each position which should help us this year because injuries were our downfall last season.
“With the calibre of players Cove have brought in and with what they already had, they are going to get headlines, but I still feel it’s a level playing field this year. Last year Peterhead and Clyde were chucking money about so I don’t see any reason why we can’t challenge again this year.”
Antell is enjoying being among a mini colony of former Hibs youngsters at Ainslie Park, with his old friends Alex Harris, Danny Handling, Callum Crane and Jordan Sinclair all back together working under ex-Easter Road youth coach James McDonaugh.
“It’s rolling back the years,” said Antell. “It’s about ten years now since we were all together at Hibs. We were all round about the same age group and James was our gaffer and now we’ve all ended up back at the same team, so it’s quite funny. We bond really well and the majority of the other boys are from Edinburgh as well so it’s a close-knit group and I think that stands us in good stead.”