Edinburgh City boss James McDonaugh has challenged his players to show “what they are made of” after Annan Athletic came from a goal down to earn a well-deserved 2-1 victory.
Blair Henderson notched his 29th goal of the season from the penalty spot five minutes before the interval to give the Citizens the advantage. However, the striker’s glee soon turned to despair when, after David Wilson had restored parity with a quite magnificent strike, Henderson headed beyond his goalkeeper Calum Antell to hand the Borderers all three points despite the best efforts of captain Craig Thomson.
Peterhead’s 2-0 success over Berwick Rangers knocked City off the top of League Two on goal difference. The Balmoor club have also played a game fewer.
“We deserved nothing from the game, it’s as simple as that,” McDonaugh said. “I thought we were alright in the first half and maybe shaded it but we didn’t start the second half well. I thought the team that won the game deserved to win the game. Their equaliser was a brilliant hit but we never got started. I’d be as well as not saying anything at half-time. We didn’t show enough quality in the second half. I think there was a reaction but it just wasn’t a very good one.
“Annan are a strong side when you look at their squad. These games are never easy and I know we had that fantastic run but it never meant those matches were easy. It’s fine margins. Our three home defeats this season have been similar. We have to move on from this. We’ve been knocked off the top before and showed a good reaction so let’s see what we’re made of.”
Henderson rattled the woodwork inside five minutes as he was first to Thomson’s cross before visiting goalkeeper Alex Mitchell expertly tipped over Conrad Balatoni’s goal-bound header.
Aidan Smith had a couple of half chances for the visitors but Antell was well placed to deal with anything that came his way in what was a low-key opening half hour.
City, however, grabbed the initiative five minutes before the break after Scott Shepherd had skipped clear of the defence and into the box. The former Falkirk striker was upended by a clumsy challenge from substitute Peter Watson and Henderson slotted away the resulting spot-kick.
But fourth-placed Annan sprung a shock little more than 60 seconds after the restart, the home side failing to close down Wilson, whose swerving half volley nestled into the far corner of the net from 20 yards.
The hosts struggled to conjure up any kind of response, although Mitchell did fumble a cross into the path of Henderson, who had already turned his back on play and the chance was gone.
Annan delivered a sucker punch with 18 minutes remaining as former Kilmarnock winger Chris Johnston’s corner was inadvertently headed beyond team-mate Antell from ten yards by City’s talisman and the assistant referee on the far side ruled the ball to have crossed the line for what proved to be the winner.
“We didn’t play well at all,” a dejected Henderson said afterwards. “It’s just one of these things their second goal. There were a lot of bodies in the box and I couldn’t really see the ball. I’ve jumped for it and it has hit me and it’s gone in. It’s disappointing.
“But there have been games where we’ve played well and haven’t won this season, take Berwick a couple of weeks ago when we were 2-0 up and drew 2-2. I thought we should have taken the three points there but Annan definitely deserved to win.”
Edinburgh City: Antell, Thomson, McIntyre, Black, Balatoni, Laird, B Henderson, Taylor (Breen 80), Shepherd (Smith 76), L Henderson, Galbraith (Watson 65). Subs: Morton, Rodger, Donaldson, Hall.
Annan Athletic: Mitchell, Hooper, Creaney, Wilson, Sonkur (Watson 16), Swinglehurst, Moxon, Sinnamon, Smith, Muir, Johnston. Subs: McAdams, Ferguson, Wallace, Strapp, Murphy.
Referee: Gavin Duncan.