Edinburgh City manager James McDonaugh insists the battle for top spot in Ladbrokes League Two is still a three-horse race despite promotion chasers Clyde being deducted four points.
The Cumbernauld-based outfit were hit with the sanction just hours prior to their league clash at Elgin City – a match they lost 2-1 – for fielding ineligible player Declan Fitzpatrick in last month’s 1-0 win over Albion Rovers and the 1-1 draw with Queen’s Park the following weekend. Their opponents have now been awarded 3-0 victories in those matches. The Bully Wee now trail second-placed City by nine points and are 14 behind leaders Peterhead, although they have played a game fewer.
Nevertheless, McDonaugh’s men did what they had to do as they defeated the Spiders for the fourth time this season on Saturday, a 2-0 win courtesy of goals either side of half-time from talisman Blair Henderson and on-loan Celtic winger Ciaran Diver.
City lost 1-0 at Broadwood nine days ago, a result that saw them slip to third place in the table. However, the Citizens now have a sizeable lead over Clyde, although Danny Lennon’s side do have until the end of this week to appeal the decision.
“It was a big surprise to hear about it but I don’t think the points deduction affects us too much because it’s Peterhead we’re all trying to catch,” McDonaugh said. “Even if Clyde were deducted 30 points it wouldn’t change anything as second is going to play third in the play-offs regardless.
“I still wouldn’t write them off irrespective of what’s happened. They’ve still got ourselves and Peterhead to play so I think that would be really naive. When something like that happens you’d be absolutely gutted. I’m just glad it’s not us.
“We’re now on 61 points so that’s us more than double the points we finished on last season. I’m really pleased for the players. They had to grind out the win so it’s pleasing to have picked up four wins against Queen’s Park this season.
“I felt it was a bit scrappy. The conditions didn’t help but I think there was more moaning in the game than passing. It’s another three points and another clean sheet which is great. I don’t think we’ve been at our best but it’s been a good week for us having beaten Berwick on Tuesday night and picking up six points.”
Despite a gale blowing at Ainslie Park – City were fast out the traps, full-back Robbie McIntyre’s teasing cross just alluding the lurking Henderson, who had stolen a yard on his marker.
It was the visitors, though, who came within inches of grabbing the opener when Ciaran Summers’ cross-cum shot deceived City No.1 Calum Antell with the ball coming back off the crossbar.
However, just after the half hour a free-kick into the box was knocked back across goal by Liam Henderson and namesake Blair scored over his 34th goal of the season from just a couple of yards.
Queen’s suffered a blow 15 minutes into the second half when veteran Alan Gow was sent off having picked up two bookings in the space of three minutes. The 36-year-old’s first was for dissent towards referee Peter Stuart and then a late challenge on Liam Henderson, which forced the defender off, proved the final straw.
City capitalised on their numerical advantage to seal the points as Adam Watson picked out substitute Diver, who shot beyond Jordan Hart to score his first goal for the club since arriving from Celtic Park last month.
Edinburgh City: Antell, Thomson, McIntyre, Black (Shepherd 59), Balatoni, Laird, Walker, B Henderson (Diver 73), Taylor, Watson, L Henderson (Rodger 60). Subs: Morton, Donaldson, Hall, MacDonald.
Queen’s Park: Hart, McLean, Summers (Grant 46), McKernon, McLaren, Gibson, McGrory, Roberts, Hawke (Moore 67), Galt (Bradley 88), Gow. Subs: McDougall, East, Peters, McGhee.
Referee: Peter Stuart