It would seem that Edinburgh City have now adapted to life in League Two after a difficult start as they prepare to host Stirling Albion tomorrow.
Recent form would validate that. An eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions only came to an end against League One East Fife on Wednesday night, in the form of a 1-0 defeat in their re-arranged William Hill Scottish Cup third round replay.
Rather than simply getting up to speed however, defender Shaun Harrison insisted that he and his team-mates are picking up points partly due to showing the opposition less respect.
A winless run was finally ended in November, and Harrison believes City began the season overestimating the teams they were facing in relation to their own level of ability.
“The first time round, we’ve looked at it, seen the players in the first round of ties and given them far too much respect,” he admitted. “Now we know what we’re up against, we know who we’re playing, their wee tricks and things like that so it’s definitely getting better now.”
The flip side is that City’s opponents no longer see them as a ‘should win’, and more a ‘good win.’
“I’d like to think that’s the case,” said the 26-year-old. “I’d like to think they’re looking at us now, seeing us picking up points, climbing the table and saying ‘oaft, we’ve got to go to Meadowbank’ or ‘they’re coming here’. It’s not an easy place to come; we’re getting clean sheets, we’re a hard team to beat and we’ll be scoring goals as well.
“We’ve been sneaking those one-nils – one-nil, here, one-nil there – but we’ll take them as long as it’s a win and we’re getting points.”
Harrison returned to the starting line-up on Wednesday, and prior to Arbroath he had been a regular fixture in City’s back line, with that consistency of selection playing a big part in their recent form.
“It was good to be back in the other night,” he said. “I had a work thing on the Saturday I had to attend so I missed the Arbroath game but it’s been good. We’re settled; the clean sheets are coming and okay Wednesday was scrappy and they’ve got a 1-0 win but we’ve been on the other side of that.
“We’re not conceding as many goals as we were at the start of the season like the 3-0 against Elgin for example. It’s good, it’s settled and it’s getting there.”
Their recent run prompted some outwith the dressing room to proclaim that City had finally “arrived” as a League club. ‘Sheggzy’ however, was bullish in his assertion that Gary Jardine and his squad believed they belonged from day one – and never wavered.
“We’ve never believed we didn’t belong,” he stated. “From the day we got in to the league, we believed we were a league team. It was just a matter of time until we got that first win and I think that was when maybe other people started to accept it. Even East Fife, who are a league above us, they knew they’d come out a game on Wednesday and the week before in the replay, they were both hard ties. Other teams as well like Arbroath last Saturday – they maybe gave us a bit of gyp saying we’re hard to beat but who cares? We won.
The confidence has always been there, even when we weren’t winning. The whole time, the confidence has been well. The first six games or so we were playing well but just not getting the rub of the green. We’re getting it now.”
There is a sense that the players are now properly enjoying their league status, having climbed off the bottom of the table and, most importantly, started picking up results more regularly.
“There’s nothing better than winning in football,” smiled Harrison. “There’s no better feeling than going home on a Saturday knowing you’ve won a game, having a wee chat with the Mrs and celebrating at night! When you lose it’s horrible. Wednesday night we just had to take on the chin and we’ll go again for Saturday.
“Not going in to it bottom of the table, there’s a bit of relief to be honest. We’re not catching everybody now; we’re catching the next team up rather than the bottom one.”
Such is the tightness of the division, City could be aiming higher than mere survival before the end of the year “Two wins over Christmas and we could potentially be in a play-off position come the end of the year, but we’ll take it a game at a time,” Harrison cautioned. “That starts with Stirling Albion tomorrow.”