Tuesday night’s penalty shoot-out victory over Berwick Rangers in the Betfred Cup turned an acceptable first competitive outing of the season into a pretty decent one for Edinburgh City goalkeeper Calum Antell.
A bonus point after a 2-2 draw against a side that was in a similar area of Ladbrokes League Two for most of last season sets City up reasonably well for tomorrow’s trip to Hampden to play Queen’s Park.
Antell, who saved Pat Scullion’s decisive penalty, deserves extra credit having taken his place in goals following a difficult time off the pitch after suffering a family bereavement.
“My brother’s girlfriend passed away a few weeks ago,” explained the Welshman. “The funeral was the day of the Berwick match so I’d like to dedicate the penalty save, and the game, to her. We started off quite slowly. They’d had a competitive game against Morton on the Saturday and I think you could tell that in the first 15 to 20 minutes. They came racing out the blocks and it took us a bit of time to get into the game. Once we got the goals, we settled and played the way we wanted to.”
Antell’s save to earn the extra point came after some ribbing from manager Gary Jardine.
“It was nice as the gaffer gave me a bit of stick last year for not saving one or two!” he revealed. “He kept saying I guessed instead of waiting for them to take it, so I did that this time and it paid off. It’s the first penalty shoot-out I’ve won so it’s good to be on the winning side for a change!”
That’s a feeling shared by everyone at the club. Prior to Tuesday, City’s unsuccessful run in consecutive shoot-outs had reached double figures. Antell felt that was possibly playing on their minds but, as a relatively recent arrival, he hadn’t paid too much attention.
“I didn’t know a lot about the club’s penalty record, to be honest,” admitted the ex-Hibs keeper. “A few of the boys had previously mentioned losing to Brora the first time they were in the play-offs, so I’d heard t hadn’t really been a successful time with penalties. Hopefully, that will change now.”
Getting some sort of result on the board has already bettered last season’s Betfred campaign when a lack of points preceded a three-month winless start to life in the SPFL.
“It definitely helps and, with the draw we have this year, there’s winnable games in there,” said Antell. “Queen’s Park are good but we have nothing to fear going there tomorrow. Motherwell will be tough but a good experience and then away to Morton. That’s where we want to end up as club – competing against these sort of teams.”
To do so, Antell believes City are better equipped in terms of personnel. “We had a fair few boys last year who weren’t really playing,” he recalled. “When that’s the case, boys aren’t happy and that’s understandable.
“This year, we’ve cut the squad down, brought in a lot of experience and, to be honest, a bit more talent. I’m looking forward to the season coming.”
One of the new arrivals, Ashley Grimes, hit the ground running with a debut brace at Ainslie Park on Tuesday. “You can tell he’s got something special, something different,” Antell enthused. “When we’ve got boys like Josh [Walker] and Lairdy [Marc Laird] on the same wavelength, it bodes well.”
Antell also has the new experience of having Craig Beattie in front of him at centre back. “It’s a bit different – I’m more used to finding him with goal kicks!” he laughed. “He’s been different class, though – he can read the game really well. He’s been a full-time professional most of hishis career so having that experience at the back with [Chris] McKee, David Verlaque and young Calum Hall, with a bit of pace around him, works quite well.”
Like Beattie, Antell is well acquainted with the national stadium, which has made tomorrow’s match a highlight of the season for much the City squad. “I don’t know about the 50,000 empty seats but it’ll be a great occasion,” he said. “I’ve played there once or twice – John Coughlin made me captain there when we were at East Stirlingshire which was a nice experience. If you can’t get up for games at Hampden, you’ll never get up for them.”