Edinburgh City matched their best-ever points tally for a League Two season with this battling 2-0 win over Cowdenbeath in their penultimate fixture of 2018 to maintain their five-point lead at the summit.
With the current campaign yet to reach the halfway mark, James McDonaugh’s side are well positioned at the top of the table to surpass their previous best figure of 43, achieved in season 2016/17.
The Capital outfit weren’t firing on all cylinders at a rain-sodden Central Park but the performance of Livingston loanee Adam Watson for a second week running will have impressed the travelling City faithful. The 20-year-old, who has taken full advantage of his recent run in the first team, is desperate to have his loan deal extended beyond January.
“It was always going to be tough to break into the team with the standard of players around me, so I’ve just had to be patient and wait for my chance,” he said. “I’m very happy to be involved now and feel like I’ve performed well over the last couple of weeks. I’ve still got a lot more to show and learn, but I’m really enjoying my football under James (McDonaugh).
“The physical side and the speed of the game is a lot different to playing development football and obviously there is more pressure as you need to be winning games.
“Three points is a must and I’m learning more about the men’s game every week, so the move has definitely been worthwhile.
“My contract runs until the end of January, so we’ll just see what happens but I’m loving it here and would definitely like to stay until the end of the season.”
Watson was involved in City’s well-worked first goal when he supplied Graham Taylor with a perfectly-weighted pass to cross for Scott Shepherd, but the ball appeared to deflect in off home defender Jason Talbot.
“Sheps is claiming he got the final touch but I’m not so sure!” Watson joked.
“I played centre-mid which isn’t my natural position, I prefer being out on the wing, but I’ve got to adapt and do what the gaffer asks me to.”
In contrast to the Citizens’ upturn in fortunes, the last few years have been extremely challenging for Cowdenbeath.
They narrowly survived consecutive relegations by the skin of their teeth after claiming play-off final victories over Lowland, and Highland League winners East Kilbride, and Cove Rangers.
This season, however, has been a different story for the transformed Fifers who, under manager Gary Bollan, are within touching distance of a promotion play-off spot.
On this viewing, you could see why. The Blue Brazil enjoyed a positive start to the match with striker Kris Renton firing in an early warning sign when he curled a shot narrowly wide of goalkeper Calum Antell’s far post after 14 minutes.
After a sluggish start, the league leaders slowly grew into their rhythm and opened the scoring in the 20th minute.
A quickly-taken throw-in saw Marc Laird cushion a header down for Watson midway inside the hosts’ half and he played a defence-splitting pass through for Taylor who squared the ball across and it was tuned turned past his own keeper by Talbot.
City almost doubled their lead eight minutes later when Robbie Deas misjudged the bounce of a high ball under pressure from Blair Henderson and the striker nipped in to steal possession before watching his effort cannon back off David McGurn’s left-hand post.
Perhaps the most notable incident of a largely dull first-half was referee Stephen Brown’s decision to brandish Conrad Balatoni with just a yellow card after his last-man challenge on Josh Skelly had the home fans calling for the centre-half to be sent off. City’s rear-guard were living dangerously at times, far from the composed and astute defending their supporters have grown accustomed to seeing of late.
The home side were unable to take advantage, though, with Fraser Mullen’s free-kick narrowly flying over the crossbar and Jordan Allan’s long-range attempt failing to hit the target.
The rain poured down, making the playing surface slick and fast, and it was Edinburgh City who gave themselves a much-needed two-goal cushion after 57 minutes.
It was all too easy. A long throw into the box from the left touchline by Gareth Rodger was met in the air by the unmarked Blair Henderson who headed past McGurn for his 25th goal of an already astonishing campaign.
Any hope Cowdenbeath had of salvaging something from the game were dashed when Talbot was given his marching orders for appearing to stamp on Robbie McIntyre.
Cowdenbeath: McGurn, Mullen, Talbot, Marsh, Deas, Miller, Skelly (Sheerin; 62), Allan, Renton, Fraser, Swann (Pyper; 63). Subs: Goodfellow (GK), Malcolm, Cox, Sneddon, Fotheringham
Edinburgh City: Antell, McIntyre, Balatoni, Laird, Smith, B. Henderson, Taylor, Rodger (Donaldson; 82), Shepherd (Black; 80), Watson (Galbraith; 79), L. Henderson. Subs: Morton (GK), Hall, Kennedy, Lumsden
Ref: Stephen Brown