Edinburgh City ran Motherwell close in their Betfred Cup group fixture last season, and goalkeeper Calum Antell is hoping they can do similar when they travel to Fir Park tonight.
A last-minute Chris Cadden strike gave The Steelmen a 2-1 win at Ainslie Park last summer after Ashley Grimes had given City a shock second-half lead.
It’s a performance Antell believes has become more impressive in hindsight given Well reached the final of the competition as well as the Scottish Cup final, losing to Celtic on both occasions.
There is no pressure on James McDonaugh’s side tonight, but avoiding a hammering to build on the two points earned with a penalty shootout win over Clyde at the weekend would still be welcome.
“We played quite well last year,” Antell reflected. “The pitch was maybe a bit of a leveller because I don’t think they’re used to playing on the astro. It’ll be a lot harder this time though. It’s their first competitive home game of the season so hopefully there’ll be a good crowd for us to play in front of.
“They look a better team this year than they were last year though so it’ll be a tough task for us. It’ll be an enjoyable one too though. We’ll go and try and play the way we can – it’s a free shot because they’re expected to win anyway. At the same time, we’re expected not to get beaten by a big margin. Hopefully we can take them to the closing stages like we did last year.”
McDonaugh has already admitted he isn’t even looking at where City finish in the group, it’s purely about getting ready for the season opener at home to Albion Rovers on August 4. That approach takes some of the pressure off his players.
“It makes it easier, but as players you don’t go out not to win games,” said Antell. “We try and win whatever game we play in, even if we are classing them as pre-season. It’s good to get momentum. The last two years we haven’t gotten off to a good start in the league so if we perform relatively well in this cup we can start the league a lot better.
“On Saturday I think we played the game we wanted to. We passed the ball really well and dictated most of the game. We were unlucky not to win it with their last-minute goal but that always seems to happen when we go to Broadwood!”
It’s a new-look Edinburgh City squad from the one that finished the previous campaign, and Antell believes that freshness coupled with McDonaugh’s professional approach can pay dividends.
“It’s night and day from this time last year to be honest,” Antell admitted. “Everything’s more structured and the atmosphere is like a full-time club. The gaffer’s brought in a lot this year and is trying to make it as much like being full-time as he can. I think the boys have really enjoyed that.
“That means there won’t be any excuses going in to the first league game of the season. We’ve got a settled squad now which is good. Last year we had quite a few trialists come in at this point but now we’ve got an established squad.
“We’re all getting to know each other and the new boys have settled in really well. They’ve got experienced backgrounds with full-time teams. That’s always a boost and they’re a great standard of player as well. We’re now just looking forward and can’t wait for the league season to start.”