If anything is a microcosm of how Edinburgh City have turned their season around after a starting at a sloth’s pace in terms of results, it was last Saturday’s opening two-minute blitz of Berwick Rangers.
Chris McKee put them in front at Shielfield after exactly a minute before Dougie Gair doubled the advantage before three were up. Gary Jardine’s team went on to record a comfortable 3-1 success.
For a team that had gone three months without a win after embarking on an historic first season in the SPFL, two goals in as many minutes is a surefire sign of improvement. There is a sense of ‘what if?’ about their current unbeaten league run according to McKee, who likely netted one of the club’s, never mind his own, fastest goals.
“It’s definitely the quickest I’ve ever scored,” said the defender of his close-range effort. “It was a bit unusual – it more hit off my knee than anything and it might have come off their defender on the way in, but I’ll take it.
“We couldn’t buy a win at the start of the season but we always knew we had it in us to do it. There was only the one game against Elgin when we were nowhere near it but in other games we were close. It makes it all the more frustrating that we didn’t pick up results earlier in the season now we’re managing to hit form.
“We could wonder where we might be, but we definitely could be a bit more secure in terms of being away from the bottom of the league. We’ll go as high as we can go, but the main goal is still to stay in the league.”
Despite having taken something from every league match since the October 15, such caution is wise in such a tight table. City in sixth, remain just three points off the bottom, yet only four off a play-off place.
“The league’s mental,” McKee succinctly summarised. “Three points off going down but four off the play-offs so we’re certainly not getting ahead of ourselves. The goal is still to stay up and pick up as many points as we can. Be that home or away, against whoever, we’ll take them.”
The Meadowbank side, who this week were boosted by the signing of former Middlesbrough, Aberdeen and England Under-20 midfielder Josh Walker, have based their surge upwards on a miserly defence. Just 22 conceded is only bettered by this Saturday’s opponents Arbroath with 19 against. The problem has been at the other end, with the Lichties’ figure in the goals-against column the same as City’s in the ‘goals-for’.
“We definitely need to be more ruthless,” stated McKee. “We’ve only won a game by two goals at most this season, and then only twice. Last year or the year before goalscoring was never a problem, but obviously the standard we’re playing at is now a lot higher. Taking chances, whether they come in the first or the last minute, is something Gary’s been working on with us. We are getting chances, just not taking enough of them so we’re relying as a team on keeping them out rather than putting them in. Taking a few more would give us some respite.”
That’s not to say a settled backline will start shipping goals any time soon. McKee is a fixture on the left side of a back three featuring the domineering Joe Mbu and an impressive but raw Ryan Porteous. McKee is pleased the latter will extend his temporary move from Easter Road until the end of the campaign. “He’s been superb since he came in,” said McKee in praise of his teenage colleague. “He loves a 50-50, even in training! We’re lucky with defenders though; Sheggzy’s [Shaun Harrison] also there, Dunsy [Aaron Dunsmore], [Jordan] Caddow and Goggsy [Gordon Donaldson] so we’ve got quite a few who are comfortable playing there.
“Ryan plays with maturity beyond his years though. He’s not going to struggle in the game and has a good career ahead if he plays the way he’s been playing. He’s playing against guys who are older and bigger and putting them in his pocket. He’s got loads of potential, even on the ball, it’s not just the way he tackles and shackles attackers – he can play. He’s got a very good chance of making it at a very good level – why not at Hibs?”