Edinburgh City’s brave title bid is now entering the last-chance saloon. Victory over leaders Peterhead this Saturday is deemed essential if they are to keep the dream alive.
With the Blue Toon’s match at Berwick Rangers on Saturday having fallen victim to the weather, the Capital outfit had the opportunity to chop their advantage at the summit to two points ahead of this weekend’s top-of-the-table showdown at Ainslie Park.
They were unable to grasp the chance, however, as they succumbed to a 3-1 defeat away to on-form Annan. City remain five points adrift of the leaders, who also now have a game in hand. “When we saw their game at Berwick had been called off earlier in the day, we were all in the changing room knowing that if we beat Annan it would have been down to two points and we’d have had a chance of going top of the league on Saturday,” said City keeper Calum Antell. “Peterhead will now be coming to our place under less pressure than what they would have if we’d beaten Annan. We could really have done with getting a win so we’re all disappointed.
“Saturday is now a must-win for us if we want to win the league. They’ve still got some hard away games so it’s not over if we can beat them this weekend. It’s a huge game. If they win, it will be very hard for us to peg it back but if we win, it’s back on again.”
City fell behind to a first-half penalty from Aidan Smith but Antell kept them in it by saving another spot-kick from the home hitman soon after. Top scorer Blair Henderson hauled City level after the break but Annan won it with headers from Steven Swinglehurst and former Hearts striker Christian Nade.
Even though the title is now looking unlikely for City, Antell insists this season has been a huge success. The former Hibs keeper said: “Whether we win the league or not, we’ve done unbelievably well this season. Compare it to last year. I am one of the few boys still here from last season and it was rotten, it was horrible. It’s a totally different pressure being up at the top to being down the bottom, worrying about relegation. I’d rather be in this position than where we were last year anyway. At this time last year we only had 20-odd points, now we’ve got 61. That’s credit to the boys who’ve come in and the boys who are still here as well as the gaffer.
“Whatever happens, we can hold our heads high. Even if we don’t finish top, we’ve still got the play-offs, so there’s no doom and gloom here. We’ve still got plenty to play for.”
City led the title race for much of the season but manager James McDonaugh believes injuries to key players like Danny Handling, Danny Galbraith, Jack Breen, Kieran Stewart and Josh Walker, who was due to start on Saturday but pulled out in the warm-up, haven’t helped his team’s hopes of an unlikely title triumph.
“We had a wee chance to put pressure on Peterhead ahead of next week but it probably shows where we are,” said McDonaugh. “I’m not one for making excuses but we’re missing nine players, including six who would start for most teams in this league. It’s difficult.
“We have to win all our games now and hope Peterhead lose two or three. The season’s not over though – no matter what happens, we’ll surely be in the play-offs which means our season will go down to the very last game.”
Annan: Mitchell, Hooper, Strapp, Swinglehurst, Watson, Bradley, Wilson, Johnston, Moxon (Wallace 85), Smith, Nade (Muir 90). Booked: Swinglehurst.
Edinburgh City: Antell, Thomson, McIntyre, Black, Balatoni, Laird, Shepherd (Diver 83), B Henderson, Taylor (Lumsden 83), Rodger, Watson (Macdonald 85). Booked: Rodger.
Referee: C Napier