BLAIR HENDERSON continued his impressive goalscoring form after helping himself to a brace against Annan Athletic to maintain Edinburgh City’s two-point lead at the top of League Two.
The prolific striker, who has targeted 20 goals this season, struck either side of the break against his former club at Ainslie Park to clinch a 2-1 win and take his own tally to 11 in all competitions.
Henderson is desperate to extend his scoring streak for at least another week as he set his sights on fulfilling a lifetime ambition at Hampden Park this coming Saturday.
The 24-year-old has always dreamed of finding the net at the home of Scottish football and believes this could be his last opportunity to end his National Stadium drought before hosts Queen’s Park move their games to Lesser Hampden.
He said: “I don’t think we played that well, but we keep grinding out results which is all that matters.
“Obviously, things are going well just now, but it’s more important the team are doing well. If we are up there at the right end of the table then I’m always going to get chances to score.
“That’s maybe something I’ve never had at any of my previous clubs – pushing for play-offs or titles – so it’s always going to help if I can keep contributing goals.
“I’ve never scored at Hampden. It’s one of the grounds I’m desperate to score at. I don’t know how many more chances I’m going to get now that the SFA have bought the stadium, but hopefully I can end my drought there soon.
“It’s one thing Allan (Smith) is still holding over me. He scored in the 2013 Youth Cup Final against Celtic when we were at Dunfermline together, so hopefully I can get one over him next Saturday.”
The Citizens knew ahead of kick-off that any slip-up in this top-of-the-table clash would present the chasing pack with an opportunity to leapfrog them. As manager James McDonaugh eluded to in his programme notes, previous encounters between the two sides have been tightly contested and this match was no different.
The first half was a largely scrappy affair with few goalmouth chances to note.
It was the threat his side posed from set-pieces that pleased McDonaugh most, with the aerial presence of Henderson causing the Annan defence all sorts of problems.
Craig Thomson’s dangerous free-kick after 29 minutes was met in the air by the frontman and his downward header forced a terrific one-handed save from the outstretched Jonny Jamieson in the visitors’ goal.
The match sprung to life after 43 minutes when the home side broke the deadlock. Thomson clipped the ball towards Henderson and he outmuscled his marker before curling a shot into the corner of the net, leaving Jamieson rooted to spot.
That was Henderson’s sixth goal of the season and League Two’s top scorer was at it again when he rose highest to steer a Thomson free-kick into the bottom left-hand corner with ten minutes remaining.
Annan halved the deficit just three minutes later to set up a nervy end to the match when Ryan Sinnamon’s free-kick from 20 yards sailed past Calum Antell into the net.
However, it was Henderson who was denied a hat-trick after being played through on goal by substitute Keiran Stewart, but Hooper slid in well to block his shot.
“I thought we merited our three points,” City boss McDonaugh said afterwards.
“We were the better team in the first-half and deserved our lead, but credit to Annan for coming back because they had nothing to lose.
“We had to show another side of the game to see it out, but we defended really well and limited them to very few chances. We’ve managed to stay top of the league for another week, so I’m really pleased with the boys.”
Edinburgh City: Antell, Thomson, McIntyre, Black, Balatoni, Laird, L. Henderson, Handling (Smith; 68), B. Henderson, Shepherd (Stewart; 75), Taylor. Subs: Morton (GK), Rodger, Hall, Watson, Lumsden
Annan Athletic: Jamieson, Hooper, Creaney, Wilson, Sonkur, Moxon (Wallace; 59), Johnston, Bradley, Smith (Roberts; 71), Fergusson (Muir; 71), Sinnamon. Subs: Trialist (GK), Trialist, Wright, Murphy