Edinburgh City taking it step by step after draw at Berwick

Striker Farid El Alagui tries his luck from range. The former Hibs player was a focal point for City. Pic: Ian Georgeson
Striker Farid El Alagui tries his luck from range. The former Hibs player was a focal point for City. Pic: Ian Georgeson
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Edinburgh City boss James McDonaugh hailed his team’s gradual progress after they secured their first point under him with a 1-1 draw at Berwick Rangers.

Jesus Garcia Tena’s wonderful first goal for the club via a brilliantly struck free-kick gave City a deserved second-half lead, only for Berwick to level with an equally impressive header from Michael McKenna.

City's Scott Shepherd tries to break free. Pic: Ian Georgeson

City's Scott Shepherd tries to break free. Pic: Ian Georgeson

“I’ve said for the last number of weeks we’re taking small steps and it is very small steps!” McDonaugh laughed. “We’ve got them organised, we’ve had a few games where we’ve lost by a goal, last week we finally scored a goal and this week we finally got a point. We’re building, and we will get there.

“I thought the first half we played really well and dominated most of the game. The second half was quite even so we’ll take the point, but everybody wants three and we’ll look on to the next game in two weeks’ time.”

An extremely scrappy opening quarter of an hour rendered both goalkeepers spectators. A tame McKenna free-kick that bounced in to Calum Antell’s arms was the closest thing to even approaching goalmouth action.

At the other end, Berwick keeper Robby McCrorie got his first involvement when he grabbed a clipped Farid El Alagui delivery off the toe of Gavin Malin.

City's Gavin Malin and Berwick Keiran Stewart battle for the ball. Pic: Ian Georgeson

City's Gavin Malin and Berwick Keiran Stewart battle for the ball. Pic: Ian Georgeson

From nowhere, however, 60 seconds of what was by comparison high drama unfolded. Steven Thomson drove into the City box and Antell did well to parry his powerful angled 
effort. Immediately on the counter, Scott Shepherd ran in behind the Berwick defence, but saw McCrorie pull off an almost identical save to his opposite number.

City began to settle in something of a rhythm after that and controlled possession. A deep Josh Walker cross picked out new signing El Alagui at the back post, but the off-balance front man couldn’t get enough power on his header to properly trouble McCrorie.

El Alagui was proving a useful focal point and his knockdown from Chris McKee’s cross teed up Malin, whose deflected shot was creeping in but for McCrorie’s intervention.

The breakthrough came a minute after the restart, and it was no less than the visitors deserved given their first-half dominance. Craig Thomson and Tena both lined up the free-kick around 25 yards out and it was the Spaniard who stepped up and curled it past McCrorie.

“It’s a great goal, isn’t it?” said McDonaugh afterwards. “My big assistant Colin [Jack] called it. He’d been trying them in the warm up and he’s got that in his locker.”

Somewhat typically from a City perspective, the hosts levelled with their first attack of the half soon after. Thomson’s delivery from the right picked out McKenna, who powered a great header past Antell.

“It was a crucial point in the game,” McDonaugh reflected. “When you’re at a team that’s not used to winning, you almost become scared of winning because it’s a different feeling. We just dropped off the game at that point and credit to Berwick, they got a good goal themselves.”

The Wee Rangers understandably gained fresh impetus after the equaliser and although both sides continued to counter each other as the game moved into the latter stages, neither could force a winner.

Garcia Tena thought he’d maybe done enough to earn all three points with his fine strike. “I thought maybe it was enough but we knew it was going to be hard,” he said. “It’s just one of those games. I think we deserved more than a draw, but we’re quite happy with a point away from home. It changes the dynamics going into the next game against Cowdenbeath.”

Berwick Rangers: McCrorie, Fleming, Fairbarin, S Thomson, Lavery, McKenna (Murrell 77), Phillips, Irving (McDonald 72), Stewart, Godinho, Scullion.

Edinburgh City: Antell, McKee, Harrison, Walker, Laird, C Thomson, Malin (Grimes 72), Beattie, El Alagui, Shepherd, Tena.

Referee: D Munro.

Attendance: 467.