Edinburgh City boss James McDonaugh insists his team cannot afford to rely solely on top goalscorer Blair Henderson if they are to maintain their title challenge.
The Citizens lost for just the third time this season as Darren Smith’s scrambled effort six minutes into the second half secured maximum points for Stirling Albion at Ainslie Park.
McDonaugh admitted his players didn’t carve out nearly enough opportunities in the final third to take something from the match. However, their three-point lead over Peterhead at the summit of Ladbrokes League Two remained intact as the Blue Toon were beaten 2-1 by third-placed Clyde at Balmoor.
The Bully Wee are now just five points adrift of City as the race for promotion to Scottish football’s third tier heats up.
McDonaugh didn’t get the response he had hoped for following last weekend’s 2-2 stalemate at Berwick where the Capital outfit relinquished a two-goal lead with just minutes to spare.
And he also made a plea for others to help out 26-goal hero Henderson.
“We didn’t have enough efforts on goal. It was more a case of getting balls into the box and hoping rather than the strikers creating chances,” McDoanugh said. “We had a couple of half chances in the first half but there was nothing concrete. We can’t be a team that if Blair Henderson doesn’t score then we don’t score.
“You’re always disappointed to lose. It was a tight game that was won from a set piece. Stirling have improved from the last time we played them. I’ve said all along they are a team with good players and they won’t be far away.
“I’ve probably been quite critical in the dressing room but that’s because we want to keep winning. Teams are now not seeing Edinburgh City as a team they can’t just go freely attack and win games against. We have to find another way to combat that going forward.”
McDonaugh expects a few twists and turns between now and May.
“Clyde are well in the hunt so there’s still a long way to go,” he said. “Despite the number of points ourselves, Peterhead and, to an extent Clyde, have picked up at the halfway stage, I don’t think the second half is going to follow that same pattern.
“I can’t see anybody winning the league this season with 88 points. We’ve got 44 from the first half but that’s not going to happen. In saying that we didn’t want to start the year with a defeat but there’s a lot to play for and I think teams will strengthen this month too. We just need to get back to winning ways.”
Asked if he’ would welcome a three-week hiatus similar to the top flight, McDonaugh added: “It would be nice to have a break as we have so many injuries but I don’t think it’s necessary to be honest. I think they structure the League Two games fine over the course of the season. Selfishly it would be great as I’ve got a lot of players out but I’m not in favour of it. I’m quite happy to keep playing.”
It took until near enough 20 minutes for either side to muster an attempt on goal, Allan Smith providing Blair Henderson whose snapshot lacked any conviction to trouble Stirling No.1 Callum Ferrie.
Scott Shepherd dragged another effort wide of the target before Liam Henderson’s header was straight at Ferrie.
The visitors grabbed the only goal of the game six minutes after the restart however, City failing to clear a corner from the left and Smith was able to poke the ball over the line.
Edinburgh City: Antell, Thomson, McIntyre, Balatoni (Rodger 20), Laird, Smith, B Henderson, Shepherd (Hall 76), Watson (Taylor 66), L Henderson, Galbraith. Subs: Morton, Donaldson, Kennedy, Lumsden.
Stirling Albion: Ferrie, McGeachie, Allan, Hughes, Horne, Banner, Jardine, Docherty, MacDonald, Smith, Thomson. Subs: Rutkiewicz, McLaughlan, McLaren, Mackin, Binnie, Marr.
Referee: Duncan Williams