You could sense the tension having lifted from Edinburgh City after they finally secured their Ladbrokes League Two status for next season with a 1-1 draw at Elgin.
Shane Sutherland’s early opener for the hosts was cancelled out by a thumping Gareth Rodger header shortly after half-time which, coupled with Cowdenbeath’s defeat at Peterhead, meant that City remain an SPFL club for a third successive campaign.
Relief was the overriding emotion felt by manager James McDonaugh as he emerged from a buoyant dressing-room at Borough Briggs. “It’s absolutely relief,” he said. “I said to the boys, it maybe doesn’t matter how you do it but to keep the club in the league for another year was always the objective.
“We’ve had our ups and downs. The last few weeks, the last two games really have taken away from a lot of good work, a lot of good performances and a lot of good stuff. When you have two 3-1, 4-0 results and bad performances, that can fester a bit and the boys showed great character to get that point we needed.”
Sutherland’s long-term absence from the Elgin side through injury has coincided with City’s best run of results against the Highlanders since promotion. The fit-again striker wasted no time in resuming his habit of scoring against them, however, sending a screamer of a volley into the top corner past Calum Antell inside three minutes.
City’s first chance came after 20 minutes, and Pat Scullion probably should have scored when he connected powerfully with Ashley Grimes’ corner, but cleared Brett Long’s crossbar with his header.
They had the post to thank for keeping it at 1-0 when Nathan Flanagan showed good feet to create space in the area and beat Antell with a bouncing effort.
Antell then showed good reactions to keep out an instinctive overhead kick from Darryl McHardy on the stroke of half-time.
City’s best and only chance of the first half had come via a Grimes corner, and it was another that got them back in to the game within five minutes of the restart. Rodger, pictured below, rose highest to meet his floated delivery and powered a header past Long.
A strong run from on-loan Rangers man Matthew Shiels took him to the byeline and he sent up a cross that City’s Graham Taylor rose up well to meet, but glanced wide of the far post.
Elgin came close to what would have likely been a late winner when Sutherland’s cut-back was fired goalward by sub Declan Byrne, only for it to crash off the bar and away with Antell only able to watch.
He did more than watch to ensure City left with a point, however, when he got down well to push away a swerving Brian Cameron drive that was destined for the bottom corner.
The aim for McDonaugh now is to try and finish top of the ‘mini-league’ City have existed in this season with Cowdenbeath and Berwick Rangers. “We’ve got to try and see the season out and finish it the best way we can,” he said.
“We’re ahead of Berwick, but that’s maybe out of our hands a wee bit with them having games in hand. We played them earlier in the season and beat them 3-0, but we read after it that they were the better team – and we won the game so I don’t know how that works. There’s all this money that we’re apparently spending on our team too – which isn’t true either – but anyway, we’ve managed to survive.”
Elgin City: Long, Eadie (Byrne 80), McDonald, McHardy, Bronsky, McGovern, Reilly, Cameron, McLeish, Sutherland, Flanagan.
Edinburgh City: Antell, Shiels, Laird, Thomson, Blues, Beattie, Grimes (Walker 64), Rodger, Taylor (McLear 84), Shepherd (Dunn 87), Scullion.
Referee: Grant Irvine.