Last Saturday was bittersweet for Josh Walker. The midfielder turned in a display worthy of winning the man-of-the-match award and netted a first Edinburgh City goal that would have been fit to win any game.
The England under-20 internationalist displayed the technique you would expect of someone with his professional background, angling his body to ensure he was over the ball when he half-volleyed it into the top corner from the edge of the ‘D’.
A last-gasp Cammy Ballantyne header denied City a maiden win of the calendar year however, as Montrose left Meadowbank with the point their second-half play merited.
Gary Jardine declared that his team played “exactly” how he wanted them to in the first period. And he will be looking for his players to reproduce such quality at Forthbank tomorrow, where three points against Stirling Albion would tighten things up again at the foot of League Two, potentially pulling them further away from basement boys Cowdenbeath ahead of Tuesday’s meeting at Central Park.
Walker, who turned 28 this week, believes there’s more to come from himself, and has vowed to add more goals, however spectacular, to aid his team’s cause.
“It’s great firstly to be back playing and playing consecutive games again,” said the Geordie. “As was getting on the scoresheet – it was one of my better goals in my career! It’s always nice to get on the scoresheet early at a new club.
“First half, no-one could complain that we deserved to be 1-0 up and I think we played some really good stuff. Second half they played the conditions really well. They had the wind behind them and put their big lad [Chris Templeman] on up front. They kept lumping the ball into the box and it was difficult for us to get out, so overall a draw was probably a fair result. It’s a point in the right direction.”
The strike was just the 15th competitive goal of Walker’s career. With a season-best tally of five for Gateshead, it’s perhaps no surprise that Saturday’s was his first in quite some time, even allowing for injury. “The last one I scored was out in India,” he recalled. “That was back in 2015. The last competitive game I played out there would have been when I scored my last goal so you’re talking April/May of that year; it’s been a long time coming!
“I know I’m capable of scoring goals, it’s just been getting a run of games together and getting myself fit that’s been the issue. I’m hoping now I’m completely over the injury and I feel each week I’m getting sharper. It’s difficult when you’re part-time as you’re not training as much as when you’re full-time, so it might take another couple of games.
“I’m heading in the right direction though. I’m feeling good and I’m feeling confident which is the main thing. Hopefully between now and the end of the season I can chip in with a few more goals from midfield.”
As the league’s lowest scorers, City need all the help they can get in that department. “You can’t just rely on keeping clean sheets every week,” Walker stated. “Hoping to nick it 1-0 is difficult for any side to do. As a team we’ve been very good defensively all season but we defend as a team and we attack as team. We can’t just rely on the strikers. If myself and the other midfielders can chip in along with the lads at the back from set pieces, that’d be a massive boost to our position in the table.”
The return of some big players from injury would also go some way to rectifying the situation. “If you take three or four of the most experienced players out of any side, whether that be Premier League or our league, you’re going to find it difficult. I think the lads who came in on Saturday really put a stamp on the game though, especially first half. It proves to the manager they’re good enough to be in the team week in, week out.”
Walker’s partnership with Marc Laird has looked promising so far, perhaps not surprisingly given they both enjoyed an education in the game at elite level. “I played against him in the reserves when he was at Man City and I was at Middlesborough,” Walker explained. “I don’t think we faced each other at first-team level elsewhere although I can’t remember.
“Lairdy’s a good player, he’s played at a good level through his career. He’s very comfortable on the ball, he works hard and we bounce off each other. Off the pitch we got on well and on it we’re both talking a lot, helping each other that way as well, and long may it continue.”