Edinburgh City will tonight begin a run of midweek games that will continue until the end of the month, with Cowdenbeath first up.
And competitive action rather than training could be the safer option for Scott Shepherd.
The on-loan Falkirk striker marked his return to fitness with a wonderful opening goal in Saturday’s 3-2 win at Annan.
Shepherd had missed City’s previous two home games, a 0-0 draw with Peterhead and 4-0 victory over Elgin, through injuries suffered in training. A heavy challenge in training forced him to sit out the draw with The Blue Toon. He returned for the 1-0 defeat at Stenhousemuir before a wayward goal kick in City’s next training session resulted in a concussion, meaning he was unavailable for the rout of Elgin.
“I’d have been better off not training with the injuries I’ve been getting!” he laughed. “The boys have been making jokes saying ‘stay away from Scotty’ and things like that, but it’s all good.
“Obviously the break due to the weather has helped after picking up those injuries in training. With concussion there’s not really anything you can do about it. I just had to rest, do my tests and see how I was. Then we had a couple of games called off which benefited me in that I had more time.”
A win over Cowden at Ainslie Park this evening would put City 18 points clear, with The Blue Brazil already looking condemned to a second successive SPFL Pyramid play-off.
Shepherd knows City are in a strong position, especially after recent results, but would rather look at Berwick immediately above them in the table rather than focus too much on what’s below.
“Obviously we’ve got that breathing space but we want to look forward and catch the teams above us,” he said. “We got a good win away from home on Saturday. The boys did great to dig out a result so we go in to tonight’s game with plenty of confidence.”
Manager James McDonaugh is of a similar mindset. “With Berwick losing on Saturday we’ve got that to play for but it’s one step at a time really for me,” he said. “The task I had when I came in was a scary one at the time and I thought ‘what if I fail?’
“We’re getting closer each time with each win we get so if we can make sure we’re ahead of Cowden, we’ll look up the table.
“It’s never safe, but 18 points would be some comeback. Who knows, a win tonight and we could go up a place as well. What we have done is given ourselves an even better chance, even if we were to lose there’s still a big gap. We’re not thinking like that though, we’re thinking about being positive.”
Since his arrival back in October, McDonaugh believes his team is stronger in terms of quality, if not bodies. “We’ve recruited well, we’re just very thin on the ground in terms of numbers,” he explained. “We had four on the bench on Saturday – three young boys and Chris McKee who’s still coming back from injury. [Shaun] Harrison, [Stuart] Morrison and [Ashley] Grimes are miss for us in terms of the squad.
“We’ve struggled to add to the squad for one reason or another, but the boys who have pulled on the jersey every week have really gone to the mill for us.”
A hectic March fixture schedule won’t ease the strain either. “Saturday was the first of seven games in 21 days so we’re going to be stretched,” McDonaugh admitted. “The more points we can get at the start of this heavy block of games, the better. Once we get in to it, we’ll be wrapping people up in cotton wool.”