Edinburgh City round off their Betfred Cup campaign on Saturday with a final Group F fixture away to Championship team Greenock Morton, and midfielder Marc Laird believes the competitive precursor to the league season has served the League Two outfit well.
A 2-2 draw against divisional rivals Berwick Rangers was supplemented with a bonus point by way of penalty shoot-out victory – a big deal in itself where City are concerned given their record.
Queen’s Park then ensured a miserable trip to the National Stadium by scoring three without reply, before pride was restored with a battling performance in Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat by Premiership Motherwell.
With lessons seemingly learned from Hampden, a similar display against Jim Duffy’s team at Cappielow tomorrow will leave City in decent shape for league action.
“We had a poor result at the weekend against Queen’s Park and we learned that we have to sometimes adapt and use a different stye of play,” Laird said. “I think it kind of worked on Tuesday against Motherwell. We were able to press high and scored a really good goal that Ashley [Grimes] took really well.
“As the game went on they grew in to it more and more and had chances, but as a club I think we’ve come a long way to be even pushing a Premiership team like Motherwell. To get a 1-0 result would’ve been fantastic, but it wasn’t to be.
“I wasn’t involved in the start of last season, but we obviously didn’t have a great start, although I don’t think we were playing badly. This season there’s a new group of players and there’s still a lot of learning to do. We haven’t really had a settled team and everyone is still trying to learn each other’s game.
“Long term, the Betfred Cup is a good thing for us as it gives us that preparation. The pre-season games aren’t as competitive so it’s a major help for us going forward.”
One of the new faces Laird references is long-term friend Grimes, who has hit the ground running with three goals already. “I’ve known him a long time from coming through at Man City and playing with him at Millwall,” Laird explained. “If he was being honest, he’d probably tell you his career kind of petered out down there, although not through any fault of his own.
“Gary [Jardine] had known I’d spoken to him in the past and asked me what he was thinking and would he be interested in coming up? Being his friend, seeing the other boys that we had signed and Gary and the chairman outlining the club’s plans, it really appealed to Ashley to come up and try something new. Similar to myself being down in England, you end up needing a fresh challenge.
“I think it shows the commitment from the club being able to bring a player of his calibre up. One of the things he said to me was that he was really impressed with the vision that the club had – it wasn’t just down to me that he made that decision. I couldn’t have spoken highly enough of the people at the club when I first talked to him about maybe coming up. So far, so good for him.”
Laird also has a new midfield colleague in Craig Thomson who, along with captain Josh Walker, makes City look particularly strong in that area. “Each one of us brings a different strength,” he assessed. “Josh is a fantastic footballer and a very good leader; he’s a fantastic asset to have the club in that sense and comes across really positively to everyone.
“Thommo’s a new player that’s come in but he’s got a great pedigree as well after playing with Hearts. He’s impressed in training and in the games and as he gets fitter he’ll get even better.”
Injuries mean Jardine may have to name another complete bench of under-20s against Morton, but Laird is excited by the young talent at the club. “Calum Hall’s only 16 and has been fantastic,” he raved. “He looks like he could be a really good player for us. Kyle McClung has played in a few of the pre-season games too and hasn’t looked out of place.
“It’s really positive for the club that they have a pathway in to the first team because it’s important that Edinburgh City can develop their own players, which is what brought them success previously.”