Edinburgh City to give Blair Henderson every chance to prove play-off fitness

Edinburgh City boss James McDonaugh has revealed he will give PFA Scotland League Two’s Player of the Year Blair Henderson every chance to prove his fitness ahead of tonight’s promotion play-off first-round first leg clash against Clyde.
Blair HendersonBlair Henderson
Blair Henderson

The Citizens host the Bully Wee at Ainslie Park before the second leg at Broadwood on Saturday, where the winners of the tie will meet either Annan Athletic or Stenhousemuir over two legs next week.

However, McDonaugh revealed that Henderson, the country’s top goalscorer with 38 in all competitions this season who was named the league’s player of the year at Sunday’s awards ceremony in Glasgow, is struggling to be fit to lead the line.

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The former Berwick Rangers and Annan frontman has been playing through the pain barrier in recent weeks due to an ongoing ankle problem. The 24-year-old was left out of the squad that drew 0-0 against Stirling Albion at Forthbank on Saturday, a point that secured a third-place finish in Scottish football’s fourth tier.

“I think the chances of Blair playing are very slim to be honest,” McDonaugh explained. “With the amount of goals he has scored this season it would be a massive blow if he doesn’t make it. I’ve got a team in mind to start with, but given the amount of players we will have missing, I still think it’s a strong side. Yes, we will be without four or five who would have definitely started but it is what it is, it’s been like that for the last few months. The injuries have been very challenging.

“I like to be settled in my own mind with the team as early as possible but if there’s somebody there who needs that wee bit extra time to see if they can make it then we’ll given them it.

Clyde look like they will be without John Rankin which will be a huge loss. I worked with John when I was at Hibs and Falkirk and he’s an honest pro with good experience and energy.

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“He was a big influence the last time we played them and really drove them on. He didn’t play on Saturday at Cowdenbeath and they lost, so that would be a huge loss to them.”

Clyde do have the better head-to-head record this season with three wins from their four league meetings, their most recent victory a 2-1 win at Ainslie Park last month. But McDonaugh has urged his players to focus on the here and now.

“I told them after the match on Saturday that they should be proud of themselves for what they have achieved but it’s now a clean slate,” he said. “We’re in the play-offs which is something we couldn’t have envisaged, so we’ve now just got to go for it.

“I sound a bit like a supporter going to watch their team where they just want to see them go for it, but that’s my style. There’s no point trying to sit back and play for it over two legs, let’s give it everything we’ve got. There’s nothing to lose.

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“It’s the play-offs at the right end of the table for once and that’s a nice position to be in. We’ve got to embrace it. We’re playing against a team that could have won the league on Saturday. The last few weeks we’ve maybe not had too much to play for but now the focus is 100 per cent on these next two games.

“I think back to when we took over (October 2017) and how it was behind the scenes so we really have come so far. We’re potentially now just four games from League One.”