Edinburgh City midfielder Ian McFarland doesn’t believe Brora Rangers’ reluctance at board level to win promotion to the SPFL will be evident in their performance during tomorrow’s first leg play-off tie at Meadowbank.
The Dudgeon Park club have admitted that they tried to avoid taking part in the play-offs and would prefer to remain in the Highland League, but McFarland is convinced that Davie Kirkwood’s players will be just as up for the two-legged promotion battle as their hosts. “Absolutely from the playing side I think they’ll want to go up,” he said. “I think once the moment comes it’ll hit home that they’ve got a big chance – like ourselves – to go up to the SPFL. Come kick-off, or even on their way down, they’ll be raring to go and wanting to win the game just as badly as we are.
“We’ve read a lot of the stuff that their chairman’s been saying long before the game was due to go ahead but it isn’t something Gary [Jardine’s] used as motivation or anything. I think we always knew we’d be playing them in the end and we’ll just get on with it whatever their mentality is. I’m sure they’ll want to win, but we’ll just stick to our game and hopefully that’s good enough.”
While playing in the context of the play-offs will be alien to each club, they certainly won’t be unfamiliar with each other, having faced off in the William Hill Scottish Cup at Meadowbank last November. The visitors ran out 3-2 winners against ten-man City to book a fourth round tie away to Queen of the South. McFarland, who opened the scoring after just over a minute in that match, feels that experience will stand them in good stead for tomorrow’s encounter.
“I think what we can take form that game is that we realised the intensity that Brora play at,” he explained. “It was just so much faster than any Lowland League match that we’ve had this season, so that’ll prepare us in that we’ll know what’s coming. When we went down to ten man in that game the shackles came off us a bit and we went for it in the last 20 minutes. We played well in those 20 minutes with ten men so that gives us a bit of belief that we’re good enough to go and win this first leg.”
McFarland, despite still being in his early 20s, is one of a number of long-serving members of the City squad, having graduated from the club’s Under-19 team. League football wasn’t something that crossed his mind when signing on at Meadowbank and living in Edinburgh with a young family, playing his football in black and white suits the hotel porter down to the ground.
“I never even expected a chance like this to come along for a club like us. How far we’ve come since I signed at 19 is just incredible and this opportunity might never come around again so I don’t want it to slip away.
“In the six seasons I’ve been here I’ve had a couple of options to go to the Juniors but apart from that nothing came up in terms of league clubs. If I can go all the way with City then that would be perfect. I came up from the 19s and I’ve known Gary since the 19s as well. A lot of the guys that I came up with from that team are still here. Meadowbank’s a decent enough place to play and I’m just really happy here. Hopefully I can keep on playing a big part in potentially getting us into the SPFL.”
City have built this season’s success on having a nucleus of young players, some who have been together for a long time, complimented with more experienced additions. Tomorrow’s opponents have taken a different approach, the investment from financial backer Ben Mackay and his CRC Evans Offshore company have allowed them to bring in former SPL players such as Ross Tokely, Grant Munro and Stewart Kettlewell.
Despite this difference in club ethos, McFarland is confident City can more than match opponents of such pedigree. “I think there’s ten first team players in our squad who have played for our U-19s at some point and obviously Brora have a lot of players who have come down from senior football and have played at a much higher level than most of us have played at. I think we’ve still got enough players in our squad with that magic in their boots to create a chance for us to win it on Saturday. With it being over two legs we want an advantage going up to Brora next week and I think we have enough players who can cause them problems.”
City chairman Jim Lumsden spoke in yesterday’s Evening News of his delight at having the first leg at Meadowbank. McFarland isn’t quite echoing his chairman’s sentiments, but doesn’t see being at home first as a hindrance “My Dad thinks we’ve definitely got an advantage, but I think being over two legs, neither club will have come across that system before. We’re just looking at it as this game first really. I want to win this first leg and be in the driving seat going up there but home or away doesn’t really matter.”