The last time Mark McConnell played in a South Challenge Cup semi-final, he was shown a straight red card and Edinburgh City shipped five goals without reply.
With captain Joe Mbu also dismissed, the Lowland League champions were dumped out by eventual winners BSC Glasgow.
Tomorrow offers McConnell and his team-mates an opportunity to put that right. Gary Jardine’s men travel to Galabank, Annan, to take on Edusport Academy in the semi-final of this year’s competition. It’s one McConnell fully intends to take. “That was a disappointing game last year, especially getting sent off myself,” he admitted. “Up until Joe was sent off, I think we were the better team but then our discipline sort of fell away and we went a couple of goals behind. The frustration kicked in and we won’t allow something like that to be repeated on Saturday. If things don’t go our way, we just need to keep our heads down and get on with the game, not letting that frustration kick in. That was big factor last time.
“It’s a trophy Gary really wants to win. Obviously we want to win every game and every competition we’re in – that’s our mentality. We’re focused on Saturday – it’s a massive game for us just to get to the final, but we’re not there yet.”
With a second Lowland League title in succession – and with it another crack at promotion to the SPFL – all but sealed, City can concentrate on adding to their trophy haul. With no final appearances, never mind additional silverware to go with their league crown last season, it’s something McConnell admits has been targeted this term.
“We’ve not been in a cup final for a couple of years and since I’ve been in the first team we’ve not been in a final,” he said. “We’ve missed out in semi-finals the last two years so hopefully we can take that final step this year. It’s obviously nice to get any silverware you can.
“We lost out last year to BSC and then Leith Athletic in another semi on penalties; with our record hopefully it doesn’t come to penalties again! But we went to go that one step further, we’re always looking to improve where we can.”
Standing between them and a showpiece occasion is Edusport Academy. Second in the South of Scotland League, Edusport provides an opportunity for young French players to live, train, study and play competitively in Scotland. McConnell admits he isn’t very familiar with tomorrow’s opponents, but is expecting something a little bit different. “I’ve not really heard much about them,” he admitted. “I know they’ve got a lot of players to choose from, but that’s about it. I’d imagine they play good football and have done well to get to the semis, so we know they’ll be decent.
“The French aspect will be interesting. It’s not something many of the boys will have experienced before, playing a team in Scotland that’s full of foreign players, especially at this level. As I said, I don’t now much about them but I’m sure they’ll be a match for us.”
Having regained full fitness and played a regular number of games, ‘Sparky’ believes silverware would cap a good season for him. “I feel I’ve been playing better football this year,” he surmised. “Last season I was out inured and was only fit like, half a season so struggled to get back in. This year I’ve been injury free, got a run and the manager seems to trust me to play in more than one position, so that’s helped.”