James McDonaugh: Edinburgh City planning to clip Cove Rangers’ wings
The Capital side travel to Aberdeenshire to face the SPFL new boys, who have been installed as hot favourites to win the title after appointing former Hearts captain Paul Hartley as manager following their Highland League glory last term. City, who finished third last season and have since recruited shrewdly in the shape of Alex Harris, Callum Crane, Chris Kane and Johnny Court, are listed as second favourites.
“I’ve never come up against Cove before but they’ve invested in their club and they have had good players in their team for a while,” McDonaugh said. “It’s a very tough opener but if we get a result or pick up a point, it will be a good start for us. It’s a long season though. Teams that have won it in the past haven’t always started with loads of wins. We were the team that flew out the traps last season and ended up 12 points behind Peterhead. Peterhead, Clyde and Annan all finished stronger than us – the important thing is getting a good run at the right time.”
City were in title contention for most of last season until a chronic injury list took its toll in the closing months. McDonaugh is eager to avoid a repeat this term, although he heads north without suspended captain Craig Thomson and the injured Josh Walker, among others. “If we can address our injury problems, we would hope to be pushing at the top end of the table,” said the manager. “We’ve looked at why we’ve had so many injuries. We’ve appointed a new physio, brought in a strength and conditioning coach and the club have invested in some equipment to help with that side of things.
“I hope we’ll be an improved team this season. I think we’ve brought in good players. The four we’ve brought in add quality – I don’t think that’s even debatable. We’ve got a few injuries to contend with so we might need to get somebody else in. Our Betfred Cup was a tale of two stories. We did well against the big teams but we did poorly against the lesser teams so we need to improve on our last couple of games.”
The negative reaction in some quarters to the surprise Betfred Cup defeats by Albion Rovers and East Kilbride has irked McDonaugh. “Expectation has changed now,” he noted. “When I came in we were struggling to stay in the league, then last year we punched above our weight, finished top three and got to the semi-final of the Irn-Bru Cup. But even already in the Betfred Cup games I’ve noticed that some people’s expectations have gone through the roof. Some people need to take a reality check, but that comes with the territory in football. People are wondering why we’re losing in certain games and totally forgetting that we’ve also beaten a team like Dunfermline. We’ve got to be able to deal with that, the different level of expectations. Of course we want to go for first place, but it’s important we stay grounded and remember that we’re trying to build the club.”