Edinburgh City 3 – 0 Annan Athletic
After the disappointment of last week’s home loss to Stirling Albion, McDonaugh’s men were intent on restoring order and continuing their title pursuit. Battling against storm Ciara’s best efforts, City emerged comfortably victorious making up for last week’s inability to take their chances.
Due to the ferocious winds, the game struggled to get going in the early proceedings as the players fought to keep the ball on the deck. However, when Liam Henderson was pulled down in the box, Danny Handling confidently stepped up to send the goalkeeper the wrong way.
City’s no.10 then took his goal tally for the season into double figures just after the hour mark. After a ricocheted shot from Blair Henderson fell into the stride of Handling, the midfielder coolly finished across Alex Mitchell in the Annan goal.
The home side controlled the game from start to finish, allowing Annan few opportunities. It would seem that the game would peeter out into a comfortable 2-0 victory, only for Liam Henderson to pounce on a rebound to slam in the third of the afternoon with the final kick of the ball. A massive 3 points for the Citizens, combined with Cove’s loss to Elgin by the same scoreline, will give them the momentum they need for a huge crunch game away at the league leaders next weekend.
A quality team performance
Losing any game is tough, but when there is the added mental pressure that comes from competing in a 2-way title race it can limit a team’s confidence and stop the flow that has led them to where they are. City on Saturday, however, were clinical from the first whistle, carrying out their game plan to perfection. Their opponents, you could say, were the perfect opposition to face after the Stirling loss. Annan are yet to pick up a point in 2020 and struggled to break down the City defence to create many real opportunities.
Their poor run looked set to continue when captain Steven Singlehurst pulled down Liam Henderson in the box as a corner had been whipped in. With the Annan defence having been warned prior to the corner by referee Steven Kirkland, the man in the middle had little choice but to point to the spot. Up stepped City’s no.10 Daniel Handling who sent the keeper the wrong way, slotting the penalty into the bottom right corner of the goal.
Although City had controlled proceedings prior to the penalty, it was undoubtedly helpful in settling any nerves that may have lingered over the week. As the half progressed, the Home side continued to dominate possession. Given his first start since signing in January on loan from Celtic, youngster Grant Savoury was keen to make a name for himself among the City faithful present. His old firm talent was on display as he made several marauding runs down the right flank, unafraid of taking on multiple opponents at a time.
Also making his full Home debut was City’s 7th keeper of the season, Kelby Mason. Signed from Hearts on a 6-month loan spell, it wasn’t until the hour mark that the 21 year-old had to make his only save, palming away a low drive to the left of his goal. Up the other end, it was Annan’s goalkeeper being kept on his toes as he made himself big to thwart a 1-on-1 attempt from Blair Henderson. It wasn’t long, however, until City were able to make their pressure count. Liam Henderson’s effort from the centre of the box fizzed into the path of Handling after a deflection and the no.10 calmly stroked the ball into the far corner.
Clear cut chances were few and far between as storm Ciara’s whirling winds played havoc with long balls and crosses. City’s men were structured throughout though, enjoying the majority of possession and waiting for their opportunities to come. It was a solid performance from every player, causing frustration for the Away side who struggled to gain a foothold in the game. City’s day was topped off when Mitchell spilled Jordan Sinclair’s strike, bouncing kindly into Liam Henderson’s path. Following up the set piece, the midfielder’s fine performance was capped with a simple tap-in.
‘Done the club proud’
Manager James McDonaugh was full of praise for his men after the game. He noted how Annan had ‘come here to be hard to beat’, but spoke of how well his players responded to this. ‘We played pretty good stuff and I thought we controlled it from start to finish.’
Having made 5 changes to the side that lost last week at home to Stirling Albion, McDonaugh discussed the importance of every player in the squad putting in the effort to maintain their title challenge, saying that: ‘everybody’s playing their part’. Also on the point of last week’s performance, McDonaugh said: ‘the players were fantastic in their response’ and that ‘they had done the club proud’.
As discussed, it takes a lot for a team challenging for promotion to come back from a loss and keep their momentum going. City achieved that on Saturday and with their rivals losing 3-0 to Elgin, next week’s fixture up at Cove makes it a tantalising prospect for all the players to show just how much they want the title. With Cove boasting an unbeaten home record, they will pose a formidable challenge for City but champions are made on days like these and McDonaugh’s men will undoubtedly be fired up for the battle.
Written by Miles Lockhart