With the Scottish Cup taking over much of the fixture card, and Stranraer playing in Aberdeen last weekend, that meant a weekend off 42 Grounds travelling last week.
While that may sound like it was an easy trip for someone living in Aberdeen, as chance would have it, I was in Stranraer, and had to get an early morning supporters bus to the game. It was the first time I had travelled on that bus in many years.
Possibly my favourite trip on that bus was to Elgin. It was a truly daunting trip in terms of distance, and the one which people looked forward to and dreaded in equal measure.
In what was a full day trip, Stranraer would come back from behind to win 3-2. It couldn’t have been any better, and as a result I will always remember Borough Briggs fondly.
Thankfully, living in Aberdeen, Elgin was one of the closer towns that I will travel to this season. At just over an hour and a half away it was, when compared to the likes of Annan and Ayr, a simple trip.
From a footballing perspective, there was also plenty to look forward to. Elgin City have, at times, been ruthless this season. With 47 goals scored, they are the second top scorers in Scotland. In several games this season they have scored four or more goals. You have to go back over two months to find a game where they failed to score. That came in mid-November.
It will, perhaps, be a source of frustration for City that they haven’t managed a high level of consistency in their results, which would have allowed them to maintain a title challenge.
Either way, their highlights have made for brilliant watching at times this season, and they are playing a style of football that one might not typically associate with Scottish League Two football.
The Black and Whites have spent 17 years in the Scottish League system, having joined the league along with Peterhead in 2000. They have been an ever present in the fourth tier since then, although that may well change at the end of this season, with a spot in the promotion playoff certainly a realistic target.
Last week they were at home to rivals Inverness in the Scottish Cup in a game which attracted a crowd of close to 4000. Even allowing for the large away support at the game, the home support swelled too, and witnessed a respectable showing from the home team. I was interested to see whether that would translate to a larger than usual home crowd today.
Their opponents were Edinburgh City. The league’s newcomers had a tough time at the beginning of the season, going several weeks without a win, however they had a great run of form prior to the turn of the year, which led to their manager Gary Jardine earning the Manager of the Month award in two consecutive months.
The train station is next to a variety of shops, and about ten minutes from the town centre. From there, it was just a short ten minute walk to the ground.
I have been at a few Highland League grounds over the years, and the style of Borough Briggs reminded me of those.
It is like very few other Scottish grounds, with the traditional main stand’s roof angled towards the ground. Opposite that is terracing which runs the length of most of the touchline. It also has a downward angled roof, and as it was raining, that was where the majority of the home fans stood today. The sloping roof makes for a good atmosphere, with the shouts of joy, derision and fury being directed straight towards the pitch.
Behind both goals are well kept grass areas, with steps for standing on. That would be a great space during the warmer months, but on a cold, soaking wet day very few people chose to stand out in the open.
I was immediately impressed by the fluency of Elgin’s play. The ball zipped about in the middle of the park, only for a long switch to land perfectly at the feet of a team mate on the touchline, changing the angle of attack.
They tried regular through balls for strikers to latch on to, and on more than one occasion early on, they were unlucky not to at least have tested the goalkeeper.
That changed when Shane Sutherland got on the end of a well weighted through ball and slotted it past the onrushing Andrew Stobie.
The second goal summed up Elgin’s style. Good play saw Daniel Moore in on goal, and he selflessly cut the ball back to allow Shane Sutherland a tap in to double his side’s lead.
At half time, the home fans were satisfied with what they had seen.
Edinburgh City grew in to the game in the second half though, and they pulled a goal back through one of their most experienced attacking players. The former Scotland striker Craig Beattie got on the end of a high cross, and found himself with only the keeper to beat. He placed the ball neatly with the outside of his boot and gave the keeper no chance. It was a very classy finish, and it seemed like it was going to be ‘game on’ again.
However, any hope of an away comeback was extinguished moments later, when the home side were awarded a penalty, after a moment or two of confusion from the officials. The impressive Sutherland stepped up and stroked the ball home for his hat-trick, to make it 3-1.
After missing out on promotion through the playoffs last season, Elgin City will be looking to go further than they’ve ever gone before in winning promotion at the end of the season.
They are playing an exciting brand of football, and while a title challenge is unlikely, there is no reason why they can’t go on to finish in a playoff spot, and if they are on form, they will have no reason to fear any potential opponent.
Elgin City 3 Edinburgh City 1