Elgin City’s Ross Jack was highly complimentary of Rangers when they had managed the equaliser late on in their game recently against the Ibrox side. Considering the team from Borough Briggs had stolen two points off the league leaders and then danced round the stadium like they just won the European Cup, it was all the more remarkable. Ally McCoist stood dignified in the tunnel and waited until every player from Elgin had come off the pitch and shook every hand. It certainly has been quite an amazing year for them in their relationship with Rangers.
This season whilst others can have their digs and tantrums over league reconstruction, number of games, top teams and substitutes the stories in the Third Division have never been more interesting. For teams like Elgin the opportunity to trot out in front of upwards of forty thousand at an SPL ground like Ibrox is a mile or two away from previous season’s endeavours. For Ross Jack he will be hoping that the result of trials and tribulations of this year will be a place in one of the play off spaces for the first time in their short SFL history.
This season they were fleetingly in the play off spots but are now dawdling underneath. Their participation in all cup competitions came to an early end – first round exits in both the Scottish Communities League Cup and the Ramsden’s Cup before a 3-0 Scottish Cup defeat in the 4th Round to Rangers – who else!
It means the league will now be the one place in which their season will be judged. Right now they are one point and one game behind fourth placed Peterhead. The story of how they ended up in that spot is one of peaks and troughs throughout the early part of the season.
In August it was four points out of six for Jack’s side as they started strongly. September was the down to August’s up though it included their first visit to Ibrox as they lost twice and won once. Undefeated in October it may have been but one win in four was not the reward they hoped for. It was a springboard for a faultless November though; six points out of six put them right in the middle of the mix and the famously postponed game against Rangers for which the Elgin club paid a hefty fine would have been a top two clash. It was a hectic five games in December and by the end of the month their results were slipping. Now in January the draw with Rangers referred to above was followed with a recent 4-3 win at home against East Stirlingshire.
So what of the squad that shall attempt to bring the prize of a play off spot back to Borough Briggs and Elgin?
Jack has brought Joe Malin back to the club after he was released by Ross County as the number one choice goalkeeper recently. Malin had previously been on loan at Elgin before signing on permanently. That route was also used by David Niven in defence; a former loanee and now fully fledged Elgin player. The experience brought by Niven is also backed up by Jamie Duff, Mark Nicolson and Sean Creighton. It is a fairly sound defence. They have not been overly generous during the season but with Paul Kaczan also in defence and Stewart Black warming the goalkeeper bench there is cover but it is hardly deep.
Experience runs through the midfield. There are few more experienced than Dennis Wyness. Alongside him there’s Graeme Beveridge, Ross O’Donoghue, David Moore and Paul McMullan. Once again there is depth in terms of collective games played but with Cieran McLean the only other midfield player registered it is again depth of playing squad that may be a worry.
Leading the lines they have the likes of Stuart Leslie, Craig Gunn and Brian Cameron. All 3 have pedigree whilst Paul Miller as a former amateur will hopefully be one that will mature with time. With around 18/19 players as a playing squad this is thin. What perhaps makes it more likely that it will be successful is that small squads knit better and certainly the celebrations on the park at Ibrox showed a united team that wanted to win; and win bad.
This is the time when suspensions and injuries are known to bite. Ross Jack will be praying that neither become significant as he faces Queen’s Park next at home then Clyde away. They don’t meet Rangers again till the 16th March but in between there will be plenty of opportunities for them to pick up points and make their season worthwhile. I would say they were easily an outside bet for a play off spot but it may take more than good fortune with the squad to make that happen. The spirit of Ibrox will need to be there and thereabouts.