Here we look at Elgin City’s 2020/21 season, which saw the team finish third in League Two and miss out on promotion via the play-offs at the semi-final stage.
The Moray club will regroup and go again after missing out on possible promotion to League One following their 3-2 aggregate play-off defeat against bogey side Edinburgh City on Tuesday night.
Like all senior lower divisions, the league campaign which was sliced to 22-fixtures due to the pandemic.
Winning starts…until meeting Edinburgh
The leagues started on October 17 and Gavin Price’s Elgin got off to a flier, winning 4-1 at Stranraer thanks to a double from Russell Dingwall and goals from Kane Hester and Conor O’Keefe.
Hester bagged a brace in a 3-0 win a week later against Brechin City, with Bryan Cameron also on the scoresheet.
Their first set-back came against Edinburgh City on Halloween when a Gabby McGill goal earned the hosts a 1-0 win, stretching their unbeaten run over Elgin to seven matches.
Trio of wins lifted the Black and Whites
Early title favourites Queen’s Park added to that loss, winning 1-0 at Borough Briggs. However, wins over Stirling, Cowdenbeath and Annan Athletic reversed a mini-slump, which included cup defeats.
A 3-1 defeat at Albion Rovers was followed by a 2-0 win over Stenhousemuir. Football was shut down amid a fresh lockdown from Boxing Day.
Slow return before nine points from nine
When football at this level returned in March, Edinburgh City were waiting for them and returned to the capital with a 2-1 victory.
A 1-1 draw with Stirling Albion was followed by wins over Brechin, Annan Athletic and Stranraer as we reached Easter.
Wake-up call dished out by Albion Rovers
There were real fears that Elgin, who were third when the 2019/20 season was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic, were set to miss out on the promotion play-offs after three sore scores within a 10-day period in April.
Defeats against Cowdenbeath and Stenhousemuir were bad enough but the tipping point was the 5-2 thumping by Albion Rovers.
That rout by Rovers, which pushed Elgin to just outside the top four, led to clear-the-air talks within the squad and they barely looked back.
Striking back to form at the right time
They stopped the rout with a gutsy goalless draw against Queen’s Park at the Falkirk Stadium, a result which was enough to confirm the Spiders as league champions.
Elgin then beat Stranraer 4-1 at Stair Park for the second time this season then swept to an impressive 3-1 home win over Stirling Albion.
That was two big wins over two play-off rivals, who had picked up precious victories when Elgin were the idle side in the top half split which was agreed by the SPFL to take the fixture schedule to 22 games.
A 2-0 defeat at old foes Edinburgh on May 1 left Elgin still needing a positive result in their last regular fixture – at home to league winners Queen’s Park.
Champions sunk by Hester treble and the promotion dream was on
A hat-trick from Kane Hester, the division’s top scorer with 19 goals in all competitions, earned Elgin a thrilling 3-2 win and they finished third, level on 38 points with Edinburgh, who they were to meet in the play-off semis.
Stranraer, who were fourth, were lined up to take on Dumbarton, who were the second bottom club in League One.
Edinburgh hurdles awaited in the play-offs
It was not to be for Elgin though as, despite a fine performance at home to Edinburgh on Saturday, Josh Campbell’s goal gave the Citizens the first leg lead.
A front-foot approach at Ainslie Park saw Elgin cause Edinburgh problems and Darryl McHardy, who just signed a two-year extension last week, scored from two headers, with Danny Handling’s goal in between those goals making it 2-2 on aggregate.
Under a torrential downpour in the second half, these teams went toe-to-toe and it seemed certain that extra-time was on the cards.
However, Josh Campbell’s superb strike earned Edinburgh the overall victory with just two minutes to go. It was a cruel ending from what was a promising position.
There just seems no way past Edinburgh for Elgin. That’s now 11 games since the Black and Whites beat them (in August 2018).
Gary Naysmith’s team will face Dumbarton over the two final legs next Monday and Thursday after the Sons edged past Stranraer 1-0.
Betfred Cup ups and downs
In the Betfred Cup, which got the competitive action underway last October, Elgin was placed in Group D with Ross County, Arbroath, Stirling Albion and Montrose.
City finished third in that pool, with wins over Stirling and Montrose, but defeats against County and Arbroath.
Strolling in Scottish Cup then Ayr arrived
In the Scottish Cup, Elgin began with a 4-0 stroll against Civil Service Strollers on Boxing Day, but were knocked out at the next stage by losing by the same scoreline against Championship side Ayr United. All the goals in that tie came in the first half, so the defeat could have been worse.