Kane Hester underlined his importance to Elgin City as his hat-trick earned the Moray side a 3-0 home win over Albion Rovers – their first victory of the League Two season.
Two quickfire goals from Hester put City in control by midway through the first half after what had been a decent start from the visitors.
The striker bagged his treble less than a minute into the second half with another ice-cool finish to rule out any realistic chance of a Coatbridge comeback.
That takes the 26-year-old’s early season tally to seven goals and he’s well on track to reach his target of 20 after successive seasons of 19s.
47’ Goallll Hatrick for Hester goal number 3 as he put its home for city’s 3rd of the day 3-0 pic.twitter.com/JTCZfF6xqk
— Elgin City F.C. (@ElginCityFC) August 14, 2021
City, fresh from their 2-1 SPFL Trust Trophy win against Hibs Colts in midweek, made three changes.
There was a debut for 19-year-old Dundee United graduate defender Nathan Cooney, who is on loan until January. Boss Gavin Price was delighted to get that deal done in time for kick-off.
Attacking midfielder Brian Cameron returned from injury, while Tony Dingwall was promoted from the bench.
Kick off here at BB ⚫️⚪️ pic.twitter.com/H5ZA4qESzJ
— Elgin City F.C. (@ElginCityFC) August 14, 2021
Young on-loan ICT defender Harry Nicolson, midfielder Joel MacBeath and forward Josh Peters made way for the incoming trio.
Rovers manager Brian Reid made one change from the team which salvaged a 2-2 draw at the death against Stenhousemuir a week ago as Lewis Wilson came in for Charlie Reilly.
The visitors arrived in the north with four points on the board thanks to that result last week as well as a fine opening day 2-0 victory over Edinburgh City.
On hunt for first league win
Elgin were wasteful in their opening two league games, sharing four goals with Stranraer then losing 3-1 at Cowdenbeath before that midweek cup success in Edinburgh, which earned them a shot at Dunfermline Athletic on September 4.
On the eve of this match, Dundee-based Elgin assistant manager Keith Gibson announced he will be stepping down at the end of the month, with the regular commute the reason for the decision.
He was on the touchline today though, urging the strong-looking line-up to deliver the goods and get their league campaign clicking.
With the rain tipping down, the first chance fell to Albion as Rory MacEwan gave away possession, but raced back in time to prevent Kyle Doherty from shooting, with a timely tackle.
It was an open encounter, with Rovers showing attacking intent, but Elgin neat, tidy and sharp too.
The deadlock was broken on 17 minutes and it stemmed from a surge down the park from Connor O’Keefe.
Quick-fire double from deadly Hester
Neat work from that attack lined up Hester, who spun away from James McGowan before steering a classy finish beyond Cameron Binnie into the net.
It took a deflection off Aldin El-Zubaidi on the way in, but it was sharp-thinking from Hester to go for goal.
And, just five minutes later, Hester slotted a second goal into the net after the red-hot striker latched on to a superb pass from MacEwan.
Hester was in the mood and Elgin, overall, were keen to try and put this game to bed as they upped the tempo as the rain briefly gave way to sunshine.
Hester almost claimed his hat-trick on 35 minutes when he got another sniff at goal, but Binnie did just enough to keep hold of it.
Albion showed danger at times
A header from James McGowan from a Scott Roberts corner just cleared the crossbar as Albion reminded everyone they were still in this match.
Then Declan Byrne, frustrated by his team-mates’ hesitance to shoot, fired one in himself, which needed a powerful save from Thomas McHale to keep out.
Albion finished on the front foot at the end of the first half, but Elgin would have been well pleased to have earned their two-goal lead with some smashing football.
Any hopes, however, of a fightback from the Coatbridge side were crushed less than 60 seconds after the break when deadly Hester tucked the ball away after Cameron played him through.
Tony Dingwall should have added a fourth when he met a cut-back from O’Keefe, but he blazed the ball high over the top.
Rovers used all their outfield subs before the midway point of the second half and, although it led to more time in Elgin’s half, City stood strong to earn their first clean sheet as well as league win of the season.
This result pushes Elgin up to mid-table above their opponents on goal difference and they will seek to build upon this next weekend when they are home to Forfar Athletic, while Albion host Annan Athletic.
ELGIN CITY (4-4-2): McHale 6, Cooney 6, Spark 6, McHardy 6, Little 6, MacEwan 6 (MacPhee 60), Russell Dingwall 7, Cameron 7 (Peters 75), Hester 9 (Allen 83), Tony Dingwall 6 (Mailer 75), O’Keefe 7 (Sopel 83). Subs not used: Hoban (GK), Lawrence, MacBeath, Nicolson.
ALBION ROVERS (4-4-2): Binnie 6, Lynas 6, Leslie 6, El-Zubaidi 6 (Robinson 62), McGowan 6, Callum Wilson 6 (Fagan 52), Roberts 7, David Wilson 6, Doherty 6 (Stevenson 52), Byrne 7, Lewis Wilson 6 (Dolan 52). Subs not used: Smith (GK).
REFEREE: Steven Reid 6.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Kane Hester.