Assistant boss Steven Mackay reckons Elgin City are poised to benefit from several key players returning to bolster their options as they bid to rise up the League Two table.
Former Caley Thistle and Ross County midfielder Ross Draper, who recently signed on loan from Cove Rangers until January, will train this week as he recovers from a knee injury and could be in contention for a debut at Albion Rovers this Saturday.
On-loan Falkirk forward Jaime Wilson is available again after being cup-tied for the weekend’s 4-2 SPFL Trust Trophy loss to Caley Thistle, while defender Matthew Cooper and main striker Kane Hester are closing in on returns.
What a great turnout on Saturday. That was one of the largest crowds at Borough Briggs in years!
It wasn't the result we wanted however, the boys put in a fantastic performance against the championship leaders.
Thank you to all 1348 that turned up 🤍 pic.twitter.com/pDqZuFGUaW
— Elgin City F.C. (@ElginCityFC) October 11, 2021
With the Moray club seventh in the league and five points behind fourth-placed Forfar Athletic, they need to swiftly get the wins required to return to promotion contention.
Mackay explained having such quality waiting in the wings is a real boost for City.
He said: “We have been inconsistent with our performances. We have perhaps deserved more points on the board, but there are very fine margins in League Two.
“We have Ross Draper coming back and he will train on Thursday and he adds to the squad, as does Jaime Wilson, who was cup-tied at the weekend.
“Kane Hester will hopefully be back in the next few weeks, while Matthew Cooper is on his way back.
“Those are four important players for us and that will give us really good options and competition for places and that’s what we want.”
O’Keefe causing defences trouble
With Hester’s hamstring injury keeping him out, winger Conor O’Keefe has taken on the mantle of going up front solo in recent games.
He won the corner which led to Elgin’s opener against the Caley Jags then lined up Brian Cameron for a second searing strike as they threatened an upset.
Mackay rates O’Keefe and reckons the 23-year-old can trouble their opponents when his form peaks.
He said: “Conor has incredible pace. He’s very direct. He’s not a striker and we’ve asked him to move positions and he’s played that role very well. He uses his pace to get in behind and he’s a real asset for us.
“On that form, he’s a big player for us and his pace is incredible. He can cause any defence problems. Hopefully he will continue that form.”
Confident ahead of Coatbridge trip
Last month, Elgin were a whisker away from beating leaders and red-hot title favourites Kelty Hearts and left Stenhousemuir with three points.
Ahead of Saturday’s match against Albion Rovers at Cliftonhill, Mackay is sure the players can deliver another big performance on their travels.
He added: “We’ve had some really good performances away from home lately. We were unlucky not to take three points away to Kelty and we won at Stenhousemuir.
“Myself and (manager) Gavin (Price) talk regularly about how we shape up away from home. It’s important we do that and pick up as many points as we can away from home.
“The disappointment is we’ve not been able to replicate some of that form at home of late.
“We’ve lost to Annan and Stirling Albion, so hopefully we can get a positive result on Saturday before our Scottish Cup tie (away to Clydebank).
“Then we have got home games coming up as we try to convert the performances into points.”
Elgin’s 2-0 lead against Championship leaders Caley Thistle was turned around by two late first half goals from Billy Mckay, who completed his hat-trick after the break before Lewis Jamieson’s strike made it 4-2.
Billy Mckay buried half chances
The Elgin City number two admitted the Northern Ireland forward’s killer touch was too hot to handle.
He added: “You give Billy Mckay any kind of space in the box and he’ll punish you. He’s done that throughout his career.
“We got off to the perfect start. The boys executed our plan perfectly by frustrating Caley Thistle and hitting them on the break.
“We got the two goals and it would have been nice to get in at half-time with the two-goal cushion, however, it wasn’t to be and Billy on that form is so difficult to play against. He was the difference between the teams.
“You always want to take the positives from any game. We learned a lot, including the boys being really disciplined in keeping their shape, frustrating Caley Thistle then having the confidence to commit men forward and take our opportunities. How we took the game to them and attacked are certainly positives.
“Defensively, we need to be more alert. In League Two, we won’t come across a Billy Mckay and we’d maybe get away with it, but we were not sharp enough and Billy was the first to react to situations.
“Two of his goals were only half chances – they were really good finishes with his left foot. We need to work harder at stopping crosses getting into our box.”
Goal is to boost home numbers
Despite the result, Elgin fans lapped up the entertainment and Mackay hopes turning strong displays into wins will help make the turnstiles click more on a regular basis.
He said: “The atmosphere was excellent. You forget how much you miss crowds of that amount in. To get nearly 1,400 in was amazing. The Elgin and Caley Thistle fans contributed to make it a really good atmosphere.
“We want the crowds at Borough Briggs to be around the 1,000-mark. As performances and results increase, we hope to get more people through the gate.”
- Defender Creag Little has left Elgin to join Darvel on loan until January. The former Stenhousemuir player was signed by manager Gavin Price in the summer on a two-year contract and he’s made 12 appearances for the Moray club. However, his last match was from the bench in a 2-0 home defeat by Annan Athletic on September 18 and he moves to Darvel, who are fifth in the West of Scotland Premier Division, until the New Year.