Elgin City manager Gavin Price reckons this season has been like no other in terms of challenges for the League 2 club.
A Covid outbreak came hot on the heels of the play-off defeat by Edinburgh City which all but put paid to pre-season plans.
It took time for players to get up to speed after the impact of the virus and an injury list to key men hampered Price and his staff all season.
Form has been hugely inconsistent and they find themselves safe from relegation, but eighth in the table with only Cowdenbeath to face on Saturday before finishing at Stranraer next week.
Covid and injuries so costly for City
Price admits it has been a campaign packed with sore lessons, which he is already putting to good use for next term.
He said: “Covid has been pivotal in what’s happened this season and I take my share of the blame.
“We started pre-season too late after reaching the play-offs and we had the Covid outbreak where we closed down the club for two weeks.
“We never really had a pre-season and it had a knock-on effect, not just in terms of a poor start, but players took time to get back to form.
“Also, we’ve never had an injury list like this season and I mean long-term injuries to key players Brian Cameron, Matthew Cooper, Kane Hester, Euan Spark, Darryl McHardy and Jevan Anderson.
“They’ve missed substantial part of the season and it’s mean people overplaying.
You have to keep learning in football and I’ve probably learned more this season than I have in previous years.
“Preparation is the key and there will be no stone unturned next season.”
Blue Brazil are dangerous opponents
Saturday’s visitors are five games unbeaten after four draws and a win at Annan as they get set to face Highland League champions Fraserburgh or Lowland League winners Bonnyrigg Rose in the play-off final on May 7 and 14.
He added: “Cowdenbeath’s form has been strong of late. We expect a tough game as they will be looking to prepare for their play-off games.
This Saturday is our final home game of the Season as we host Cowdenbeath F.C. at Borough Briggs
Tickets are available here https://t.co/fBNOyjNl0J
Live Stream will only be £4.99 with no commentary 📺 Available via https://t.co/ZJJdqFs4Z7
C’mon the City 🖤 pic.twitter.com/iDlIzPqIS9
— Elgin City F.C. (@ElginCityFC) April 21, 2022
“But we have six points to play for and we’re looking to put on a good performance. It has been a frustrating season for everyone, supporters included.
“I firmly believe we started and are finishing the season with a good enough squad to have been challenging, but we want to finish on a high. It’s not holiday-time for us as we look to catch the teams above us.”
On-loan Aberdeen defender Evan Towler is added to the injury list for Saturday, alongside Euan Spark, Jevan Anderson, Finn Allen.
Price is working away on player contracts and hopes to have more announcements soon, following on from Rory MacEwan signing a new deal last week.