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Elgin City boss Allan Hale says five more wins can keep them safe

The Black and Whites face a stern test at Spartans, but improved results offer confidence for City's trip to Edinburgh.

Elgin City manager Allan Hale.
Elgin City manager Allan Hale. Image: Robert Crombie

Elgin City manager Allan Hale believes five more victories are required to ensure the Moray club remain in League Two next season.

A season which began with Ross Draper in charge, followed by Barry Smith, has improved by the arrival of Hale and Stefan Laird in December from Highland League side Huntly. 

City were ninth at that point, five points ahead of troubled Clyde, but wins against Peterhead, Stranraer, Clyde and East Fife extended that gap to nine points. 

Despite a 2-0 loss at Bonnyrigg Rose in midweek, Elgin are eighth ahead of travelling to third-placed promotion contenders Spartans this Saturday.

Hale insists Elgin are ‘still in a fight’

While they are one of the league’s most consistent teams right now, Hale insists only hard work behind the scenes then delivering on matchdays will lead to where they need to be – and that’s staying in the fourth-tier.

He said: “We know we’re still in a fight. The objective remains the same as it was when we came in the door, for this year we make sure we stay in the league.

“In order to do that, we need to pick up probably another five wins between now and the end of the season to make sure we’re certain of that.

“We know it will be difficult, but we’ve just got to focus game by game and don’t get too high when we win, or get too low when we lose.

“We’ll put the work in and prepare properly and results will take care of itself as long as we take care of the things we’re in control of.”

Matthew Cooper is sidelined this weekend with a knee injury.

Looking for positive points on road

Elgin’s home compared to away results continue to show a marked difference, with 23 of the 24 league points banked at Borough Briggs.

They are the second best home team in the league behind runaway leaders Stenhousemuir, but the worst performers on away days.

Hale knows that must change for Elgin on their travels to avoid being dragged back into trouble but is careful not to make it too much of a weight on his players’ minds.

He said: “I don’t want to put the players under pressure. I’m not one to focus on the negatives in that sense.

“If our away form replicated our home form, we’d be potentially competing for the promotion play-offs, but we’re not. That’s why we are where we are.

“We need to see a better reaction in terms of body language and belief when we lose the first goal away from home, so we can still do the things we’re asking of them.

“In terms of away results, it has to start from just not losing games. A point away from home, for example, never a bad thing.

“We’re a really difficult team to play against at home and we need to make sure we’re the same away from home.

“Teams around us in the league all pick up positive results away from home and we can’t be reliant on our home form – we’re not going to win every game at home.”

Henderson too good for League Two

Spartans have ex-Caley Thistle and Brora Rangers defensive midfielder Gavin Morrison in their ranks, along with experienced players such as Danny Denholm and James Craigen.

However, the firepower of ex-Berwick Rangers, Stirling Albion, Annan Athletic and Edinburgh City striker Blair Henderson, with 16 goals in 27 outings this term, makes him a real threat, having already shown his class against City.

Hale clearly rates the forward, but says threats lie in wait in more ways than one at Spartans, including a respected rival in the opposite dug-out.

He said: “Blair scored a hat-trick against us (in a 4-0 City defeat on December 16) in our second game since coming in. He was excellent that day – the best player on the park.

“For me, he’s someone that should and could be playing a couple of leagues above League Two. He’s big, quick and strong. His link-up play is very good, but he can finish as well.

“Over the years, he’s been a proven goalscorer. Players such Blair, especially in the lower leagues, are so valuable.

Spartans manager Dougie Samuel after his Lowland League champions were promoted to the SPFL by beating Albion Rovers in the League Two play-off final last May.  Image: SNS

Spartans boss deserves huge credit

“We’ll need to try and keep him quiet, but Spartans have a lot of good players in their team, and I have a lot of respect for their manager Dougie Samuel.

“He’s been there 12 years and if you compare where the club is now compared to when he came in,

“Dougie deserves most of the credit for the work he’s done. They’ve stepped up (as Lowland League champions via the play-offs last year) and they’re one of the better sides. I’ve respect for Dougie and his backroom staff.

“We know we’re in for a difficult game there on Saturday, but we also know we’re an improved side from the last time we played them. We want to put in a performance that indicates that.”

This Saturday, captain Mathew Cooper misses out due to a knee injury, while midfielder Rory MacEwan remains sidelined with a groin injury.