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Ross Draper targets upward curve for Elgin City next season

The experienced defender is determined to round off the campaign with a win against a Clyde side who are still at risk of the play-offs.

Elgin City defender Ross Draper.
Elgin City's Ross Draper. Image: SNS

Ross Draper wants to continue playing for Elgin City next season – but with the club competing at the top end of League Two.

For the past two years, the Moray club have been part of the relegation equation deep into their campaign.

However, since manager Allan Hale and assistant Stefan Laird arrived from Highland League side Huntly in December, Elgin have banked enough points to get themselves safe.

City’s 1-1 draw a fortnight ago against second-top Peterhead, which 35-year-old Draper scored in, made sure they would avoid finishing bottom in the pyramid play-off.

The ex-Inverness and Ross County star also netted last week in the 2-2 draw at third-placed Dumbarton.

Suspension rules the midfielder-turned-defender out of Saturday’s home clash with Ian McCall’s second-bottom Clyde, who will need a positive result should basement rivals Stranraer beat champions Stenhousemuir.

For Elgin, a home win, allied with Forfar Athletic losing at Bonnyrigg, would see them move up one position to finish sixth.

The campaign began with 2015 Scottish Cup winner Draper in charge at Elgin City, as he replaced long-serving boss Gavin Price as the player/manager.

However, the dual role was a tough challenge for Draper, who stepped down, and, by September, Barry Smith was the manager.

However, the former Dundee and Alloa Athletic boss then left after two months due to increased work commitments.

Hale has Elgin playing on ‘front foot’

All in, Draper has played 36 games this term, and intends to be at Borough Briggs as a player as long as Hale wants him.

He said: “I have got another year and I have spoken to the gaffer recently in general and hopefully there is a will to want me to continue next year.

“As long as I’m contributing and bringing something to the party, then I want to work with the gaffer going forward. I want to be part of it, in terms of playing and coaching.

“The gaffer and Stefan have been brilliant in having me involved. They have done a terrific job since coming in and been really positive and tried to have the team playing on the front foot.

“They made good additions in January, who have really contributed.

“It’s going to be a big summer for the club in terms of recruitment, which will be a big aspect going into next season.

“I still enjoy playing week in, week out.

” I wanted to play. That was the reason for me stepping back (from management).

“I maybe didn’t fully appreciate just how big a job it would be to combine playing and coaching and doing all that myself.

“I knew I’d regret stopping playing. As long as I can contribute then and as long as the gaffer wants me, then I’ll stay and continue to play.”

Ross Draper in action against Caley Thistle. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.

Highland League not for us – Draper

Battling in the lower reaches of League Two is tough and Draper feels the prospect of Elgin dropping back into the Highland League doesn’t bear thinking about as they plot a promotion push.

He said: “There is no getting away from it – this club would struggle back in the Highland League.

“I don’t agree with how hard it is for the Highland League or Lowland League champions to reach League Two, with all the work you have to do, and having to play four games to gain promotion.

“It’s so tough – as we have seen over the past week with Buckie Thistle (not being allowed to contest the play-offs due to having no bronze SFA licence).

“This club doesn’t want to be there and having to face all that. The club isn’t considering that, and we want to really kick on.

“The gaffer has been so positive since he’s arrived and there is a real belief next season can be a really good one for this club.

“If we get that right, in line with the budget – which will be tough – there is no reason why we can’t kick on. We don’t want to be looking over our shoulders again.”

Clyde manager Ian McCall. Image: SNS.

Elgin will treat Clyde with respect

Under McCall, Clyde – who were bottom for much of the season – have picked up points and a head of steam to overtake Stranraer and head to Moray knowing a win will keep them safe.

Stranraer, who are two points below them, face league winners Stenny, who have, incredibly, drawn their last eight matches.

Draper is wary of Clyde, but says Elgin will be giving their all to secure a win for themselves.

He added: “Clyde have had a gradual improvement. They have got themselves into a good position.

“They had been steadily creeping towards Stranraer in recent weeks.

“We’ll treat the game with full respect and won’t take Clyde lightly. We want three points to finish sixth.

“We’ve trained twice this week and not had time off. We’re treating it properly, as you should, as there is a lot at stake for Stranraer as well as Clyde.

“Stenny, I think played their same team against the bottom three sides recently and we will be going out for the win.

“As much as anything, we want to win this game for ourselves. If that means Clyde finish bottom, so be it. We have to try and win the game and finish with three points.”