By Lewis Michie
Last week we started this series of articles, which will look at both sides we think could be in for a successful 19/20 season, and some other sides who might currently be a bit worried. We started with Dumbarton in League One, who we’ve tipped to make a title challenge. Now we are looking at a team who as of right now, we believe might struggle next season.
We’ve picked League Two’s Elgin City…
Elgin City didn’t start the season all that badly. Within their first 15 league games they were sitting in the play-off spots, and while they’d won just under half of their games at that point – seven – and were quite clearly adrift of the teams ahead of them, they were very much battling away for that final play-off position, sitting one point ahead of Annan Athletic who would eventually claim it quite comfortably.
In Elgin’s last nine games of the season they’d only pick up four points, and those all came in the final two games – firstly with a 1-1 draw against Edinburgh City, who’d experienced a drop in form of their own. And then beating Berwick Rangers on the final day. Berwick were the only team with worse form in the final nine games of the campaign, gathering three points, were already confined to bottom spot and unless they overturn a 4-0 deficit to Cove Rangers this weekend, they’ll be relegated.
Part of this massive decline can most probably be put down to the departure of Shane Sutherland in January. The 28 year old striker departed to re-join the eventual champions Peterhead and despite plenty other players finishing the season with over one thousand more minutes in Elgin’s black and white, Sutherland finished the season as their top goalscorer with 11.
Brian Cameron and Darryl McHardy – a central midfielder and central defender respectively – were the joint second top scorers with nine each, Greg Morrison – on loan from Ross County was the top scoring striker with six.
A worrying suggestion for the Elgin faithful is despite that making particularly worrying reading in regards to the options going forward, things aren’t that fantastic looking defensively either. No team outside of the top four scored more than Elgin, although three more teams would have had Sutherland not been around – like he won’t be next term.
Only Albion Rovers and Berwick Rangers conceded more than Elgin last season, the only two teams that finished below Gavin Price’s team. In fact Albion only let in four more goals, despite starting the season looking dead on for finishing bottom and finishing sixteen points adrift of City.
Obviously we’ve pinpointed that City had a disappointing second half to the season, which directly combined with Sutherland’s departure, however, as much as City struggled after Sutherland left Borough Briggs – had the season started the day he left, Elgin actually would have finished 7th, one place further ahead than they actually did finish – although things were all very tight with Queen’s Park and Cowdenbeath both also picking up 18 points in that period, Albion Rovers gathering one point less, and Berwick far adrift gathering 13 points less than City.
While the second half of the season wouldn’t suggest Elgin might be in massive trouble next term, should Berwick go down, they’d be replaced by Cove Rangers, an arguably far stronger team, in which case City could, on the evidence of the final half of this season, find themselves in a battle to avoid bottom spot.
This would build a fairly strong case for Elgin to make a few changes in the summer, but in reality, early signs suggest Gavin Price might be looking to keep his squad together.
Loanees Greg Morrison, Ross MacIver and Kyle Gourlay have all been released by their parent clubs and City have reportedly offered them all contracts. While Morrison is still young and did score more than any other strikers currently contracted by City, the last campaign would create worries than he cannot replace Sutherland’s goals.
Former Stirling University player Rory MacEwan has joined up, and while that bolsters the attacking players, the 21 year old adds to an already youthful squad – with just two of last season’s squad over the age of 30. Some experience could come in very handy should a battle near the bottom develop.
So more signings, preferably with a bit more age and experience could be required this summer, Price has admitted to the Press & Journal recently that they are looking to get transfer business done early – With a few central belt based players on the scouting agenda.
I had a few meetings last week down in Glasgow. There are a few players at other clubs I’m looking to try to get in.
We will hopefully get two of these in this week. There are still some negotiations to go with some of the other guys at the club. We are hoping we will be able to keep some of them.”
Who could be crucial for Elgin next season? Two players that could have big parts to play are Captain Darryl McHardy and striker Kane Hester. We are sure McHardy would give up some of the goals he’s been putting in the net to improve Elgin’s defensive record, meanwhile 23 year old Hester will want to improve his output of three goals last season – albeit on limited minutes. He joined for free in January from now Championship club Arbroath, where last summer we spoke to multiple Arbroath fans that were big supporters of Hester – so if he is to fulfil his full potential, he could be a handful in League Two.
Ultimately, the bottom end of League Two is never easy to predict, but Elgin City will need to avoid picking up where they left off come August, instead aiming to improve at both ends of the pitch, otherwise they could be mixing it up at the wrong end of the division next season.
That’s Elgin City and Dumbarton covered, we are looking to write a season preview for every team Championship-League Two this summer, and ideally want to include input from actual supporters in these articles. If you can provide some insight on your club, send a DM to @NE98FT on Twitter.