Tuesday 25 July 2017, 19.45, Ainslie Park
Scottish League Cup action as Edinburgh City of League Two face Premier League side Motherwell.
A second visit to Ainslie Park already after attending the Spartans v East Fife friendly earlier in July. With Edinburgh City sharing with Spartans while Meadowbank is being redeveloped, it was the first time we’d seen City as the home team there.
Our second League Cup group stage game and this time it’s in Group F. Along with Edinburgh City and Motherwell are Berwick Rangers, Morton and Queens Park.
Edinburgh City started their League Cup campaign with a 2-2 draw at home to Berwick Rangers, earning a bonus point for winning the penalty shoot-out, and then they lost 3-0 at Queens Park. They sat fourth in the five team group. Motherwell had won 5-1 at Queens Park and 4-0 at home to Morton and sat top of the group with maximum points.
We last saw Edinburgh City in April, when they lost out in the final of the East Of Scotland (City) Cup Final to Lothian Hutchison Vale. Manager Gary Jardine has presided over a lot of changes in the summer.
The retirements of captain Dougie Gair and defender Joe Mbu were big losses. The departures don’t end there though, with Neil Martyniuk, Ouzy See, Ian McFarland, Dean Cummings, Andrew Stobie, Ross Guthrie, Serge Makofo, Derek Riordan, Nico Gibson, Mark McConnell and Gordon Donaldson all leaving.
Coming into the club were strikers Ashley Grimes from Southport, Lewis Allan on loan from Hibs and Sauchie Juniors’ Moses Olanrejawu. In defence, Gareth Rodger from Brechin City, Sean Mackie on loan from Hibs and Berwick Rangers’ David Verlaque have signed up along with full backs Calum Hall, another loanee from Hibs, and Zdravko Karadachki from Scarborough SC in Canada. Midfielder Craig Thomson has also joined from Kelty Hearts.
It’s a second sighting of Motherwell this season, having taken in their 2-0 win at Stirling Albion in a friendly.
Central defender Cédric Kipré, who played as a trialist in that friendly, has now signed for the club. Winger Dom Thomas has left. On the day of the game, Well also signed young striker George Newell following his release from Bolton Wanderers.
With a big crowd expected, we got down to Ainslie Park early. Edinburgh City had tweeted that the car park would not be available and with the stand being very small, somewhere to park and a seat were seen as priorities. It was interesting to see that even the Motherwell team bus wasn’t allowed into the car park and the players were forced to get off outside and make their own way in. Upon arriving at the ground we saw that there were actual turnstiles in place, rather than someone just taking your money at the gate. The gates didn’t open when they were supposed to however, as they had no change. After a short delay and a few false starts, we got in.
It was surprising to see that one side of the ground was cordoned off, perhaps to prevent fans haranguing those in the dug outs, and that the area behind one goal was also inaccessible, beyond the stand. With nobody allowed to stand in front of the seated area, it was likely to get very busy. And it did. Although I have seen many bigger crowds in the ground, that had always been with unfettered access. The stand became full, and many were crammed in the remaining space. There also didn’t seem to be enough wheelchair space and in the end, there was at least one partly blocking the stairs. I had been surprised when the game had not been made all ticket.
The vast majority in the ground were supporting the away side and it was hard to spot any home fans from where I was. There were a total of 970 at the game.With just 30 seconds gone, a poor back header by a city defender sent Bowman clean through on goal, but the striker made a poor connection and the ball ran straight to the arms of Antell.
Well were having plenty of the ball in the opening stages, probing for an opening against the well drilled City rearguard.
As supporters continued to arrive, the stewards decided to open the other end behind the goal with 6 minutes of the game played, so for the next couple of minutes I have no idea what happened on the pitch as hundreds trooped past the stand.
In 9 minutes, MacLean had a shot at the City goal from the edge of the box, but it lacked the power to trouble Antell.
Some good play by Frear on the left in 10 minutes saw him cross into the City box for Fisher, but his header was straight at Antell.
A minute later and Fisher chased a ball into the box and shot for goal from the left hand side, but the City keeper was there again.
Harrison was a bit short with a City pass back in 12 minutes, but Antell was out quickly to clear.
Well continued to press and Frear’s cross from the left in 14 minutes was headed onto the top of the net by Fisher.
Frear made room to cross in 20 minutes and found Fisher but under pressure, he couldn’t get power in his shot.
City’s Allan required treatment in 22 minutes before continuing.
Another Well cross from the left, this time by Bowman in 31 minutes, was right on the head of Fisher but he almost missed it completely and glanced the ball well wide. He may have been put off by a defender jumping in front of him.
In a rare City attack in 34 minutes, Olanrewaju found Laird on the edge of the box. Rather than shooting himself, he tried a pass inside the box, but it ran behind.
Some good work by Frear down the left for Well in 41 minutes saw him reach the by-line and he headed towards goal before seeing his cross blocked. The ball came back to him and he struck for goal, but Antell was well placed to take the ball in his arms.
Just before half time MacLean passed to McMillan on the right. His cross was perfect for Fisher, but his header again landed on the top of the net, rather than in it.
Still 0-0 at the break and City would have been pleased to get there without conceding. It had been pretty much one way traffic and only a poor final ball and poor finishing (along with some decent defending) had prevented Motherwell being out of sight.
Well made two changes at the interval to try and get the breakthrough.
Cadden burst down the right for Well in 49 minutes and put the ball across the City six-yard box, but it was inches away from the strikers in the middle.
A Motherwell corner in 54 minutes taken by Cadden saw Kipré throw himself at the ball, but it was just out of reach.
Frear hit a fine strike at the City goal in 56 minutes from the left hand side of the box, but Antell parried well and the defence cleared.
Cadden went down under challenge in the City box in 57 minutes, but it would have been very soft if the referee had given a penalty.
City’s Thomson was booked in 61 minutes for a late tackle on Frear at the half way line.
A cross into the City box in 65 minutes by MacLean found the head of Fisher whose looping header looked to have broken the deadlock, but Antell managed a great fingertip save to turn the ball over the bar when it looked as if it was past him.
More good work by Frear on the left in 68 minutes saw his cross headed spectacularly behind by a City defender.
Two Motherwell fans sat behind us began to debate the merits of a replay, clearly not quite understanding the format of the competition.
City’s Walker showed good composure in his own box in 70 minutes to make some room and then play the ball forward to half way where he found Grimes. Suddenly, it was one against one as Grimes controlled the ball and faced McManus. He knocked the ball past the defender and ran towards the Well goal and as Carson came out to meet him, he slipped the ball past the keeper and into the net to give City an unlikely lead.
In 75 minutes, a Frear cross was flicked on by Fisher and Cadden expertly side footed a volley into the back of the net to give Well a quick equaliser.
Cadden was causing the City defence real problems and he put another dangerous ball across the face of the goal in 77 minutes, but again, nobody could get a touch.
When Cadden had a poor cross which went behind the goal in 80 minutes, one of the two fans behind claimed that it was due to the window frame of one of the houses behind the goal which was painted white. Apparently, it was catching his eye as he went to cross the ball. Certainly the first time we’d heard this.
City’s Allan had to come off through injury in 84 minutes.
With 3 minutes left, City’s Mackie picked up the game’s second booking of the night after a challenge on Cadden, although it hadn’t looked like he had touched him from where I was.
As we reached 90 minutes, Cadden went down the right again and put another low ball into the middle. Antell dived at the ball, but only got a slight touch, and it fell to the feet of Frear who had the simple task of knocking it into the net to put Well in front.
As we moved into added time, McHugh saw his low shot at the City goal saved by Antell and smothered at the second attempt.
There was still time for another Well chance, with Frear’s ball into the middle coming to Fisher who had time to position himself to hit it with his side foot, but he put it wide.
Full time in a game which Well had dominated from start to finish, but only a late goal prevented them from dropping points. Just as City started to dream after the opening goal, Well grabbed a leveller and they looked a better side when they added reinforcements at half time.
Antell had a good game in the City goal and handled the ball well, but would have been disappointed with his part in the winner. Although there weren’t really any saves that produced the remarkable, other than the one he tipped over, he kept his goal well. Some admirable defending gave them a chance in the game.
For Well Frear and Cadden (when he came on) were the stand outs, with their wing play not met with similar skill from team mates, with Fisher in particular wasteful in front of goal.
On the balance of play, it would have been a travesty if Motherwell hadn’t won, but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the hosts after their battling performance.
Full Time: Edinburgh City 1 Motherwell 2
Edinburgh City: 1 Calum Antell, 2 Jordan Caddow, 23 David Verlaque, 4 Shaun Harrison, 26 Sean Mackie, 5 Josh Walker, 6 Marc Laird, 7 Craig Thompson, 11 Ashley Grimes (Glackin 71), 27 Lewis Allan (Beattie 84), 16 Moses Olanrewaju (McClung 58). Subs: 10 Craig Beattie, 17 Reece Glackin, 18 Matthew Downie, 19 Michael Barfoot, 20 Fraser Morton, 24 Kyle McClung.
Motherwell: 1 Trevor Carson, 25 Jack McMillan, 21 Cédric Kipré, 6 Stephen McManus, 18 Charles Dunne, 26 Ross MacLean (Cadden 46), 8 Carl McHugh, 15 Andrew Rose (Bigirimana 71), 11 Elliot Frear, 17 Alex Fisher, 12 Ryan Bowman (Tanner 46). Subs: 2 Richard Tait, 5 Gael Bigirimana, 7 Chris Cadden, 13 Russell Griffiths, 22 Allan Campbell, 24 George Newell, 27 Craig Tanner.
Referee: Gavin Duncan