Missing out on the promotion play-offs by just two points was a bitter pill to swallow for Elgin City last term, but after a marquee summer signing and an impressive League Cup display against Heart of Midlothian, things are looking up again.
Ladbrokes News sat down with classy midfielder Chris Dodd, to get the view from inside the Elgin camp. So, here’s his take on everything from the club’s Ladbrokes League 2 aims, to his fondness for the Borough Briggs faithful, and much more…
Ladbrokes News: Obviously last season ended in frustrating fashion, with Elgin missing out on the promotion play-offs by two points. What pleased you about the performances last season, and where do you feel the team maybe fell just short?
Chris Dodd: I think we lost the rhythm of the team when Shane Sutherland did his cruciate ligament in March. Losing him had a very detrimental affect on the team, and we didn’t win another game after he suffered that injury.
Shane had scored 24 goals up to that point, and we hadn’t hit a bad patch of form at all. I thought we were excellent for a lot of the campaign, and so it was very frustrating that we couldn’t cement that play-off place.
But that’s done now, and we just need to make sure that Elgin are challenging for promotion again this season.
LN: Elgin had an excellent record at home, with eventual title-winners Arbroath managing only a point more at their own place. What were the factors behind that? And how big of a part were the Borough Briggs faithful play?
CD: We weren’t too bad on the road, but you’re right, we are much stronger on our own patch. The fans play an enormous part. Elgin have got one of the biggest fanbases in the league, and we’re lucky to have them. They always get behind the team, and that makes a huge difference, especially in tight games.
LN: Fast-forwarding to now, you’ve just come off the back of two League Cup games. The first – a 6-0 defeat to Dunfermline Athletic – was obviously disappointing, but City impressed against Premiership Heart of Midlothian, losing just 1-0. What positives can you take from that match?
CD: You try and learn something from every game. We went into the Dunfermline match on the back of good pre-season performances against Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ross County. But the game at East End Park was very tough.
Everyone in our side was very impressed with Dunfermline. They were sharp, they knocked the ball about brilliantly and they took full advantage of the fact we weren’t at our best.
I think we took the lessons from that match into the meeting with Hearts. Our organisation in defence was much better, and they had few chances. I think we were unlucky to not take it to penalties, at least.
LN: Obviously the bread and butter remains League 2. You touched on promotion earlier. Are you confident of making the top four, and how would you assess Elgin’s title chances?
CD: I think I’ll have a much better idea of that when we’ve had about a month of the league season, because it’s difficult to judge beforehand.
One other factor is getting Shane Sutherland back. He’s some way off returning to the side yet, but his rehabilitation’s going well and it’s just a case of taking it a week at a time. For now though, we’re focused on giving the best service to the guys who are filling in for Shane.
We’ve definitely strengthened and if everyone stays fit, there’s no reason making the play-offs shouldn’t be doable.
For now, I’m not thinking about the title, because it’s such a long way off. But I’m confident going into the season, and if we continue to learn as it goes on, then we’ll be there or thereabouts!
LN: All the best to Shane in his recovery. As for the other sides in League 2, who do you think will be strong challengers this term?
CD: I think one of the things that made League 2 so exciting last year was that a lot of teams are very similar in terms of quality. So I don’t think we’ll see anyone running away with it.
Clyde have strengthened again, as have Montrose, who have a very different squad to last season. Then there’s also the teams who have come down. Stenhousemuir are a decent side, and Peterhead have a top-class goalscorer in Rory McAllister.
LN: You’ve had several new additions at Borough Briggs this summer, but the most eye-catching is probably Jon-Paul McGovern from Clyde, who played for the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons. What will he bring to the table?
CD: JP will obviously give us great experience, in what is a pretty young squad. He had a very successful career down south and played at a really high level. I think we lacked the nous in closing games out last season, and that’s something he’ll be a huge benefit in. He’s a very smart, controlled operator.
In and around the dressing room, from a personal view, I’m also really happy to have JP here. We’ve got along really well, and I just think all-round that it’s a great piece of business from the gaffer.
LN: Last but not least, next in the calendar is a trip to East Fife in the League Cup. City won 2-0 on the last visit there in 2016. But how do you feel going into this next clash, and what approach are we likely to see tactically from Elgin?
CD: I think the next two games – East Fife and Peterhead – are games we can both realistically win. The focus in each match will be on trying to get the victory, so while I can’t say exactly what we’ll look like tactically, you certainly won’t see us sitting back too much if the game’s level.
Bayview is a good pitch for being creative – it’s a big surface, and I think that suits the way we play, so I’m feeling positive about the trip to Methil.
Elgin City are fourth-favourites to lift the League 2 title this season, at odds of 9/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing