Brechin City have pulled off an extraordinary turnaround halfway through the season, with their new manager, Ray McKinnon, taking the club from eighth up to fifth, with a game in hand.
It has been a remarkable season for City, with some fantastic results over the course of the first half of the campaign.
City’s competitive season began with a Ramsden Challenge Cup first round clash with Rangers. The match had resulted in Brechin, as a town and a club, being in the media spotlight for the week building up to the fixture as City became the first side to face Rangers since their off-field problems.
Although City didn’t progress to the second round, their performance against the Glasgow side was admirable as they forced them in to extra-time in front of a capacity crowd and BBC Alba television camera.
Brechin’s next cup game, in the Scottish League Cup, couldn’t have been further from their Ramsden’s cup glamour tie as they travelled to take on Stenhousemuir. Two goals in the final ten minutes seen City lose 4-0 - a score line that deeply flattered the Warriors.
City’s first league game of the season against Albion Rovers was the start of Andy Jackson’s scoring campaign as he scored the only goal of the match. Despite only winning 1-0, City had bossed the games and it seemed only a sign of better results to come.
Another trip to face Stenhousemuir awaited city in August and despite a fantastic second half performance, and another goal from Jackson, John Gemmell’s unstoppable free-kicks cost City.
Their final match in August was a home tie against East Fife, and it was Andy Jackson running the show again as the City striker netted two goals to ensure victory.
Brechin hosted second in the league Alloa in September, and Paul Hartley’s men proved exactly why they are one of the favourites for securing a play-off place, as they left Glebe Park with a 3-1 victory – with Jackson once more the scorer for City.
A trip to Forfar was next on the cards for City, and the fans were keen to earn the bragging rights and three points at Station Park. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be and the fans were left fuming at the performance of the referee, who they felt had failed to punish the rough tactics displayed by the home side. New signing Ryan Stewart picked up an injury that would see him on crutches and side-lined for several weeks.
City faced a tough task in their third match of September, when they welcomed league leaders and favourites for the league title, Queen of the South. Despite some good play from City, it wasn’t quite enough to overcome the full-time side who clinched a 3-0 win.
With only one goal scored in three matches, fans were becoming frustrated at the lack of conversion. The chances were there, the goals were not.
City’s final match of the month seen them travel to Ayr, where a 3-0 defeat resulted in manager Jim Weir parting ways with the club. The fans were hoping that his replacement could offer a revival and bring the club a boost.
Former assistant manager Kevin McGowne was caretaker manager for City when they travelled to face Arbroath, whose only defeat in the league so far had come from Queen of the South. It was derby despair again for City, who left Gayfield after a 3-1 defeat. The good news for City, was that another player had opened his scoring account, with David McKenna netting his first league goal of the season.
On October 9, Ray McKinnon was unveiled as City’s new manager, with former City player and Coach Grant Johnson named as his assistant. Fans were keen to see what McKinnon could deliver, and delighted to welcome back Johnson.
In their first match in charge, City hosted Stranraer. It was a debut to be proud of for the management team, as their team fired home three goals, and kept a clean sheet.
City’s next match was another home tie, this time to Stenhousemuir. Their previous matches against the Warriors had not ended well for City, but in what could be one of the performances of the season, they put that to bed. Alan Trouten, who had been injured at the start of the season, set Glebe Park alight as he scored not only his first goal of his City career, but his second and third as well. Derek Carcary had the fans in raptures as he put in a phenomenal performance where he netted a brace, helping City secure an amazing 7-2 victory.
Brechin’s first tie of November was against junior team Bonnyrigg Rose in the third round of the Scottish Communities Cup. Despite Bonnyrigg going 2-0 in front, City showed their composure to pull back the deficit and force a replay.
The replay is where City shone. They put in a dominating, glittering performance that seen them emerge 6-0 winners, and earn their place in the fourth round, where they would meet SPL side, St Mirren. Trouten firmly cemented himself as a new fan favourite as he added two more goals to his tally.
City travelled the next week to face Alloa, and they were looking to extend their unbeaten recorded to five matches. Alloa tried their best to spoil that particular record, as they took a two goal lead, but City fought their way back to 2-2, and their unbeaten run continued.
Next up for City was a mid-week tie away to Albion Rovers. Goals from Jackson and Carcary assured, not only the win, but a sixth match unbeaten. Ray McKinnon was yet to lose as Brechin City manager.
City’s next challenge was a home tie against rivals Forfar. A win would extend City’s unbeaten run to seven matches. The fans were looking for revenge against a side that had beaten them earlier in the season. Two goals from Andy Jackson, and a goal each from Johnny Brown and Kurtis Byrne, secured both. Forfar left Glebe Park with a consolation goal, and City fans were delighted that the 4-1 win seen them leapfrog their neighbours into third position in the league.
City’s performances in November, seen them win two awards. Andy Jackson was the recipient of the Irn-Bru Ginger Boot, as he netted five goals in the month. Manager Ray McKinnon was easily manager of the month for division two, as he guided his side through five matches without suffering a defeat.
Brechin’s anticipated clash against St Mirren was their first match of this month. Away from home, and against a long established SPL side, there was no shame in Brechin not progressing to the fifth round. The commitment, application and work-rate from City was evident on the day, but St Mirren were just too good. It was McKinnon first taste of defeat after eight matches in charge – an impressive record.
Brechin’s tie against Ayr fell afoul of the cold weather, and the rescheduled match, for December 22, fell afoul of the wet weather.
However, in between those scheduled games, Brechin were unfortunate to succumb to their first league defeat since Ray McKinnon’s arrival at the club. Queen of the South were perhaps lucky to win the match, with just one goal separating the sides. City had their chances, but it was just not meant to be for Brechin on the day.
The season so far has had so many memorable matches, that to pick just one match as stand out would be difficult, so The Brechin Advertiser took to Facebook to find which match the fans rated as their favourite so far, and it was a tie between the 7-2 victory over Stenhousemuir and the derby victory over Forfar.
Chloe Barclay said: “For style the 7-2 win but the rangers atmosphere was electric, best I have seen at the glebe and a derby win is always amazing.”
For Callum Wilson, it was an easy choice to make, with the 7-2 win being the stand out performance for him so far this season.
For Jon Bergen, like many others fans, it was the Forfar derby win. Jon said: “4-1 Derby win and hearing Dick whinge. Really great since he thought the ref was so good at Station Park. Love ya Dick but you got those two wrong.”
With a Boxing Day derby against Arbroath, scheduled for today (Wednesday), fans will be keen to see City take to the field again. If the last few months are anything to go by, it’s set to be a cracker.