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Elgin City manager Allan Hale targets 40 points for League 2 safety and wants his injury-hit squad to make progress towards that total by defeating Spartans at Borough Briggs

By Craig Christie

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Reaching 40 points will be the Holy Grail for Elgin City as far as League 2 safety is concerned, says manager Allan Hale.

Hale’s mission is to ensure City don’t get caught up late in the relegation scramble after watching five points slip away in their last two outings.

Last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at East Fife factored in missed first half chances for the visitors and some second half sloppiness to bring about a result which the Elgin boss had no complaints about.

With bottom side Clyde losing, Elgin remain eight points ahead of the Bully Wee in seventh spot and Hale feels another four points will be enough from their remaining five fixtures to ensure safety.

Only then will he be able to shape his plans for next season and strengthen areas of his squad in the knowledge that the Borough Briggs men will definitely be playing League 2 football.

“We have five games and trying to get over that magical 40 points has to be the target now,” he said.

“If you said to us when we came in that with five games to go you would be sitting with a wee cushion in seventh place and only a few points off of fifth, we’d have bitten the hand off with the start we had and where the club was at that point.

“But our work’s not done and we aren’t taking our foot off the gas by any means, and neither are the players. We still know the league is very tight and we want to make sure that we are secure in that safety, and then it’s all about building towards next year.

“Before we do anything we need to make sure we are safe, that is the imminent priority.”

The Elgin manager feels injuries, and the level of hard work he has put into his squad in order to improve results, may be a factor in a dropped level of performance in the second half of Saturday’s visit to Methil.

“We were well in the game and created the most chances out of the half, three or four really good chances where we needed to be taking at least one of them.

“It’s a different game altogether when you get the goal during the moments you are on top - that’s the fine margins at this level when you are in the ascendancy and creating goalscoring opportunities, you’ve got to take them and we’ve not done it.

“The second half was as poor as we have been in a long time. I felt East Fife had a lot of positive momentum and we were struggling to get our foot on the ball so you have to give credit to our opponents because they were pressing us really well.

“At half time we asked the players to play over their press a little bit, try and play through the line a little bit earlier. But I felt we really struggled with that and it made for us being quite sloppy in possession.”

Leading through Alan Trouten’s first half header, the Fifers added a second through James Lyon, soon after the visitors changed to a more attacking formation.

“East Fife have their tails up at that point and the confidence drained from our own players. For that last 20 minutes I didn’t think we presented enough of a physical challenge.

“When you look at East Fife they were intense, they were physical and played simple football, they didn’t look to overplay the game at any point and they worked really hard for each other. In that last 20 minutes or so I didn’t think we matched that, which you’ve got to do when you are away from home.

“In the end it’s difficult to argue with the result.

“There are certain areas where we have struggled for depth. The forward areas is the obvious one. We’ve only really had Dajon (Golding) and Jonesey (Robert Jones) and we had to put Ben (Barron) out on loan to free up wages to bring in the players in January that we needed to.

“I think that highlights what we kind of inherited in terms of the squad lacking in depth in certain areas. When you are working to a restricted budget you’ve got to be smart in terms of those areas that you need to strengthen and we got done what we needed to get done.

“But the players have been excellent. When you get to this point in the season, we have worked the players really hard and it’s been a big change in terms of the demands that’s been put on them and how hard they are being asked to work in training.

“It does catch up on you at certain points and it does feel like we are in that phase slightly just now. But for us, we cannot rest on that, we’ve got to keep working the boys hard and just try and make sure we secure safety in this league as quickly as possible.”

A win at Spartans on Saturday would almost guarantee SPFL football for the Moray men next season.

Hamstring injuries keep Golding and Freddy Jeffreys out, potentially for the rest of the campaign. Captain Matthew Cooper has only been on the bench to boost numbers, Ross Draper and Mitch Taylor are playing through the pain barrier and Rory MacEwan is another unlikely to kick a ball this season due to injury.

“I still think we have a good squad and certain people are champing at the bit to play,” Hale added. “Some are training well at the moment, which is putting them in contention and that is what I want to see.”

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