Edinburgh City’s Irn-Bru Cup run gives Conrad Balatoni chance of redemption
Defender Conrad Balatoni says he is fortunate to have been given a second bite of the cherry.
The Edinburgh City player believes he has some unfinished business with the Irn-Bru Cup. That is why he’ll be doing everything he can to ensure the Capital outfit seal their spot in next month’s final this weekend.
The Ladbrokes League Two leaders are preparing to undertake the 500-mile round trip to North Wales for a semi-final match-up with Welsh Premier League table-toppers Connah’s Quay Nomads tomorrow night.
For 28-year-old Balatoni however, a place in this season’s final would afford the former Hearts player the opportunity to make amends for defeat in the 2013 final when Partick Thistle lost to Queen of the South 6-5 on penalties.
Following a 1-1 draw at Livingston’s Almondvale Stadium, and with the penalty shootout having reached sudden death, Balatoni simply had to score.
“I remember that day well,” the Englishman recalls. “I was the one that missed the penalty that lost it for us so it would be nice to get through to the final and have the opportunity to make up for it. It was a real sore one. I was gutted. When you see the other team celebrating with the cup having missed a penalty it makes it so much harder to take. But that’s part and parcel of football. The build up and everything to the game itself was great for a club like Partick.
“So, having got to the final a few years ago, I know what it’s like so I’ve told the lads it’s a great day out. Not every professional footballer gets a chance to play in a cup final.
“This is a competition where the majority of teams should be looking to get to the latter stages. If you look at the Betfred Cup, rarely do League One and Two sides get out of the group stages and with the Scottish Cup, you’re doing well if you get to the last 16, maybe the quarter-finals at best.
“I said to the guys in the changing-room after the Arbroath game (third round) that I’d felt they’d fielded a slightly weakened side and I don’t know why they did that. This is a big competition for players in the lower leagues. I’m realistic to know I’m not going to win the Scottish or the Betfred Cup. Tomorrow is definitely one of the biggest games in the club’s history in recent times.”
Balatoni is keen to add to his First Division winners’ medal he collected during his five-year stay at Firhill. However, he appreciates this weekend’s clash is a first for the majority of James McDonough’s men.
“We put pressures on ourselves to perform because we want to get to the final,” he said. “The club hasn’t been in this position before so it’s a new experience. I want another medal to add to the one I won when I won the league with Partick.
“The management team have done their homework on Connah’s. Hopefully we can play well and get through to the final and enjoy the celebrations on the way back up the road.
“I’ve played in some pretty big games, at Celtic Park and Ibrox so every games comes with its own pressures. It’s great to have that opportunity to go and make history, particularly with a side that finished second bottom of League Two last season.
“The league will take care of itself but this could really give us a platform to go on and have a really strong end to the season.
“I thought we had a decent chance of doing something when I signed. I realised quite quickly that we had a good group of players and that’s shown has the weeks and months have rolled on.”
• Edinburgh City have signed Celtic forward Ciaran Diver on loan until the end of the season.
The striker spent the first half of this season on loan at Stranraer.