Edinburgh City striker Danny Handling speaks on Cove Rangers trip, his goalscoring form and the League Two title race

In-form striker aiming to reel Cove in as title race hots up
Danny Handling is hoping to inflict another defeat on Cove Rangers on Saturday when Edinburgh City visit AberdeenshireDanny Handling is hoping to inflict another defeat on Cove Rangers on Saturday when Edinburgh City visit Aberdeenshire
Danny Handling is hoping to inflict another defeat on Cove Rangers on Saturday when Edinburgh City visit Aberdeenshire

Danny Handling is making no attempt to play down the importance of Edinburgh City’s top-of-the-table showdown with Cove Rangers.

James McDonaugh’s side have the chance to move level with the leaders if they win at Balmoral Stadium. After trailing Cove since their opening-day 5-0 thrashing in Aberdeenshire, Handling knows his side must take something from the game and is well aware of how much impetus a victory would give either side at this stage of the campaign.

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“It’s definitely got an extra edge because we’re at this stage of the season and we’re within touching distance of them,” Handling told the Evening News. “This is bigger than our last two games against them. In the first game of the season, nobody really knew it was going to be the two of us battling it out at the top. In the second game, we had to win to stay in the title race. But now we’ve got a chance to beat them and go level with them at a crucial stage of the season. It doesn’t get much bigger.

“It won’t necessarily decide the title race because there are still a lot of games to play but it’s massive for both teams in terms of getting to where they want to be. It could certainly be pivotal. There have been times in the season when we’ve missed chances to catch them and they’ve probably missed opportunities to extend their lead so this one is massive for both teams. I can guarantee you neither team will want to come off the pitch with a defeat this weekend.”

Handling is relieved that his side even have the opportunity to go level with Cove with this weekend after fearing his side may have gifted their rivals the initiative when losing to Stirling a week past Saturday. Fortunately for City, they returned to winning ways against Annan last weekend while Cove have taken just one point from their last two games.

“It would give us a massive boost if we could win and get level with them,” said Handling. “A week ago we were six points behind them and really frustrated because we had lost to Stirling Albion and missed a chance to close the gap after they drew at Albion Rovers. But now we’ve closed the gap to three points again and they’ve lost 3-0 to Elgin, so it’s given us a great opportunity to try and catch them again by beating them. And what an opportunity it is.”

City avenged their opening-day thrashing when they beat Cove 2-1 in their last meeting at Ainslie Park in December. “We’ve got to take confidence from the fact we beat them last time,” said Handling. “In fairness, they probably battered us in the second half but we defended really well. In the first half we were definitely the better team. On the day a lot of things will come into play so anything can happen. It will be interesting to see how it pans out.”

Handling, the 26-year-old former Hibs attacker, is City’s top scorer this season with 12 goals. Playing predominantly on the right wing, he has been enjoying finally getting a regular run of games after seeing his career blown off course by a wretched run of injuries. “It’s been a frustrating few years in terms of being injured four years in a row and having to drop from full-time to part-time but I finally feel like I’m getting a wee break at a club where I feel valued and feel important,” he said. “I think I can still get to better heights with my performances.

“No disrespect to the league but I don’t want to be at League Two level. I’d obviously rather still be at Hibs playing full-time football because I love playing football. But I am where I am for a reason and I’m making the most of it, back playing regularly and getting amongst the goals. There are a lot of good footballers here and it’s a joy to be a part of it.”