Brechin boss Michael Paton insists his side’s battle to avoid dropping into the Highland League is far from over after the Angus side’s pyramid play-off fate was sealed with defeat at home to Annan.
City crashed to a damaging 3-0 loss at Glebe Park and are now confirmed as Scottish football’s ‘club 42’.
They now face a two-leg shoot-out against either Brora Rangers or Kelty Hearts to escape the unwanted prospect of dropping into the Highland League.
“We’re in this position and it’s my job to motivate the boys. It’s unhealthy to dodge where we are going.”
The pyramid play-offs will go ahead later this month after the SPFL and SFA gave it the green light in a statement just five hours before City took the field to face Annan.
“The news about the pyramid play-off didn’t affect us,” said Paton. “Our full focus was on Annan. We can only impact what happens on the park and we’ll do that in the next few weeks.
“We’re in this position and it’s my job to motivate the boys. It’s unhealthy to dodge where we are going.
‘Never give up’
“We need to meet the challenge head on and show what we are capable of in the next two games. We need to build momentum, show our character and react well.
“I can’t stop people from writing us off. I know we’ve got quality players and I believe in them.
“I’ll never go down without a fight. Never.
“We’re not down and out and my players know it’s a ‘never-give-up’ attitude that we need to get out of this.”
With all legal avenues seemingly exhausted, the only way to avoid that clash was to win their final three games and hope Cowdenbeath lost their last two to consign the Fifers to the bottom.
Paton was in determined mood prior to the game, insisting his players could build on the momentum of a win over Cowden on Tuesday to perform a great escape.
Kelty greeted the news saying it was ‘the right decision for football’ as they gear up to face Brora in the coming days.
Kelty have already beaten Brechin this season as manager Barry Ferguson masterminded a 2-0 Scottish League Cup win in November, while Brora produced a historic Scottish Cup win over Hearts last month.
There’s little doubting that City face a stern task against either side and the prospect of falling out of the SPFL is now a genuine prospect.
Their night got off to the worst possible start on the pitch as Paton was forced off with a hamstring injury after just 18 minutes with Kieran Inglis coming onto replace him.
Despite that blow, City began to threaten Ross Munro’s goal with Connor Coupe their biggest threat.
Coupe shaved the crossbar with a cross in 19 minutes, then forced Munro into a fine save with his low 15-yard strike smothered by the Annan keeper.
The pressure was beginning to mount on the visitors and Bobby Barr chipped wide from the corner of the box.
However, the hosts were delivered a hammer blow as Annan took the lead on 29 minutes.
— Ewan Smith (@ewansmithpr) April 29, 2021
David Hutton was caught well off his line as Kyle Fleming attempted an audacious lob from 40 yards.
Fleming’s effort cracked off the face of the bar, falling kindly for Anderson to stroke home from close range.
City tried and failed to find a way back into the game before half-time with defender Gerry McLauchlan, who was later forced off injured, coming closest with a six-yard header.
Annan almost doubled their advantage on 54 minutes with Steven Swinglehurst cracking an effort off the bar and City keeper David Hutton hanging onto the rebound.
As the game wore on Brechin’s play became desperate and they never looked like they had it in them to rescce the game.
They fell two behind on 71 minutes as Darren Christie found space inside the penalty box to drill a low effort beyond Hutton into the bottom corner.
The final blow came on 79 minutes as sub Inglis tried in vain to prevent a Nathan Flanagan effort from crossing the line.
Inglis cut a dejected figure as he lay flat out in the goalmouth, realising that his side now face the most important 180 minutes of their 115-year history.
They will now face a trip to either Kelty’s New Central Park or Brora’s Dudgeon Park as part of a two-legged pyramid play-off with defeat in that tie almost unthinkable.
Brechin: Hutton; McIntosh, McLauchlan (Jordan 39), Coupe (Devine 46), Currie (Slaven 46), Barr, Osman, Hussain, McKee (Reekie 76), Michael Paton (Inglis 19), O’Connor. Subs: O’Neil; Bollan, Reekie, Chris Paton, McLevy.
Annan: Munro, Fulton (Flanagan 50), Love, Docherty, Hunter, Swinglehurst, Watson, Sinnamon (Smith 76), Anderson (McCaw 76), Fleming, Christie (Murphy 76). Subs not used: Mitchell; Wallace, Flanagan, Emmerson, Murphy.
Referee – David Lowe