Welcome back! You can catch up with the first half of the season here. We are well on course to complete our aim of survival this season. A season which has gone far better than I had expected but we still have a long way to go yet. We still have a chance of getting in to the play-offs and having a chance of getting promoted to the Premiership and completing a back to back to back to back promotions! We are now frustratingly out of all the cup competitions so we can fully focus on the league and get the points we need for survival.
The team we have got have been amazing this season and the new lads have come in and settled in straight away. Lads like Matt Yates have been really quality players to get in to help take us to that next level. We are still a semi pro side so really are punching above our weight in league standings and player quality wise. The lads see something in Gretna and want to come and help us get in to the Premiership.
A high tempo start to the game against Ross County leading to both sides having chances in the opening 5 minutes. Ross take the lead when a free kick is headed back out to Fraser Preston on the edge of the area and drills a shot past Jack Hamilton. Ellis Harrison pulls us level with our first shot on target as he heads a cross in off the bar. Baily Cargill gives Ross the lead in the second half as he gets on the end of a corner to head past Jack Hamilton at the back post. We are back on level terms again late in the game as a floated ball up the field finds sub Thai Duggan who volleys past the on rushing keeper.
A quick start against struggling Ayr. Ellis Harrison puts us in front after David Wheeler runs down the right before pulling it back across the goal for Ellis Harrison to tap in. We win a penalty just after the hour mark which Ryan Leonard steps up and converts it in to the bottom corner. Matt Yates puts us in front against bottom of the league Inverness early on. When Ryan Leonard plays a through ball for Matt Yates to get on to and slot past the keeper at his near post. David Wheeler doubles our lead and Ryan Leonard is the architect again as he whips a ball across the area for David Wheeler to fire it back across the keeper in to the far corner. Euan Henderson gets one back for Inverness late on as cross in to the area finds him to head past Jack Hamilton. We then give away a penalty minutes later which Euan Henderson fires in to the corner to rescue them a point.
There was some movement both ins and outs in the transfer window. Three players left us and they were Michael Tidser to Brechin on a free, Sean McGinty to Edinburgh City for £3k and Dean Hawkshaw to Ayr for £9.5k. We had just brought in a replacement before the Sean McGinty deal was completed as we got Charles Dunne in on a free after being on trial for a month.
Things you don’t want to see on deadline day #135 – your board accepting an offer for your star striker Matt Yates. Really pissed off with that deal of £58k especially as we were holding out for anything over £100k which we was already negotiating with another club at the time! We also added three new faces on deadline day. Niall Ennis in on a free, now as a replacement for Matt Yates but the deal was already going through before the board accepted the deal. Alfie Jones comes in on a free transfer to boost our centre back options and the DoF brought in Ronan Cameron on a season loan from Celtic.
Goalscorers this month: Harrison x2, Duggan, Leonard, Yates and Wheeler
An own goal inside ten minutes sees us take the lead against Arbroath. Ryan Leonard doubles the lead a couple minutes later as his shot from the edge of the area goes in off the post after beating the keeper with a bounce. Ellis Harrison makes it three before half time after he gets on the end of a David wheeler cross to the back post to score. Niall Ennis scores on his debut after a run beating two defenders before firing a low shot across the keeper in the far corner. He gets a second moments later as David wheeler finds him free in the area to turn and shoot past the keeper.
Livingston take the lead in the opening couple of minutes after a cross deflects off our player falling to Lyndon Dykes to tap in at the front post. Livingston then double their lead on the half hour after a header from Cameron Dummigan falls to Scott Robinson who hits it first time in to the top corner. Niall Ennis gets his third in two games after Stefan Scougall slides him in to fire past the keeper. As we pushed to try and find an equaliser Adam Dean hits a long ball up top for Niall Ennis to run on to and tuck past the keeper for his second.
After a tight opening half hour against Dunfermline the deadlock was broken. We managed to get the opening goal after David Wheeler plays a low ball across to Niall Ennis who squeezes between two defenders to get to the ball and flick it past the keeper. Dunfermline are back on level terms just before half time when Bevis Mugabi heads home a corner. A surprisingly bore draw game against Raith with the only highlights being both sides had shots cleared off the line.
Another new face joined us in February as Jason Holt joins us on a free transfer after training with us for a while.
Goalscorers this month: Ennis x5, Leonard, Harrison and Own Goal
Dundee came back for revenge after our recent batterings of them. Dundee get an early goal after Jordan McGhee curls a free kick around the wall and past Jack Hamilton. Kevin O’Hara doubles their lead after a quick break and he rifles a shot from the edge of the area in to the corner. Dundee make it three before half time when a ball is played up to Kion Etete who runs past two defenders and tucks it under Jack Hamilton. Top of the league St. Mirren up next. A GREAT start from us as we poach the ball from their kick off and Niall Ennis is played in early to fire past the keeper inside 15 seconds! They equalise 20 minutes later when a ball is played over the top for Jim Rae to run on to a score from close range. They then complete the turn around minutes later as Calum Waters cross from the left to Matt Godden to score at the back post. Matt Godden gets his second of the game when a long free kick finds him with space to fire past the keeper.
A game we needed to get something from and we got off to the worse start as Ross County take the lead. Dan N’Lundulu lays it off to Lee Erwin just outside the area and rifles it in to the bottom corner. David Wheeler gets us back on level terms just before half times after Niall Ennis sprints down the left before crossing in to David Wheeler to header home. It looked to be going to a draw until our corner late on fell to Callum Nicell for them to counter on us leaving Dan N’Lundulu free to score in injury time. We need to get back to winning ways against struggling Ayr. David Wheeler gets the opening goal when a deflected shot from Niall Ennis falls perfectly for him to strike past the keeper at his near post. We double our lead after we win a penalty which Connor McLennan puts in to the bottom corner. Charles Dunne gets his first for the club after a free kick is flicked on to him at the back post to tap in. We get another penalty just after the hour mark and again Connor McLennan steps up and puts it into the opposite corner to make it 4-0. Ayr get a goal back when a cross finds Jai Quitongo at the back post to tuck past Jack Hamilton.
Goalscorers this month: McLennan x2, Wheeler x2, Ennis and Dunne
We follow that up with another win this time against Arbroath. Niall Ennis puts us in front against Arbroath after he poaches the ball on the halfway line leaving him one on one with the keeper and slots it under him. Niall Ennis gets his second of the game after another defensive error meant Connor McLennan could pull it back to Niall Ennis free in the area to tuck past the keeper.
A really poor performance as we struggled to get a goalless draw against bottom of the league Inverness. If we wanted any chance to sneak in to the play-offs then we must beat Livingston in our penultimate league game. David Wheeler puts us ahead after he plays a quick one two with Jason Holt before he fires it under the keeper. Livingston took advantage of us being temporarily down to ten men as Steven Lawless whips a ball in from the left over to Graeme Cathro waiting at the back post to volley past Jack Hamilton. Graeme Cathro gets his second in the second half after Steven Lawless again sets him up as he pulls the ball back from the byline and Graeme Cathro is on the edge of the area waiting to fire it past Jack Hamilton in to the corner. Jerry Yates ends any hopes late on as heads in a cross from Tariq Uwakwe. We ended the game with 10 men as David Wheeler came off with a knock.
We now can not get in to the play-offs and we face Dunfermline away on the final day with the only aim now is possibly being ‘the best of the rest’ of teams outside the play-off places. A perfect start for us a whipped cross from Connor McLennan finds David Wheeler to drill the ball home. Charles Dunne doubles our lead when Stefan Scougall puts a free kick in to the area and he rises highest to head past the keeper.
Goalscorers this month: Ennis x2, Wheeler x2 and Dunne
So the season comes to an end and we basically finished mid table for our first year in the Championship. An amazing season and we fell just short of completing an amazing season by getting in to the play-offs but that wasn’t our aim, our aim was to survive and survive we did! We can now build upon this and go again with the same aim for next season.
We passed our aim of 10 wins and a few draws to get to the 40 points needed for survival, we finished this season with 56 and being 32 points clear of relegated Ayr on 24 points. So the gap was bigger than previous seasons but it goes to show that you have to always aim for a target as you never know what can happen during a season.
Once again the standard of the youth intake this season was pretty poor and nothing really to write home about. (Although here I am still telling you about it….). The best of the lot were the likes of Lee Doig, Stephen Woods and Greg Boyle. In truth Lee Doig doesn’t look a terrible player is someone we could have around the first team and be a back up should we need it.
As you can see from the league position graphic we have been pretty much in the same position for most of the season. Which is encouraging to show that we had a team good enough for this level and we can now build on that for the next season as we look to be a strong team for this level as we look to build ourselves up for a challenge of getting in to the Premiership in a couple of years.
As we are still a small club and also being a semi pro side meaning we have very little money, the board have given us small amount of transfer budget to play with over the summer. We have proven we can work wonders with no budget and find those free gems and loanees that can come in and do a job. In Matt Yates’s case can come in and move on for profit which is also a nice bonus for a club of our size!
With us finishing highest the club have ever been we received around £267k for finishing 6th in the Championship. Which will go along way to help keep our club balanced and as little debt as possible. After a strong season the board are now aiming for a play-off push and want us to finish in a play-off spot next season. Realistically we will aim to finish around where we did this season as we were very close of getting a play-off spot. With a bit more quality and luck we will pick up those extra points to help get us in to to a play-off spot. We did also make a MASSIVE £84 from non-domestic merchandise sales. That must be a good shirt, scarf and a couple of mugs sold to a couple of fans outside of the U.K! Gretna are big time!
With Dundee and St. Mirren getting promoted they will now be replaced with St. Johnstone and Hamilton. Neither of them will be easy games and you can fully expect the likes of St. Johnstone aiming to return at the first time of asking. Inverness were also relegated from our league this season which was a bit of a shock but goes to show if you have a poor start to a season or the club isn’t run well you can find yourself in a lot of trouble.
We now look to the squad next season as we look to build on from this season. We have already sat down with a number of the players and told them they won’t be having their contracts renewed, some of them have been first team regulars so it was a difficult decision but we have to look at the bigger picture. The players released are: Scott Cusick, Dan Harvey, Omar Beckles, Gael Bigirimana, Tom Bell, Isaac Olaofe, Ewan Gourlay, Jaden Ferguson-Williams, Jacob Hanson, Akeem Hinds, Jordan Alexandre, Ross Laidlaw and Calum Gallagher.
As you can see some difficult decisions were made. We did fail to come to an agreement with the likes of Tom Bell and Jaden Ferguson-Williams who we did want to keep around. Then the likes of Jordan Alexandre who wouldn’t sign a new deal as he felt he wouldn’t get a new work permit so I fully expect to him to sign for another Scottish club…! So it is going to be an interesting summer as we look to improve the quality and depth of this squad after a bit of a clear out. Hopefully now we can stabilise at this level as we look to build our reputation within the game and along with that attract more fans to come and watch Gretna. That is our biggest problem at the minute, we don’t have the fan base to help support and build us up compared to other teams in our league. Like I said previously we are around 400 season tickets short of the other semi pro team Arbroath in our league, that’s a lot of money alone we are losing! It has been a crazy few seasons but hopefully this is now our chance to build on that success as we get ready to take the next step in our journey.
Just wanted to mention a couple of youngsters we have in our reserves and youth set up that I don’t believe I have mentioned yet. Karl Redmond was brought in from Chelmsford a couple of seasons ago and could turn in to a decent player, he already has teams sniffing around him. We also have Giancarlo Cancelli coming through who is a Gretna player and has recently been capped for Italy under 19’s while playing for Strathspey Thistle in the Scottish Highland League!
Thanks for reading and I hope you are enjoying the journey!