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Alness United gear up for fresh North Caledonian League challenge after Ness Cup title triumph

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Alness United manager Robert MacCormack can’t wait for his title-winners to take their place back in an expanded North Caledonian League next season.

A pulsating 3-2 home victory over Inverness Athletic in midweek sealed the Ness Cup and League Two success for the Ross-shire side.

After one year away from the NCL set-up, Alness clinched this second-tier crown with two games to spare.

They wasted no time in taking control with a Ryan McFee tap-in and Michael Mackenzie strike putting them 2-0 ahead within 16 minutes.

Athletic pulled one back before the break when Luke Mackay scored from the penalty spot.

That narrow margin made it quite a competitive contest in the second half, but Alness moved to the brink of glory with 20 minutes to go thanks to a Jude Fraser header.

The Inverness team were not finished though and a Paul Gair spot-kick made it 3-2.

Alness goalkeeper Iain Mackenzie then came to the hosts’ rescue with a superb save from Gair late on to ensure his team secured the title-winning three points.

Alness will be ready for the step-up

Delighted boss MacCormack can’t wait to return next term and see how his league winners handle competing with the likes of Invergordon, Golspie and St Duthus. The club last won the NCL in 2005.

He said: “It’s back to one league next season, which we are absolutely delighted about. I think all clubs want that and we will be raring to go.

“After this season finishes, we will have a break of six to eight weeks. The boys will play for their summer sides and then we will get together and give it a go against everyone else.”

Alness were not too keen on going back into a two-level set-up, but knuckling down was the name of the game for the champions.

He explained: “It was our first season back and to get a team on the park then win a league has been absolutely brilliant.

“When we entered our team again, we thought it would be a one-division league, but due to Covid, it was split into two. Being honest, we weren’t too happy about at the time, but we stuck in and the boys have been great.

“There are some good teams in this division, but we have got out and done what we could and ended up winning the league, which is brilliant.”

Target is to remain unbeaten

Looking back at Wednesday’s win, he added: “We beat Inverness 2-1 in the last game before lockdown and they gave us another tough game on Wednesday.

“I said to the boys that we have done amazingly well to be unbeaten so far. We have won all games apart from a draw against Loch Ness.

“We are looking to win our last two games, but they won’t be easy, so we’re going to have to be at it.”

MacCormack explained how the club managed to rebuild a team to compete at this level.

He explained: “I was involved with Black Rock Rovers, who play in the Inverness Amateur League, so I took some of those boys along with players from other teams. It worked well.

“It was good just to get a team on the park at first then when I seen the strength of this squad, I knew we could go on and be successful.

Title win for deserving chairman, Tommy Regan

“The local support here in Alness from the people and businesses has been outstanding since I have been involved. People just want to help out and it has been amazing.

“It’s a great success for Tommy Regan, the chairman, who has been at the club for a long time, so I am delighted for him.”

Alness put themselves into title contention at the weekend without kicking a ball. They were awarded a 1-0 victory over Scourie, who couldn’t raise a team. Elsewhere, Loch Ness hit seven without reply against Bonar Bridge.

Alness round off their home campaign and pick up the Ness Cup on Saturday against Bonar Bridge, while Nairn County host basement side Scourie.

The League Two champions will then round off their season a week on Saturday when they travel to Nairn.

Top two tussle in League One this weekend

In League One this Saturday, the top two go head-to-head as leaders Golspie Sutherland travel to Invergordon, who are only one point behind having played the same number of fixtures.

St Duthus, who are only one point off top spot but have only one match remaining, complete their season away to Thursday, while bottom team Orkney host Halkirk United.

Golspie grasped pole position at the weekend when they won 3-0 at Halkirk, with Invergordon knocked off the summit by losing 2-0 at St Duthus and Orkney and Thurso shared four goals.