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Another twist in Highland League title race

Kevin Main in action
Kevin Main in action

The pendulum at the top of the Highland League swung Buckie Thistle’s way once again after Cove Rangers were held to a goalless draw by rivals Turriff United at Harlaw Park, Inverurie.

Cove now lead Buckie Thistle and Brora Rangers by three points. The Jags also have a game in hand and a superior goal difference to their rivals, so there is still all to play for in the run-in with all three clubs right in the title mix.

This was as good a 0-0 draw as you would wish to see with chances on either side, penalty claims and some excellent goalkeeping, especially from man-of-the-match Kevin Main of Turriff United.

Main said: “I’m delighted with the result and with my own performance as Cove did have an aerial threat and they sent a lot of high balls into the box.

“We kind of worked on crosses into the box through the week and all that hard work paid off today.

“I see it as a point gained rather than two dropped. Cove really needed a win but we knew if we were able to hold our position and hit them on the break, and they did throw everything at us, we were able to hold them off quite well.”

Cove made one change to the team which overturned a two-goal deficit to defeat Clachnacuddin in midweek, Mitch Megginson replacing Connor Scully on the bench.

Turriff recalled Nik Wozniak, with James Chalmers dropping to the bench, while Chris Herd replaced Robbie Allan at full back.

Cove almost drew first blood after only 15 seconds when United goalkeeper Kevin Main had to look lively to fist away a 20-yarder from Blair Yule.

The reigning champions were adopting a shoot-on-sight policy and in the fifth minute former Peterhead full back Jason Brown rifled a shot just wide of the target from 30 yards.

Nine minutes later Daniel Park played in Scully but his angled grounder ended up a foot past the upright with Main beaten.

Turriff weathered that early storm and Cove defender Stuart Walker did well to block a ferocious Allen MacKenzie 15-yard drive as the visitors pressed forward.

It took a brilliant flying save from Stuart McKenzie in the home goal to stop Cammy Booth’s 27th-minute header from giving Turriff the lead.

The game was flowing with no quarter asked or given between two evenly-matched sides as the late morning torrential rain made way for sunshine late in the first half.

At the start of the second half Main had to be on his toes to fist a fierce Park 25-yard free kick over the top for a fruitless corner kick.

Scully rattled a 15-yard drive off the crossbar in the 55th minute as Cove pushed for the opener.

Cove had loud shouts for a penalty when the ball appeared to hit Darren Wood on the arm but referee Ryan Milne waved play on as it was ball to hand, and probably outside the box.

On the hour, Harry Milne saw his net-bound point-blank header blocked on the line and Main gratefully flopped on the rebound. A 72nd-minute Park free kick caused panic in the visitors’ defence but no Cove player was able to make contact and the ball dribbled out harmlessly for a goalkick. Both sides had half-chances to win the game after that but defences were on top and a point each was just about right.

Cove defender Harry Milne said: “We went close to scoring a goal quite a few times today. there was one occasion when Paul McManus and myself got in each other’s way.

“I headed it and the Turriff player stopped the ball on the line with his chest, I tried to go in after it and collided with my own team-mate, Eric Watson, as I was so eager to get on the end of the ball.

“It is two points dropped, but we could have dropped those points at any stage of the season. It doesn’t really matter as Buckie have four games left and we have three and I think it will go down to the last day of the season.”

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