Charlie Rowley reckons Stuart Soane can fight for the Highland League golden boot this season.
Soane has been in prolific form for the Can Cans, hitting 15 in all competitions, level with Andrew MacRae and Cammy Keith and one behind leading scorer Paul Campbell.
Earlier this campaign, Soane became the fastest Forres player to 100 goals, doing it in 202 games with a strike against Wick Academy, with Mechanics boss Rowley adding that the club captain has clearly benefitted from playing in a more advanced role.
Further goals this afternoon against Formartine United in the Highland League Cup quarter-finals would come in handy, with Rowley hoping they can help keep Soane in the running for top-scorer honours.
He said: “He’s been phenomenal. He’s captain of the club and a real asset to us. He’s maybe not as mobile as he was a couple of years ago but he can be a really effective target man, allowing us to play off him.
“If we put the ball in the area, he’s on the end of it. It’s a big ask (to be top scorer) but yes he can – if we continue to supply the necessary crosses and find him on a regular basis, I’m sure he can fight for the top scorer spot. But we do realise there’s a lot of top quality individuals around the league that can do it.”
Soane’s form, allied with the return of Lee Fraser from long-term injury, has helped negate the loss of Andrew MacRae, who left Mosset Park for Brora Rangers earlier in the season.
Prior to his return to the side in October, Fraser had been out of the game for 19 months due to a cruciate ligament injury. It was his second such injury, having picked up the first one during their Highland League title-winning success in 2012.
Rowley added: “It’s been a really difficult period for him. This is the second time he’s had a major injury, so the rehab aspect is well-known to him. But it’s still frustrating.
“He’s still got a bit of work to do but when you can leave out Stuart (Soane), who’d been away for three days, that certainly is a statement in itself of our strength in depth. We don’t expect too much from Lee this season – it’s a bonus.
“As much as we were really not looking to get rid of Andrew, his aspirations were slightly different to ours. That’s not to say he’s not a great player, but it hasn’t diminished our performances since he left.”
This afternoon’s game gives Forres the chance at a last-four place in the competition, although Rowley believes they are coming up against the best cup side in the league.
He said: “Even if they’re disappointed with their league from, their cup form has been quality.”
Simon Allan and Martin Groat are doubts, with Ryan Farquhar, Aaron Hamilton and Callum Johnstone all out.
Formartine midfielder Graeme Rodger wants the club to make up for their inconsistent league form by achieving success in the cup competitions.
Rodger said: “We reached one semi-final and we’re wanting to reach another. Our league position means we have a lot of work to do to try to challenge in the league.
“But we’ve done well in the cup over the last couple of seasons and we want to keep that going.”