Blair Lawrie paid tribute to the efforts of Clach supporters in getting the club back home.
A Christmas Eve fire at Grant Street Park saw the club rendered temporarily homeless, requiring them to play two games at Highland RFC’s Canal Park and seeing the derby with Nairn County postponed with no facility available.
However, a fundraising campaign that has brought in more than £5,000, started by avid supporter Billy Corbett, has given the club funding to install temporary changing rooms to host Formartine United tonight.
Lawrie, a Clach stalwart who has spent a decade with the Lilywhites, says it is down to their generosity that the Merkinch Club can return to their rightful home.
He said: “We’ve seen with the gofundme page that has been set up and the money the club is pulling together, it’s brought the club and the community closer than it ever has been.
“Maybe some of the top Highland League clubs could have coped with something like this, but there’s no chance most clubs would. This was the only option to get back and it’s because of the supporters that we are.
“It will give everyone a boost and I’m sure the supporters are delighted. It’s taken a long time, longer than expected, but everyone is looking forward to it.”
Clach have yet to play a home game at Grant Street Park this decade because of the damage, with repairs hoped to be completed for the start of next season. The temporary changing rooms in the club car park have let chairman Alex Chisholm give assurances to the Highland League they can host their remaining five home games.
Tonight will also see the final game of long-serving midfielder John MacAskill’s career, as he walks away from the game to focus on his new job as head ghillie on the River Conon. Lawrie played alongside MacAskill in the youth teams at Ross County and will be sad to see the 35-year-old, who returned to the club in 2017, call it a day.
Lawrie added: “John has been massive for the club. I’ve grown up with him at Ross County and he has a real passion and drive for the game.
“He’s influential to the young and experienced players and it’s gutting to be losing him after playing with him for the last 16 or 17 years. He’s an absolute leader, with the way he speaks and plays. You can be having a tough game and then John puts in one of his famous challenges.”
Formartine’s Stuart Anderson and Gary McGowan are injury doubts.