Strathspey Thistle manager Charlie Brown hailed the character of two-goal hero Craig MacKenzie in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Lossiemouth.
MacKenzie’s double included a goal direct from a corner, which followed up a Jake Thomson strike midway through the first half. Ross Elliott pulled back a late consolation for the Coasters.
Brown was thrilled with former Ross County player MacKenzie’s display, having challenged the 18-year-old to deliver in recent weeks.
Brown said: “Craig doesn’t usually take corners, so when I told him he was taking them he was a wee bit puzzled.
“If he’s going to pull that off every week he’ll be taking them more often.
“He has done really well. I had a wee go at him because he was slipping off the boil, but he has grabbed the bull by the horns and he’s coming back into his game.
“Even for a young boy, he has shown great strength and appetite for the game.”
The Jags’ victory was Brown’s first league triumph since taking over at Seafield Park in the summer, following up an impressive 4-0 win over Clachnacuddin in the North of Scotland Cup on Wednesday.
Brown added: “It has been a good week considering we had a few injuries and we’ve had to change the squad.
“I’m delighted with the two wins we’ve had. I was really pleased with the first-half performance, we started the game really well and took it to Lossie.
“In the second half we sat off a bit, but we will get better at managing the games as we go forward.
“We brought in a couple of experienced lads, Chris Innes and James Fraser, which gave the younger ones a bit of belief in their own ability.
“They have managed to pull it off, which is pleasing.”
Strathspey showed attacking intent from the start but it was Lossie who had the best early chance on 10 minutes, when Kris Duncan’s slack backpass teed up Brodie Allen for a shot at goal, but he struck against the inside of the post.
Lossie goalkeeper Logan Ross was called into action for the first time on 19 minutes when Thomson cut in from the left before seeing his effort well beaten away by the on-loan Ross County goalkeeper.
The Jags continued to cause problems, with James Fraser teeing up MacKenzie who struck wide, while Cameron Lisle struck straight at Ross after weaving in from the right.
It seemed only a matter of time before the Jags broke the deadlock, and the opener arrived on 26 minutes when Thomson broke down the inside left channel before rifling a low strike across goal into Ross’ far corner.s
Thomson was forced off with an injury just before the break, however Thistle netted a timely second goal in first half stoppage time. It arrived in unorthodox fashion, with MacKenzie’s inswinging left-footed corner deceiving Ross and finding its way in at the far post.
Lossie attempted to mount pressure on the home side in their efforts to claw back into the game but they were unable to seriously test Ryan MacLeod, with Liam Archibald striking wide from the edge of the box and Allen well off target with a free-kick.
The visitors claimed another Allen free-kick had been bundled over his own goal line by MacLeod, with the protests ignored by referee Lee Robertson.
MacKenzie added his second to put the game beyond doubt on 78 minutes, with his curling strike from the edge of the box carrying too much power for Ross to keep out.
Strathspey could have restored their three-goal cushion when Duncan was denied by an excellent fingertip save by Ross.
Lossie manager Joe Russell felt the Coasters were unable to recover from a slow start to the game.
Russell said: “It was very disappointing. In the first half we were absolutely dreadful. We had no authority, we allowed Strathspey to dictate the whole tempo of the game and did nothing to stop it.
“We tried to change the shape but we could have played any shape, with that first half performance we wouldn’t have got anything out of it.”
STRATHSPEY THISTLE (4-1-4-1) – Macleod 6; Skinner 6, Innes 7, Ballam 7, McDade 6; McShane 6; Lisle 6 (Cuthbert 72), Fraser 6 (Cairns 72), MacKenzie 8, Thomson 7 (Russell 46); Duncan 6. Subs not used – MacLean.
LOSSIEMOUTH (4-5-1) – Ross 6; R Archibald 6, Edwards 6, McAndrew 6, Weir 6; Stuart 6, Leslie 6, L Archibald 6, Sewell 5 (Kennedy 46), Forbes 5 (Elliott 46); Allen 6. Subs not used – Macaulay, Morrison, Milton, Mullen, Kelly.
Referee – Lee Robertson
Man of the match: Craig MacKenzie