Fraserburgh bounced back from their midweek home defeat by fellow title-hopefuls Buckie Thistle with a crushing 7-0 victory over Clachnacuddin at Bellslea.
A Scott Barbour hat-trick helped the Broch return to the top of the table on goal-difference, and they still have a game in-hand over the Jags in second place.
Broch boss Mark Cowie said: “I said weeks ago that we wouldn’t go the rest of the season unbeaten, so that midweek defeat to Buckie didn’t bother me, it was the manner in which we dropped those points which bothered me.
“But from minute one against Clach we were at it.
“In the first half we pressed them, we were on top of them and had a three-goal cushion at the break.
“The fourth goal killed it and we could have just sat back, but that’s not in our nature, and we went on and scored seven.”
Fraserburgh took the lead in the ninth minute when Ryan Sargent was brought down just inside the box by Martin Callum and Barbour sent Martin Mackinnon the wrong way from the resultant spot-kick.
In the 28th minute, it was 2-0 when Ryan Cowie burst forward and gave Mackinnon no chance with a blistering left-foot shot which fizzed into the roof of the net.
Two minutes later, Fraserburgh made it 3-0 when Paul Young chipped the ball over the advancing Mackinnon from 12 yards.
Mackinnon then had to dive full length to tip away a superb effort from Aidan Combe as Fraserburgh kept up the pressure.
It was 4-0 three minutes after the break when Barbour turned home from close range – although the striker did look to be in an offside position.
In the 55th minute, Combe made it 5-0 when he ran on to a cute Barbour flick to beat Mackinnon with ease and, in the 73rd minute, Barbour notched his hat-trick when his ferocious 12-yard angled drive went in off the far post.
Todays Man of the Match was chosen by Handy Murray Property Maintenance. Here is Neil Murray presenting the recipient, Scott Barbour, after his Hat Trick today in the win over Clachnacuddin. @ Fraserburgh Football Club https://t.co/dTb3R0Pvmu
— Fraserburgh FC (@FraserburghFC) February 12, 2022
With five minutes left, Fraserburgh made it 7-0, again from the penalty spot – Paul Campbell supplying the finish this time after Ross Aitken had been bundled over in the box by Ryan Mackintosh.
Clach manager Jordan Macdonald made no excuses, and said: “We made it easy for Fraserburgh and we certainly didn’t help our own cause.
“We didn’t track runners, we let Fraserburgh bully us and they’re brilliant at it.
“You have to stop balls going to Barbour. We didn’t do that – and as a result we made it easy for them.”
Five first-half goals at Harlaw Park – but Inverurie come out on top over Nairn County
Inverurie Locos beat Nairn County 3-2 at Harlaw Park on the day Steven Park brought down the curtain on his 26-year playing and coaching career with the club.
After a goal-laden first half – which saw the Railwaymen go three goals up, only for the Wee County to then pull two back – the second period descended into farce with the match referee Duncan Nicolson flashing several yellow cards and two reds to the consternation of both managers.
Locos boss Richard Hastings said: “It was a really frustrating period for the players. They weren’t allowed to play the game, it was a continual stopping of the flow.
“You could see out there how much Parky (Steven Park) means to the boys, it was maybe not the performance from us we wanted to put on for him, but a really battling one, especially in the second half when we had to dig in.”
Player, coach, legend.
Steven Park pic.twitter.com/nFGShCrhZa
— InverurieLocoWorksFC (@InverurieLocos) February 12, 2022
The homesters took the lead on 11 minutes, Calum Dingwall meeting a Jamie Michie to beat Nairn goalkeeper Dylan Maclean at his front post.
Five minutes later, Michie delivered another corner. Kieran Shanks flicked it on and Ross Still was able to volley home.
The game looked all over by 18 minutes, when Locos went 3-0 up.
Robert Ward was upended at the bye-line, which saw a penalty awarded, and Shanks stepped up to fire straight down the middle and beyond Maclean.
However, Nairn weren’t ready to accept defeat so early in the contest and, on 33 minutes, defender Fraser Dingwall headed a right wing corner in off the underside of the Locos crossbar.
And it was game-on two minutes from half time, when Still gave away a penalty and Nairn talisman Conor Gethins fired high into the net.
Hastings added: “We work on set-pieces a lot and it was good to see them come off, but – at the other end – we needed to deal with their corner and following that it was a dubious penalty.”
The main highlight of the second half was very late on, Andy Reid in the Locos goal pulling off an unbelievable save to foil Nairn substitute Ciaran Young and secure all three points.
Locos centre-half Mark Souter and Dingwall from the visiting team were then sent off.
Nairn manager Ronnie Sharp said: “We did what we’ve been doing for weeks – giving teams a start.
“After that I felt we did really well. I thought we were stronger in the second half as well. Our goalkeeper had no shots to save after half-time.
“Every foul seemed to be followed by a yellow – all the players were getting frustrated, all the time.”