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Huntly v Inverurie Locos: Allan Hale and Richard Hastings assess their sides’ progress ahead of Christie Park clash

Inverurie Locos manager Richard Hastings
Inverurie Locos manager Richard Hastings.

Inverurie Locos manager Richard Hastings sees the remaining six games as a good chance to assess his squad for next season.

Locos are adrift of the top four in the Highland League with six games remaining, ahead of facing Huntly at Christie Park today.

They have lost their last three league games, as well as being knocked out of the Highland League Cup by Buckie Thistle.

However, the former Caley Thistle and Canada defender feels this blip may help them in the long run.

“I see signs of us being the team I want and need us to be,” said Hastings, who took over as manager earlier this season.

“We have been going through a poor spell, but it’s not a case of going back to ground-zero. We’ve made a lot of progress and one game can change things.

“We’re close to being back where we want to be and have one eye on the summer. We want to be able to hit the ground running next season.

Inverurie Locos forward Robert Ward celebrates scoring against Formartine
Inverurie Locos forward Robert Ward – a stand-out this season – celebrates scoring against Formartine

“It’s a good chance to assess the squad and where the team is. We’re in the same boat as any other club; we have to maximise the talent in the changing room and look for other talented players out there.

“There’s still a lot to play for. If anything, it will maybe show boys’ attitudes. We don’t want to have poor times, which we’ve had in the last two or three weeks, but it might show up areas of concern or faults we have.

“It might expose some things in the squad. As much as you don’t like it, it might help you in the long-term.”

Hale reflects on Huntly progress this season

Huntly manager Allan Hale.
Huntly manager Allan Hale

Huntly boss Allan Hale reckons his side have made strides in his first full season in charge.

The Black and Golds, who have been out of action since losing 3-0 to Buckie Thistle on March 5, reached the Aberdeenshire Shield final last month, where they lost to Banks o’ Dee.

“There’s certainly been progress made. We got to a cup final and thought we were unfortunate to come out on the wrong side of the result,” said Hale.

“Our league form has been inconsistent and I don’t feel we’ve always got the results our performances have merited. That’s part of our learning process as a group.

“They are a group of players that are fully committed to being part of the club and help take us on this journey.

“As a coaching staff you’re always analysing performances and there are areas we need to improve on. We’re working players hard in training trying to rectify the mistakes we can.

“We’ve got a young squad and with that, you will get inconsistent performances. But there’s a lot more to be pleased about than not.”

Huntly take on Inverurie locos in the Aberdeenshire Shield earlier this season
Huntly take on Inverurie Locos in the Aberdeenshire Shield earlier this season

The two sides have met three times already this season, the last coming in the Aberdeenshire Shield semi-final in December when Huntly emerged victorious.

“They’re an excellent side with quality all through the pitch,” Hale said. “They’re a real threat at the top end of the pitch with excellent individual quality.

“We’ve played them a lot this season and all the games have been keenly-contested. I’m expecting the same on Saturday and know it will be a really tough game.”

Local derby heads up other fixtures

Clach and Nairn County meet in their second derby meeting of the season at Grant Street Park. The two sides drew 1-1 at the end of October at Station park.

Title-challengers Buckie Thistle and Brechin City are both on the road, against Wick Academy and Strathspey Thistle respectively, while Brora Rangers entertain Lossiemouth at Dudgeon Park.

On Friday evening, Brora revealed on-loan goalkeeper Lenny Wilson’s first red card against Buckie on Wednesday had been rescinded.

Wilson was sent off twice during the Cattachs’ 5-0 loss at Victoria Park, with the second red shown to him over his reaction to being dismissed. He was initially sent off following a clash with Jags midfielder Kevin Fraser.

Instead of a four-match ban, Wilson will now only be suspended for Saturday’s game with Lossiemouth.

Managerless Formartine host Keith, and Rothes are at home to Forres Mechanics.

WATCH: Highland League Weekly EXTRA – Highlights as title challengers Buckie Thistle and Brora Rangers went head to head

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