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Highland League title bid is top priority for determined Brora Rangers boss Craig Campbell

Brora Rangers boss Craig Campbell
Brora Rangers boss Craig Campbell

Craig Campbell is ready to face the challenge of delivering more trophies at Brora Rangers – with the Highland League title topping the agenda.

The Cattachs’ manager watched his side push Championship visitors Caley Thistle all the way in a competitive 1-0 defeat at the weekend.

Brora won the GPH Builders Merchants Highland League Cup last term, but finished 15 points behind impressive champions Fraserburgh in fourth spot in the league.

Brora kick off their Highland League season away to Keith on July 23 and former Ross County and Elgin City forward Campbell is determined to ensure his settled squad fire consistently good results all season.

He said: “I am under no illusions. I have been told by the board we need to win trophies.

“We finished the season on a high by winning a trophy, but our league form was not good enough last season. We let ourselves down in the bigger games.

“I was new in management and possibly didn’t set up properly – that’s something we’re working on for this season.

Brora Rangers manager Craig Campbell.

“I expect it will be another really competitive season with Fraserburgh, Buckie Thistle, Brechin City all up there and all of a high standard.

“You would not rule out teams like Inverurie Locos and Formartine United, with their new manager (Stuart Anderson).

“You also have the new boys Banks o’ Dee and, with the greatest respect to Fort William (who were relegated), they will be of a better standard coming into the league.

“That’s what we want and that’s what the pyramid system is for. You want the best teams in the league. It’s more competitive for everyone.”

Fitness levels show up well for Brora

Campbell’s side went toe-to-toe with Inverness and only a saved penalty from Mark Ridgers prevented them taking a draw from it.

The Dudgeon Park club’s boss praised his players for showing up well against their full-time opponents.

He said: “This was our first friendly of pre-season and the boys have come back in good shape and that showed on Saturday.

“Our fitness levels are very good, so we are happy with that. We asked the boys to set up with a shape because we were facing a full-time team.

Caley Thistle goalkeeper Mark Ridgers saves Jordan MacRae’s penalty.

“Our shape was good in the first half, but I was also proud of the way we tried to play football the way we want to play it in the Highland League.

“We want to go and play it from the back. We did that, especially in the first half and that was pleasing.”

Strong squad in place for Campbell

Campbell is satisfied with the quality within his pool ahead of the new campaign, despite looking to add numbers to it.

He said: “While we are still looking to add to the squad, we have good a really good base already here.

“We will have a squad of 18 when James Wallace comes back and it’s a group of quality players where any one of them could start for our team.

“We looked at a couple of trialists as the weekend, but we’re also happy with the quality at this club.”

A successful loan spell from Inverness last season for 18-year-old keeper Ruardhri Nicol prompted Brora to move to land him when he was available this summer and he signed a one-year deal.

He came off the bench in the second half and made a few key stops against his old club and Campbell reckons he and experienced number one Joe Malin will be good for one another.

He added: “We had young Ruardhri on loan from Inverness last season and he played a good number of games for us.

“We spoke to Joe Malin in the summer when we realised Ruardhri was getting released by Inverness and Joe spoke highly of him and we’re delighted to get him on board and tied up on a contract.

Brora Rangers keeper Joe Malin rates Ruardhri Nicol, who was on loan at the club last term.

“He came on against Caley Thistle and showed what great potential he’s got for a young goalkeeper.

“Joe’s experience is vital, but his body is getting that wee bit older now. He had a couple of injury problems last season and we were left a little bit short.

“Hopefully between both of them, we can look after Joe’s body and give Ruardhri some vital game-time throughout the season.

Ross County next for Brora Rangers

This Wednesday night, Premiership side Ross County, who are just back from a week’s training in Verona, Italy, play their only pre-season game as they visit Dudgeon Park.

Boss Campbell is thrilled to have the Highland’s big-hitters give them the challenge his players love to rise to.

He said: “We’re grateful to play against Inverness and Ross County.

“They are big clubs and we’re delighted to get them up here.

“It’s a big test for us, but we showed on Saturday we can handle ourselves against bigger teams.”

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