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Banks o’ Dee’s Jamie Watt delighted to keep League Cup hopes alive after Brora thriller

Lachie MacLeod, left, scores Banks o' Dee's stoppage time equaliser against Brora Rangers
Lachie MacLeod, left, scores Banks o' Dee's stoppage time equaliser against Brora Rangers

Manager Jamie Watt praised his Banks o’ Dee players for keeping their hopes of glory alive with a penalty shoot-out success against Brora Rangers in the GPH Builders Merchants Highland League Cup.

The Aberdeen outfit defeated the holders 4-3 on spot-kicks following a 3-3 draw at Dudgeon Park to set up a home quarter-final against Forres Mechanics.

It was a thrilling encounter with Dee coming back from two goals down, while the Cattachs put in a heroic display playing for three quarters of the contest with 10 men following Mark Nicolson’s sending off.

Having been knocked out of the Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup and Morrison Motors (Turriff) Aberdeenshire Shield in the first round and having 24 points deducted in the Breedon Highland League, this competition is Dee’s only hope of winning silverware this term.

Boss Watt said: “It keeps the season alive, we’ve had to take a lot of knocks this season.

“We were unlucky in the two Aberdeenshire competitions against Fraserburgh.

“It was a big ask against the holders, who are also riding high in the league, but I felt we were due a result like this.

“I think we deserved the win and it’s good to get the job done and keep our season alive.”

Brora manager Craig Campbell added: “We’re disappointed to be out of the cup.

Dale Gillespie, left, and Jordan MacRae celebrate putting Brora ahead against Banks o’ Dee

“I’m very proud of the performance of the players after being down to 10 men for more than an hour.

“We just ran out of steam in the last couple of minutes and conceded the equaliser.

“With 10 men they took on the instructions we gave them at half-time, it was a very disciplined performance with a lot of hard work and I thought the fitness levels were exceptional.

“Obviously it’s bitterly disappointing to lose on penalties.”

Fast start from hosts

Brora made a blistering start and took a third minute lead when Tony Dingwall found Gregor MacDonald on the right side of the area and he found the bottom left corner with a well-placed shot.

Four minutes later it was 2-0 when Gregor MacDonald’s switch of play from right to left found Ally MacDonald whose shot from the edge of the area was deflected beyond goalkeeper Andy Shearer.

On 20 minutes Dee pulled one back. Dean Lawrie knocked the ball past Tom Kelly before being clipped and, after deliberation between referee Billy Baxter and assistant Stephen Tait about whether the foul was inside the area, the spot-kick was given and Mark Gilmour converted.

Campbell said: “Tom is an honest boy. He said he made contact but that it’s two yards outside the box.

“Billy said his assistant helped him, but his assistant wasn’t up in line with the 18-yard box.”

Brora’s Mark Nicolson, centre, is sent off against Banks o’ Dee by referee Billy Baxter

Watt added: “The penalty was a lottery, they just guessed. I don’t think anyone knows if it was in the box or not and they gave it.”

Three minutes later more drama was to come when referee Baxter initially booked Nicolson for a late challenge on Kane Winton.

But after discussing the matter with his other assistant, Alexander Macdonald, Baxter flashed his red card at Nicolson.

Watt said: “I thought it was a straight red, looking across at it. For me the studs came right down on Kane.

“You don’t normally get those decisions overturned so I was pretty amazed to see the linesman step in and correct him.”

Campbell added: “Billy booked Mark and I don’t see why he has to change his decision when the linesman is standing maybe 25 yards further away than Billy is.

“I’d like to see the tackle again, but I don’t think his foot was that high and Billy obviously didn’t think it was or he would have sent him off initially.”

Visitors hit back

That decision changed the dynamic and galvanised Dee. Hamish MacLeod clipped the right post with a shot and home goalkeeper Ruardhri Nicol made two superb saves to deny Winton and Matthew Wallace.

But, in the 37th minute, the equaliser arrived with Lachie MacLeod prodding home brother Hamish’s cross from the left at the front post.

Early in the second half Ally Stark’s trundler from 20 yards hit the left upright.

However, it was Brora who scored next on 57 minutes when Dale Gillespie headed home Gregor MacDonald’s free-kick from the right.

The Cattachs’ tenacity with 10 men couldn’t be faulted and just as it looked like they had weathered everything Banks o’ Dee could throw at them the equaliser arrived in the 91st minute.

Winton drove into the box before teeing up Lachie MacLeod to finish from 15 yards.

Brora Ruardhri Nicol Magnus Watson’s penalty, but Banks o’ Dee ultimately progressed

That meant penalties were required, although referee Baxter had to be reminded that was the case – having initially been preparing the sides for extra-time.

Ali Sutherland hit the crossbar with Brora’s first and Lachie MacLeod did likewise with Dee’s third.

When Josh Meekings ballooned the Cattachs’ fifth kick over Magnus Watson had the chance to win it only to be denied by Nicol.

But Colin Williamson hit the bar with Brora’s next which meant Kacper Lewecki’s conversion took Dee through.