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Banks o’ Dee and Inverurie Locos progress to final four of Highland League Cup

Banks o' Dee striker Jack Henderson. Image: Wullie Marr/ DC Thomson.
Banks o' Dee striker Jack Henderson. Image: Wullie Marr/ DC Thomson.

Banks o’ Dee manager Jamie Watt says he’s proud of his players for making the last four of the GPH Builders Merchants Highland League Cup at the first attempt.

Dee beat Forres Mechanics 3-2 at Spain Park to book a semi-final spot in their maiden season competing at Highland League level.

“Having played in many a Highland League Cup campaign over the years I know how hard it is to get to this stage,” said Watt.

“There are some very good players who spent decades trying to get to the semis or the final and never achieved it, so I’m very proud some of our lads have done it at the first time of asking.

“It also keeps our season alive in the wake of the points deduction that ended our chances of challenging in the league.”

While Dee were always the most dominant side in the tie it took an astonishing last minute save from their veteran keeper Andy Shearer to deny the Can Cans a crack at a penalty shoot-out.

The 39-year-old dived full length to acrobatically deflect Forres sub Thomas Brady’s thundering 18-yard drive over his crossbar.

Watt said: “It was an amazing save, the sort you have come to expect from Andy over the years.

“But it would have been harsh on us if the tie had gone to penalties because we were the better side and could have won by more if we had taken our chances.”

It was certainly thrilling stuff, with Dee’s Lachie Macleod setting the tone by rattling the Forres crossbar with a shot after just three minutes.

The Can Cans went ahead in the seventh minute when Ryan MacLeman scored a wonder goal, dancing past four Dee challenges in a run from the half-way line before slotting a low shot home from the edge of the Dee area.

The lead lasted only a minute until Dee skipper Kane Winton powered past two tackles inside the Forres area before lashing home from six yards.

“That was the turning point of the game,” said Forres manager Steve MacDonald.

“If we had held the lead a bit longer the pressure might have mounted on Dee, but we were a bit naive and handed the initiative back to them too quickly.

“We have a lot of young players and they need to learn from that.”

Forres keeper Stuart Knight had made several vital saves before Dee went ahead in the 66th minute, thanks to a well placed 18-yard shot from Lewis Crosbie.

The tie looked to be over when Dee sub Jack Henderson nodded home from a Matthew Wallace cross to make it 3-1 eight minutes from time.

Forres were back in it when an effort from Callum Johnston took a wicked deflection and found the net in the 87th minute.

Shearer was the hero for Dee right at the death though, with that wonder save that ensures they still have a crack at glory in the new year.

Turriff United 0-1 Inverurie Locos

Inverurie Locos will go into 2023 with a GPH Builders Merchants Highland League Cup semi-final to look forward to after a closely contested local derby was settled by a single goal from 16-year-old debutant Blair Smith.

Locos boss Richard Hastings was full of praise for the young midfielder.

He said: “We brought Blair in as we had two regular players out. He hasn’t seen any appearance time but we wanted to get him involved.

“It was an excellent chance to assess him as he is now part of our squad and it turned out to be a dream debut.

“The whole purpose of the day was to get ourselves into the last four. It was a slog in the second half but the boys are delighted to have got us over the line.”

Hastings paid tribute to Turriff for making his side work hard for the win.

He added: “Credit to Turriff, they kept changing things which forced us to change our approach as well, you just have to hope nothing falls their way in the box.

“It’s good to have a semi-final go look forward to, it keeps things ticking over and we know what we’re up against when we face Turriff twice more later this month.”

Although the visitors held the upper hand in the opening period, the best chance fell the way of the home side in 26 minutes when Kyle Gordon set up Murray Cormack to strike narrowly over with the outside of his right foot.

At the other end David Dey saved from Robert Ward at the second attempt, then young midfielder Smith was brought down in the box but penalty shouts were waved away.

But in 33 minutes Smith, in his first game, volleyed home after great lead up work by Greg Mitchell.

Turriff came out for the second half fired up with Ewan Clark, who netted four in the opening round tie against Clach, shooting over from a tight angle before Andy Reid saved from Jordan Cooper.

In 70 minutes the hosts missed a gilt-edged chance when Gordon headed over right in front of goal from a perfectly flighted cross.

Ten minutes later the task was made more difficult when central defender Max Foster collected two yellow cards in quick succession for fouling Nathan Meres and was sent off.

Turriff United manager Dean Donaldson. Image: Kenny Elrick/ DC Thomson.

Turriff boss Dean Donaldson said: “The better team lost, we couldn’t get the ball in the net.

“In the first half, Locos were good, but in the second half we were well on top.

“Then the referee makes a ridiculous decision to send our player off for the same foul – two bookings for one foul. I know referees have it difficult, but I felt it was a poor performance.

“I also felt we had three penalty shouts turned down, but I’m really proud of my players.

“We had seven players in the stand who could start for us, so I feel we are on the upward trajectory.”