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Brechin City strike late to beat Buckie Thistle and win the Highland League

The Hedgemen through Ewan Loudon and Grady McGrath netted in the closing stages to win the championship and deflate the Jags.

Buckie Thistle's Jack Murray, left, and Botti Biabi of Brechin City. Pictures by Jason Hedges
Buckie Thistle's Jack Murray, left, and Botti Biabi of Brechin City. Pictures by Jason Hedges

Brechin City won the Breedon Highland League in dramatic fashion beating title rivals Buckie Thistle 2-0 with two late goals at Victoria Park.

In the battle of the division’s top two the Hedgemen needed to win, the Jags only needed a draw.

It looked like they would get it but sub Ewan Loudon popped up with the opener in the 87th minute and five minutes into stoppage time north football’s top scorer Grady McGrath sealed victory.

For Brechin it was unbridled delighted but for Buckie it was despair, having also been pipped to the championship on the last day of last season by Fraserburgh.

City will now go forward to face Lowland League champions Spartans in the pyramid play-off first leg next weekend.

The fans poured into Victoria Park once the turnstiles opened at 1.15pm and by kick-off the ground was absolutely crammed with supporters.

Brechin had taken around 700 supporters up from Angus while Buckie were backed by a massive home contingent.

The Jags made one change to the side which defeated Formartine United last weekend. Cove Rangers loanee Balint Demus returned in goal in place of Lee Herbert.

The Hedgemen made two changes to the team which won at Keith on Wednesday with Hamish Thomson and Kieran Inglis coming in for Anthony McDonald and Michael McArthur.

Scrappy start

In the opening exchanges it was the home side who had the first half chance with Andrew MacAskill’s free-kick from the right missed by Sam Urquhart at the back post.

Neither side was making much use of the excellent surface but one of Buckie’s long balls almost brought the opener in the 12th minute.

Hamish Munro sent it forward and both Thomson and Cooney missed it which let Josh Peters in. Goalkeeper Lenny Wilson was out quickly to narrow the angle and although Peters’ shot beat the custodian Euan Spark got back to clear the ball off the line.

Buckie were adamant the ball had crossed the line but referee Harry Bruce and linesman Darren Munro disagreed.

Brechin did have a free-kick in a decent position shortly after, but Jamie Bain’s decent delivery was dealt with.

On 21 minutes Joe McCabe’s header from a Jack Murray free-kick found Peters whose overhead kick was straight at Wilson.

Josh Peters, centre, of Buckie, has a go under pressure from Brechin’s Hamish Thomson, left

Five minutes later the Jags were knocking on the door again. MacAskill’s free-kick was expertly brought down by Peters inside the area, Spark made a superb block.

But Brechin couldn’t clear fully and Sam Pugh’s blast from the edge of the box was repelled inside the six-yard box by a combination of Wilson and Thomson.

Thistle were in the ascendancy and twice in quick succession Wilson had to race out to head clear under pressure from Peters, whose pace running in behind made him a constant threat.

In the 35th minute Wilson was worked again when Marcus Goodall robbed Fraser MacLeod and let fly from 20 yards, but Brechin’s keeper made a good save.

As the interval approached the visitors improved a fraction and Inglis lifted a shot over from 25 yards a minute shy of the interval.

At the other McCabe’s attempt from long range was routine for Wilson to hold.

Title in the balance

Brechin made a livelier start to the second half with a neat move ending in Marc Scott lofting a cross-cum-shot narrowly over from the right.

Then in the 52nd minute manager Andy Kirk made a change with Jordan Northcott replacing Cooney.

The Hedgemen were increasing the pressure. After an hour Jamie Bain’s free-kick into the box was flicked on by Botti Biabi and Pugh hooked over his own crossbar under pressure from McGrath.

From the resultant corner Buckie countered and MacAskill’s slipped Peters in but the alert Wilson raced out to clear in the nick of time.

Entering the final quarter the game was still balanced on a knife-edge. Thistle hadn’t been as potent in the final third since half-time.

A draw would be enough for the Jags but boss Graeme Stewart was urging his side not to drop too deep and sit in.

Brechin’s Grady McGrath, centre, tries to get a shot away under pressure from Buckie’s Sam Pugh, left, and Jack Murray

As the minutes ticked down it was becoming incessant Brechin pressure and three minutes from the end they won it.

Sub Loudon skipped away from a couple of Buckie challenges and fired a right-footed shot into the bottom left corner from 20 yards with goalkeeper Balint Demus apparently unsighted.

After the goal Brechin fans spilled on to the pitch in delight, Buckie’s players looked shell-shocked but threw everything at it in the dying embers in the search for an equaliser.

The best opening fell for Peters after neat footwork by Murray but McHattie made a superb block and then Goodall’s follow-up swerved wide from 20 yards.

In the 95th minute Brechin put the seal on the championship with Buckie committing players forward Biabi slipped in McGrath and he fired into the bottom left corner.