A brutally-efficient and clinical Buckie Thistle hammered a sorry Forres Mechanics side 8-1 as their title charge continues to pick up speed.
Four goals before half-time and four after the break gave the Jags a huge win over the Can-Cans at Mosset Park.
Buckie manager Graeme Stewart labelled his side’s showing as the best of the campaign so far.
“Every pitch in the Highland League is bad right now, we haven’t played in a few weeks and it could have been a messy game,” he said.
“But I thought it was our best performance of the season.
“In terms of how we played, we were unbelievable and our front three were excellent.”
Forres had the first real opening of the game when Ethan Cairns hit the post after 11 minutes.
But Buckie quickly turned up the pressure and were ahead on 23 minutes when Max Barry met a headed clearance with a sweet volley from 20 yards which found the corner of the net.
The visitors had multiple chances to double their lead, but were pegged back to 1-1 when Shaun Morrison calmly finished one-on-one after 36 minutes.
A rampant Jags side then killed the game before half-time.
A Darryl McHardy header had them back in front within three minutes, and he was wheeling away again on 44 minutes – though Jack MacIver’s free-kick from 40 yards appeared to go all the way in through keeper Lee Herbert’s legs with no contact from McHardy. Both players later claimed the goal.
Scott Adams’ composed finish from 10 yards made it 4-1 at the break.
The Jags didn’t slow down after the change of ends and it was 5-1 on 55 minutes. Jack Murray was fouled in the box and scored the resultant penalty himself in emphatic fashion.
Adams grabbed his second with a hammered finish from eight yards on the hour mark, before a second penalty of the half was awarded to the Jags for a Craig Mackenzie trip. Murray again scored from the spot for 7-1.
Substitute Lyall Keir was free at the back post to add the eighth and final goal with a neat finish on 81 minutes.
Forres Mechanics boss Steven MacDonald said: “That is the best I have seen Buckie play. They were different level right from the start.
“We were discussing damage limitation at half-time and how we don’t get an 8-1 – and we still get an 8-1.”
Cowie hails Fraserburgh’s first half to set up win over Keith
Mark Cowie felt Fraserburgh’s first half showing was their “best for a long time” as they ended 2023 with a comfortable 3-0 victory over a dogged Keith side at Bellslea.
Broch boss Cowie said: “The first 45 minutes was the best we’ve played in a long time.”
“We caused them problems with our pace in wide areas and with the movement of our front three.
“Paul Young was the best player on the park, dictating play, getting the ball forward and we deserved to go in 2-0 at the break.
“Second half we didn’t kick on as much and Keith changed their shape to nullify our wide players, but our passing wasn’t as crisp – maybe that had something to do with the conditions as the wind got worse.
“This time of year, is so stop start, so I’ve got to be delighted, as we scored three excellent goals, we got a clean sheet and we never came under any real pressure.
“We now move on to another difficult game at Deveronvale next week.”
The Broch were on the front foot from the start and the visitor’s young keeper, Connor Macleod, did well to tip away a curling Connor Wood shot in the first minute.
The home side made the breakthrough on 27 minutes when Scott Barbour fired in a cross the left flank and Ryan Sargent flicked the ball past the Keith goalie into the net.
Ten minutes later they increased their lead when Young threaded a through-ball into the path of Barbour, who unleashed a left-foot cracker high past the Maroons goalkeeper at his near post.
— Fraserburgh FC (@FraserburghFC) December 30, 2023
The Broch striker then almost made it three just before the break, but Macleod saved his effort.
Conditions got more difficult for the players in the second period, but a great passage of play just after the hour saw Lewis Davidson release Wood on the right wing and his pull back picked out Barbour, who slammed the ball home from 14 yards.
Two minutes later, Davidson set up Josh Bolton, who was unlucky to see his shot cannon off the crossbar.
Keith manager Craig Ewen said: “I thought Fraserburgh deserved the three points.
“They were fitter, sharper all over the pitch in the first half, but we dug in and defended well in the second period as conditions worsened.
“We didn’t really create much, but I thought our young keeper did really well and made a few good saves.
“Our season won’t be defined by games against teams in Fraserburgh’s position.
“We need to pick up points against teams around us – starting next week against Forres.”
Charlesworth praises Hunter and Thoirs after first win as Huntly boss comes at Lossiemouth
Huntly boss Colin Charlesworth said he was “delighted” to get the first win of his tenure by beating Lossiemouth 3-1 at Grant Park.
Charlesworth said: “It’s always a fortress for Lossie and they make it tough for a lot of teams coming to Grant Park.
“We were in a game from the get-go and to come away with three points and my first win, I’m delighted.
“Andy Hunter scored one and set up another and that’s what he gives you.
“He’s been about the league for a long time and is a top player and his quality has never been in doubt. We like to get him as close to goal as possible, as the ball will stick and that’s where he does damage, and we’re lucky to have a player like him.”
With a goal and an assist in our 3-1 win at Lossiemouth, Andrew Hunter took his goals tally for 2023/24 to 15 for the season. pic.twitter.com/AhmiiY8wh3
— Huntly Football Club (@huntlyfc) December 31, 2023
The Huntly manager also gave a special mention to Alexander Thoirs, who also netted, adding: “It was a really good performance from Thoirs, he’s been a real driving force in the team once again and we don’t see him score much – especially with his left foot!”
Huntly went ahead after 17 minutes. Ryan Sewell played Lewis Crosbie into the opposition box and he cut the ball back for Hunter to turn in his 15th of the season at the near post.
Lossie levelled the scoring with three minutes of the half remaining when Brandon Hutcheson took advantage of a defensive error to round keeper Fraser Hobday and fire in his first goal for the Coasters.
But the visitors got back in front in the 52nd minute when Hunter turned provider, holding the ball up for Thoirs to hit a sweetly-struck left-footed drive from 20 yards out.
Huntly the wrapped up the win with 15 minutes remaining when substitute Brodie Allen played a through-ball to Robbie Foster, who kept his composure before netting his eighth of the season with a low drive.
It is now one win in the last five for Lossiemouth, with Manager Frank McGettrick admitting they lost poor goals.
He said: “It was three good goals from Huntly, but from our point of view three poor ones for us to lose.
“We had chances in the first half, and had chances to equalise before we scored and never took them.
“The wind got up, and we lost a bad second goal, and the third killed the game.
“We scored a good goal and it’s good to see Brandon (Hutcheson) scoring. He played very well and thoroughly deserved his goal.”