Brora Rangers player-manager Ally MacDonald fears a massive fixture pile-up as Wednesday’s fixture at Strathspey Thistle hangs in the balance.
The Highland League team were due to host League One opponents Cove Rangers in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup at the weekend.
The heavy snowfall led to the Dudgeon Park tie being postponed and rescheduled for Tuesday.
Hold that tweet…with Brora's cup tie on Tuesday being postponed, Wednesday's league game at Seafield Park is potentially back on…weather dependant. Keep an eye here and on Facebook. https://t.co/psscDRI6Bn
— Strathspey Thistle FC (Official) (@JagsStfc) January 22, 2024
A waterlogged pitch saw that tie also wiped out and it is now set for next Tuesday for the right to face Premiership Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on the weekend of Saturday, February 10.
With Brora having played just 13 league matches, efforts have been made to swiftly fit Brora’s away league game at Strathspey Thistle this Wednesday – as was the plan for that rescheduled match.
However, a mid-morning pitch inspection will determine whether it’s game on. The Seafield Park surface has taken a lot of water, but the overnight forecast was not positive.
The Cattachs, whose home clash with Keith this Saturday might be a doubt, will also hope it’s third time lucky when take on Championship opponents Cove Rangers in the Scottish Cup next Tuesday.
Brora sit just outside the top eight and are desperate to overtake teams above them.
Call-offs kill any Brora momentum
MacDonald’s team’s only run-out this month has been their 2-2 comeback draw at Inverurie Locos on January 13.
He admits the schedule is now creaking at the seams, with a Highland League Cup final against Fraserburgh also to fit in on March 30 after being twice weather-beaten.
He said: “We’ve only had two games since the end of November. The schedule is really building up, so we’re desperate to get games on.
“We were thankful Strathspey held the Wednesday spot on in the event of Tuesday’s Cove game going off.
“As much as we don’t want to use it as an excuse, it does kill any momentum. We’re desperate for a run of games.
“Right now, we have just one free Wednesday left before the end of the season, which is the week before the cup final, which is kept for us to prepare. One more call-off and that Wednesday will be gone as well.
“We might be playing Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday. By reaching the cup final and progressing in the Scottish Cup has come at a cost for us. Success has caused a lot of these issues.
“We’re in a place we’ve never been before. We’re trying to compete at the top level, but it’s difficult.”
Preparations tested boss MacDonald
Preparations for which opponents they might have been facing was another challenge for MacDonald.
He said: “We trained on Monday when we got a break in the wind, but we’re also thinking ‘are we training for Cove Rangers or Strathspey Thistle?
“You’re training with different personnel, different shapes. We prepared with two different sessions.
“It’s hard for morale and keeping the heads on it. It’s becoming a challenge. Hopefully the weather does turn in our favour and we can have at least one game before we play Cove on Tuesday.”
At present, a groin injury is keeping Andy Macrae sidelined, while on-loan Caley Thistle midfielder Lewis Hyde is struggling with an ankle knock.
Dudgeon Park pitch not clearing
The new surface laid at Dudgeon Park this season offered plenty of reasons for optimism, but it’s turned into a nightmare with the volume of surface water proving problematic.
MacDonald added: “The water on our own park is not shifting. There are two main patches, which are quite big areas, where the water won’t shift.
“Because it’s so flat, the water has nowhere to go. We really need a spell of better weather.
“The club bought heaters to try and clear some of the water, but this is north of Scotland weather – you’re always up against it. We’re struggling to keep up with the weather.
“To start with, the pitch was brilliant, but right now there is no water getting through.”
Strathspey idle since December 16
Strathspey have not played since December 16, although they have managed four more matches than Brora overall.
Manager Robert McCormack said: “It feels like an eternity since our last game, but with the festive period and poor weather, we’ve had to wait. It’s been far from ideal.
“However, we’ve trained when we can and we’re as prepared as we can be. Against Brora, one of the best teams in the league, we’ll look to be defensively solid, while trying to cause Brora problems going forward.
“We understand where we are (in the league). We’re only halfway through our season and there are a lot of points to play for. We will keep fighting until the very end.”
Strathspey add Ewan Neill, who is back at the club on loan from Rothes, to their ranks, but Michael Mackenzie is unavailable after his partner gave birth to a girl.
The STFC family grows by one!
We would like to congratulate our striker Michael Mackenzie and his partner Angela on the recent birth of their beautiful baby girl Isla. 👶💙 pic.twitter.com/CkXfOgsFMw
— Strathspey Thistle FC (Official) (@JagsStfc) January 23, 2024