Defending champions and Breedon Highland League leaders Brechin City kept their title challenge on course with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Lossiemouth at Glebe Park.
Although City had by far the bulk of pressure and possession in the opening 45 minutes, the Coasters defence worked extremely hard to deny the home side any real clear-cut chances.
City got their noses in front within a minute of the restart when Jamie Richardson was in the right place to slot home the opening goal after good play by Fraser Macleod.
The points were sealed on the hour mark when Danny Handling picked up a loose ball 20 yards from goal and drilled home a left-foot drive into the bottom corner.
Brechin boss Gavin Price said: “I’m really pleased to pick up the three points but credit to Lossiemouth who made things very difficult for us.
“They defended behind the ball and frustrated us for periods of the game because of how hard they worked.
“They kept a good shape and it was very difficult to break them down.
“Having said that we created a number of chances in the first-half and if one of those chances had gone in it would have taken the pressure off and made things a bit easier.
“I was really pleased we scored so early in the second-half and Danny Handling showed his quality with the second goal which made things far more comfortable from then on in.
“We had to work really hard today and overall I am happy enough with the way we played and the chances we created.”
An outstanding performance from Jamie Richardson today as he bagged a goal and earned a deserved man of the match award in the process 🙌 pic.twitter.com/PeuAJ7bfLn
— Brechin City FC (@BrechinCityFC) February 3, 2024
Lossiemouth boss Frank McGettrick said: “I was delighted with the performance over the 90 minutes but you have to concede that Brechin are a top team with the quality of players they have plus the players Gavin’s brought in.
“I was looking for a response after the defeat against Nairn in midweek and the players certainly gave me that.”
Banks o’ Dee 2-0 Keith
The encounter at Spain Park saw second-top play second-bottom of the Breedon Highland League with Banks o’ Dee edging it.
A deflected strike from Mark Gilmour close to half-time and a superb Chris Antoniazzi shot in the second half kept Dee’s title challenge on track.
The victory enabled the home side to bounce back from the disappointment of their midweek Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup exit against Buckie Thistle.
Dee co-manager Josh Winton said: “I was pleased to get the three points and also the clean sheet.
“We knew it would be tough after the midweek game against Buckie when we finished the game with 10 men.
“Our first goal came at a good time and Chris Antoniazzi showed his quality with the second goal – it was probably the best bit of quality during the game.
“Defensively we were good, with the back four being resolute when the Keith strikers pushed at us.”
Chances were at a premium in the opening stages with an end-to-end game seeing Keith competing well against the hosts.
There was nothing to separate the sides, and just when it looked like being a goal-less first half, a deflected Gilmour shot wrong-footed Keith goalkeeper Craig Reid to give Dee the lead barely a minute from the break.
Although the homesters began to push forward trying to put the game to bed in the second half, it took a real piece of quality with 62 minutes on the clock to double the score.
Former Aberdeen and Elgin City player Antoniazzi gave Reid no chance with a curling 20-yard left-foot shot that flew into the top corner of the net.
Keith manager Craig Ewen said: “I thought we played well, competing well throughout.
“We’re just not getting the rub of the green at the moment.
“We were hit by the sucker punch on half-time, but the second goal was real quality.
“There weren’t many chances during the game to be honest and we’ve shown in the last few games against the top five that we can compete.
“We just need to keep that going together as a unit and start winning games against the teams around us.”