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Highland League: Max Barry urges no let-up from Buckie Thistle in title chase and Sean Butcher savours a century of Fraserburgh goals

A preview of all of Wednesday's Highland League action.

Fraserburgh's Sean Butcher, left, and Max Barry of Buckie Thistle.
Fraserburgh's Sean Butcher, left, and Max Barry of Buckie Thistle.

Max Barry insists Buckie Thistle can’t let their standards drop in pursuit of the Breedon Highland League title.

The Jags face Fraserburgh at Grant Park in Lossiemouth tomorrow night in one of their games in hand on leaders Brechin City.

After victory against the Hedgemen at the weekend and Brora Rangers last midweek Buckie are nine points off the summit, but have four games in hand.

Midfielder Barry – who netted twice on Saturday – is eager to continue the momentum.

The 21-year-old said: “It doesn’t get any easier facing Fraserburgh, but we’re looking to carry on the run and see where things take us.

“We’ll need the same level of performance as Saturday, if not better.

“We need to keep trying to go up and up, the games will be coming thick and fast between now and the end of the season and we want to keep improving.”

Barry revealed Buckie’s defeat by Nairn County at the start of month may have played a part in recent results, showing the players they needed to raise their levels.

He added: “It wasn’t the be all or end all if we’d won or lost on Saturday – but I think the result proves a point to the league that we’re here to win it.

“Hopefully this can be the start of a run. When we got beat by Nairn a couple of weeks ago we needed a kick up the backside to get us going again.

“Now that’s happened hopefully we don’t drop off from the way we’ve been playing over the last week.”

Broch hitman celebrates milestone

Meanwhile, Fraserburgh’s Sean Butcher is savouring reaching a century for the club.

The striker, who arrived at Bellslea in the summer of 2018 from Junior club Longside, notched his 100th Broch goal against Huntly at the weekend.

Butcher is just the 12th Fraserburgh player – after Scott Barbour, Michael Stephen, Davie Roberson, Willie West, Graham Johnston, Paul Keith, Bertie Bowie, Kris Hunter, Rex Hunter, John Strachan and Paul Campbell – to achieve the landmark.

The 29-year-old said: “It’s good to reach a landmark like that.

“When you see some of the names who have achieved it at the Broch, they’re all legends so I’m very proud to put my name alongside those guys.

“I scored goals in the Juniors, but I wasn’t even playing in the Superleague with Longside, I was in the First Division.

“So I think there were questions like ‘Will he be good enough? Will he still score goals?’

“I had a bit of a slow start as well, but once I got in the team I think I showed what I’m about.

“I’ve nothing but thanks to Mark Cowie (manager) and James Duthie (assistant manager) for giving me the opportunity.

“I wouldn’t be playing for Fraserburgh without them. I also need to thank my team-mates for all the help they’ve given me and the chances they’ve created for me.”

Fraserburgh are third in the table, seven points off the top having played a game more than Brechin.

Although the Broch are realistic that they may not be in position to win the title, Butcher insists they’ve still got plenty to play for.

He added: “We know Buckie are a great team and they’re in top form going on their last couple of results.

“We’ve got lots of big league games to play, maybe we’re too far back to win the league, but every game is important to us.

“There’s still plenty for us to play for in the league and we’re still in two cup competitions as well.

“There’s no feeling like winning games and that’s what we want to be doing.”

Brora boss won’t dismiss title hopes

Brora Rangers player-manager Ally MacDonald reckons they need to win all their remaining games to have a chance of being Breedon Highland League champions.

The Cattachs face Lossiemouth at Dudgeon Park on Wednesday evening and sit ninth in the table having amassed 35 points from 17 games.

Last week’s defeat to Buckie Thistle and Saturday’s draw with Turriff United has left MacDonald’s men 20 points behind leaders Brechin, but they have five games in hand.

MacDonald isn’t yet ruling his side out of the title race yet, but said: “I think we need to win every game now.

“But I’d never say we’re out of it, stranger things have happened.

“In terms of the points tally I thought could win the league at the start of the season we can still reach that.

“We know it’s a challenge with the games we have left and the last two results have made it very difficult for us to compete for the league.

“We just focus on ourselves and against Lossie we need to react and put some wrongs right in terms of performance.”

Lossiemouth’s Ross Morrison.

Meanwhile, Ross Morrison is determined to do his bit to improve Lossiemouth’s goal return and away record.

The Coasters are the joint-fourth lowest scorers in the Highland League and only five of their 21 points being earned away from Grant Park.

Winger Morrison, 27, has scored seven times this term and added: “The area we’ve been trying to improve on is scoring goals.

“We’re not the highest scorers in the league and we need everyone to chip in. Personally my target to help with that is double figures and hopefully I can get there.

“At home we seem to be more consistent in terms of our performances, but away from home our record hasn’t been good enough.

“We need to be a bit tougher away from home, sometimes we’ve caved in too easily.”

Keith and Forres face off

Elsewhere, Keith face Forres Mechanics at Kynoch Park and Maroons boss Craig Ewen has challenged his side to keep improving in both boxes.

Keith have taken four points from their last two games, keeping two clean sheets in the process, beating Turriff 1-0 and drawing 0-0 with Rothes.

Boss Ewen said: “If we can keep defending our box well then it always gives you a chance of doing something.

Keith manager Craig Ewen.

“We’ve got to keep trying to improve in both boxes, we had a few chances in the second half on Saturday against Rothes to win it, but we couldn’t take them.

“If we could get another three points that would be brilliant for us.”

This will be Forres’ first fixture since their 4-1 victory against Clachnacuddin a fortnight ago.

Test of County’s credentials

Boss Steven Mackay is keen to measure the progress Nairn County have made when they tackle Formartine United at North Lodge Park.

The Wee County are sixth in the Breedon Highland League table – one place and three points below the Pitmedden side – having played two games more.

Mackay has spoken previously of his desire to try to break into the league’s top five and says fixtures like this tomorrow’s and Saturday’s against Fraserburgh will show if they have what it takes.

Nairn manager Steven Mackay.

He said: “We know it will be a tough week for us, but they’re great games for us and it’ll give us an idea of where we are and how far we’ve come.

“It will also show us if we’ve got what it takes to be in that pack at the top end.

“If we’ve got aspirations to be in there at the end of the season we need to take something from games like this.

“These are the ones you need to start getting points in if you want to progress.

“Historically we haven’t done well in these games in recent years and during my time I think our record against the top five or six has been poor.”

Something that hasn’t been poor for Nairn is the form of Ben Barron.

The striker joined on loan from Elgin City last month and has bagged eight goals in five games, including a hat-trick against Deveronvale on Saturday.

Mackay added: “Ben’s given us a focal point and I just like the way he goes about his business.

“He’s hungry to score goals and he brings exactly what we’re looking for. I think this loan deal is suiting both parties.”

Squad strength will be tested

Meanwhile, Formartine manager Stuart Anderson believes squad depth will be important in the closing stages of the campaign.

United have 13 league games to play in the next two months and are also still in the Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup.

Anderson said: “It will be a tough game, Nairn are doing really well and we know they’ve got a lot of good players.

“We’re coming into a busy period and we’re keen to get going again.

“At part-time level when you play a lot of games it can be hard on the boys and you do need a squad.

“We’re happy with our squad and I’m sure over the next few weeks everyone will get plenty of minutes.

“It can be difficult as well with work commitments, but it’s one of those things, you never get any complaints because they all want to play and they just get on with it.”

Watch: Highland League Weekly – Highlights of Brechin City v Buckie Thistle showdown, plus Rothes v Keith