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Highland League: EVERY game previewed as Brora Rangers face Fraserburgh in cup final dress rehearsal

We preview Saturday's Breedon Highland League action.

Brora Rangers player-manager Ally MacDonald, right, and Scott Barbour of Fraserburgh.
Brora Rangers player-manager Ally MacDonald, right, and Scott Barbour of Fraserburgh.

Brora Rangers and Fraserburgh are keen to hit top gear in the Breedon Highland League on Saturday in anticipation of their next meeting later this month.

The teams clash at Dudgeon Park this weekend – before facing off again in the GPH Builders Merchants Highland League Cup on March 30.

Following a run of one win in five games, Cattachs player-manager Ally MacDonald admits their league title challenge looks to be over.

Brora do have four games in hand on leaders Brechin City, but are 19 points off the summit.

MacDonald won’t let the season peter out, and said: “We need to try and finish as high as we can. To actually win the league is probably out of sight for us now.

“To try and win our remaining games would be a challenge.

“We have the cup final to play, so we need to start moving up the gears.

“Right now, we’re not hitting top gear – that’s not something we can just switch on. We have to go into every game to try and get three points to try and build momentum working towards the final.

“This is our first chance to play Fraserburgh this season. We will both be trying to sound one another out.

“There is a lot still to play for at Brora, despite maybe not now having the league title to go for.”

Broch have plenty of targets says Barbour

Fraserburgh are fourth in the table, eight points off the summit and manager Mark Cowie has previously stated their title hopes are over.

But Broch striker Scott Barbour insists it’s important they try to rediscover their fluency in the final third, which he feels has been lacking at times this term.

As well as having the League Cup final to look forward to, Fraserburgh face Buckie Thistle in the semi-final of the Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup on Wednesday.

Barbour, 32, added: “As forward players it maybe hasn’t quite clicked. I’m the first to speak about goal stats and it hasn’t been quite as good as in previous seasons.

“I don’t know what it is, because we’re used to being pretty free-scoring.

Fraserburgh’s Scott Barbour.

“The cups are a motivator for us. Every game is important in terms of trying to keep your place and show that you should be in the team.

“We still want to finish as high as we can in the league as well.

“Some folk might think the result can have an impact going forward to the final, but I don’t.

“You might take stuff out of the game, but the final will be totally different and it’s very much on the day.”

Brora have recalled Millar Gamble from his loan at Clachnacuddin ahead of the Broch clash.

News from around the Highland League

Elsewhere, Buckie Thistle will be without Kevin Fraser and Darryl McHardy when they welcome Strathspey Thistle to Victoria Park. The Grantown Jags are missing Jack Gilliland, Ross Logan, Kane Davies, Caelan Mutch, Daniel Whitehorn and Steven Martin, but James McShane returns.

Keith are minus Josh Buchan, Matthew Tough, Joey Wilson and Liam Duncan, while Gavin Elphinstone is a doubt, for Brechin City’s visit to Kynoch Park. Anthony McDonald is still sidelined for the Hedgemen.

Andrew Greig is the only Nairn County absentee for their derby clash with Clach. On his return to Station Park, Lilywhites boss Conor Gethins is without James Anderson, Robert Urquhart, Kieran Chalmers, Martin MacKinnon and Zach MacPhee.

Gordon MacNab, Alan Hughes, Owen Harrold, Brandon Sinclair, James Mackay and Richard Macadie are out of Wick Academy’s Harmsworth Park encounter with Formartine United. The Pitmedden side welcome back Adam Emslie, Aaron Reid and Matthew McLean.

Inverurie Locos face Lossiemouth at Harlaw Park, Greg Mitchell is missing for the Railwaymen, but Aidan Wilson returns. Baylee Campbell, Ross Elliott, Struan Fraser Henry Jordan, Fraser Forbes, Ryan Stuart and Ryan Farquhar are out for the Coasters.

Huntly chasing scoring accolade

Colin Charlesworth would be delighted if Huntly could finish the season as top scorers in the Breedon Highland League.

The Black and Golds face Forres Mechanics at Christie Park tomorrow – the second meeting of the sides in four days following Wednesday’s 2-2 draw at Mosset Park.

Charlesworth’s charges are sixth in the table and firmly in the mix to finish as the division’s leading scorers.

Huntly have netted 72 goals from their 26 matches, a big improvement on scoring 44 times in 34 games last season.

Boss Charlesworth said: “We’ve known for a while that we’ve got firepower and we can compete with the top teams on that front.

Huntly manager Colin Charlesworth, centre.

“If we can add a bit solidity and cut down on the goals we’re conceding, then we’ll improve again going forward.

“We’re two points behind last season’s points tally (45) with eight games to go.

“We want it to be another season of steady improvement in terms of points – and trying to be the highest scorers in the league would be something good to add to that.”

Meanwhile, Forres manager Steven MacDonald is eager to turn improved performances into victories.

The Can-Cans boss has been pleased with recent displays, having won one, drawn two and lost one of their last four outings.

MacDonald added: “There’s been an upturn in the way things have been. The boys have been doing well, but we need to try to get more wins.

“We’ve got a lot of hard games coming up, but I see the boys working really hard and it’s just trying to get a few more wins on the board.

“I want the team to get better, it’s a young team and a tough league, but we’ve got to try to keep improving.”

Vale in no hurry to bring in assistant

Deveronvale boss Craig Stewart is in no rush to appoint a new assistant manager.

The Banffers face Rothes at Princess Royal Park tomorrow in their first outing since the departure of Richard Davidson last week.

Stewart said: “I haven’t thought about it too much. I’ve got Mikey Grant (goalkeeping coach) and Pat McPherson (first-team coach) alongside me who are a big help to me on matchdays and at training.

“Dane Ballard may also get involved to some degree.

“An assistant manager isn’t something you rush into. I’ve been in this position before and I took my time.”

Vale are 17th in the Breedon Highland League with 15 points. In their last 10 games, Stewart has set the target of surpassing last season’s tally of 24 and climbing the table.

He added: “We want to try to finish higher than where we currently are and try to better the points tally we got last year.

“Two or three results would put us in a good position to do that. I’m frustrated to be sitting where we are.”

Rothes are without Michael Finnis, Fraser Robertson, Greg Morrison, Ben Williamson, Kyle Whyte, Allen Mackenzie and Duncan Proudfoot. That means youngsters like Callum Cruickshank, Matthew McConnachie and Owen Alexander will again be involved.

Rothes manager Richard Hastings.

Manager Richard Hastings has yet to win after four games in charge, and said: “The young boys have stepped up to the challenge and that’s all you can ask of them.

“We’re in a position where it’s needs must. On top of that, we’re trying to implement a new gameplan and get people to understand their roles.

“There’s a lot to take on, but everything in football is about trying to win – that’s the be all and end all and we need to try to do that.”

Watch: Highland League Weekly EXTRA – Highlights of Brechin City v Banks o’ Dee title race duel