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All Wednesday’s Highland League action previewed as title rivals Buckie Thistle and Banks o’ Dee prepare to lock horns

The latest team news ahead of the midweek Breedon Highland League action.

Buckie Thistle manager Graeme Stewart.
Buckie Thistle manager Graeme Stewart. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

Buckie Thistle and Banks o’ Dee are aiming to right the weekend’s wrongs as they return to Breedon Highland League action when they meet at Victoria Park.

Both sides’ title hopes took a dent on Saturday as Graeme Stewart’s men suffered a shock defeat at Lossiemouth, while the Aberdeen outfit were beaten by Fraserburgh at Bellslea.

Buckie sit fifth in the league, but have played five games fewer than their midweek opponents, while Dee sit second with 59 points after 27 matches.

The Buckie boss was furious with the Lossiemouth result and admits his side can’t afford any more slip-ups in their bid for the title.

Stewart said: “The defeat on Saturday makes this game even more important.

“There is no doubt about it – it makes the game more crucial and we need to get a win.

“We have slipped up against Lossiemouth and Clachnacuddin and I have said to the guys that it is unacceptable. It’s no disrespect to those teams, but if you’ve got aspirations of winning the league then you can’t get beat in those kind of games.

“We’ve given ourselves a harder job and the fact we got beat by Banks o’ Dee in the reverse fixture means we need to put things right now.

“There is added pressure to this game, but the one thing I have noticed about my team is we tend to thrive when pressure is involved.”

Buckie in control of Highland League title bid despite recent defeat

With the Jags having so many games in hand – including three over leaders Brechin, who they are also still to play, Stewart believes their title hopes are still in their hands.

However, the Buckie boss knows they can leave no margin for error, as he added: “It is all in our hands and that is the main thing.

“If we win all our games then we win the league.

“In the last few seasons, it has not been in our hands at this point of the season and we were looking for others to slip up, so we know it is within our control.

“We’ve proven going away to Brechin and Brora that we can turn up in big games and now we just need to get a run of consistency for the last six weeks of the season – and if we do that then we’ve got a chance.

Buckie celebrate Max Barry's winner against Brechin City in a Highland League fixture at Glebe Park.
Buckie Thistle celebrate Max Barry’s winner against Brechin City at Glebe Park. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

“I’ve been frustrated myself. We should have won the game at Lossiemouth because we played quite well, but just didn’t take our chances and were caught with a couple of breaks.

“If we get beat or draw against Banks o’ Dee, then we are in a position where we’re waiting for teams to slip-up – and I don’t want to be in that position.

“I want it to be in our control, so we just have to keep knocking out wins until the end of the season.”

Buckie will be without the injured Darryl McHardy and Kevin Fraser against Dee, while Jack MacIver could return following an infection in his ankle.

Banks o’ Dee want to ruffle more feathers, says Antoniazzi

Winger Chris Antoniazzi says the loss at Fraserburgh won’t define Banks o’ Dee’s title challenge as his side’s focus is now on the next clash against their top-of-the-table rivals.

He said: “We’ve dropped points earlier in the season, so when you look at Saturday’s result in isolation it’s not necessarily the worst result.

“But it means we haven’t really moved away from the pack, we are still there or thereabouts, but there’s a lot to do.

“It’s a big game against Buckie, we know it’s a big week ahead of us. Buckie have been doing well and have their games in hand.

“All we can do is focus on ourselves, but hopefully we can upset some other teams.

“There are still loads of games to play, we’ve got to hope results elsewhere go for us. But all we can do is focus on ourselves and our own development this season a win would do a lot for us as a club.”

To be sitting second in the league and still in the title race, Antoniazzi says, reflects the progress Dee have made since last season.

He added: “We’ve definitely progressed from last season and that was the aim.

Banks o' Dee winger Chris Antoniazzi in action in the Breedon Highland League.
Banks o’ Dee winger Chris Antoniazzi. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

“We’re still a new club in the Highland League and we’re still getting used to it.

“For some of us it’s our first time in the Highland League, but we’ve taken a step forward this season and nobody can take that away from us.

“We’ve ruffled some feathers this season.”

Leaders Brechin, who sit three points clear at the summit, will be sure to have one eye on who prevails at Victoria Park – but, Gavin Price’s side will have their own job to do when they travel to Mosset Park to face Forres.

The hosts, who were beaten by Brora Rangers on Saturday, remain without Lee Herbert and Lee Fraser, meanwhile, Andrew Skinner and Tom Brady are doubts.

Brechin travel to Forres without the services of Sean Hastie and Anthony MacDonald, who remain sidelined with injuries.

Brora have chance to overtake Nairn County – with cup final spots in mind

Seventh-placed Brora are working their way through a punishing schedule of two games per week as they play catch-up on their fixtures, with Nairn County at home next up.

With their title chances out of reach, assistant boss Josh Meekings wants the Cattachs to build upon their 10-1 rout of Strathspey Thistle and 1-0 win at Forres Mechanics.

And with the GPH Builders Merchants Highland League Cup final against Fraserburgh on March 30 drawing ever closer, he said: “There are places up for grabs for the final.

“Over the next two weeks, there is the chance for players to stake their claim for a place in that starting 11.

“With the way this season has panned out in the league, this looks like being our biggest game of the season. It’s all to play for.

“We have taken six points from the last two games, so we go into this one with confidence.

Brora Rangers assistant manager Josh Meekings. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“We know we have got boys who can score goals and we just need to ensure, if we can keep it tight at the back, we will have a much better chance of getting results.

“As we saw on Saturday, you might then need just one goal to win. We need to be a wee bit more creative at times in the final third.

“The Saturday-Wednesday schedule has been tough, and it does take its toll on the boys, but we’re still working hard and looking no further ahead than our next game.

“Nairn are having a really respectable season. They are one place (and two points) above us in the league and all credit to them. They have come on leaps and bounds from last season, but we are fully focused on making sure we do our jobs.”

After back-to-back draws against Clachnacuddin and Keith, Nairn returned to winning form at the weekend when they won 3-1 at Turriff United.

At Dudgeon Park, the hosts will be without Lewis Hyde, Andy Macrae, Max Ewen, Rhuraidh Nicol and Jordan MacRae – and Nairn are missing Ross Tokely, Wayne Mackintosh and Ben Barron.

Strathspey host Wick with depleted squad

Wick will be aiming to bounce back from Saturday’s loss to Inverurie Loco Works when they travel to Seafield Park for a clash with basement side Strathspey Thistle.

Matthew Robertson, Alan Hughes, Owen Rendall, Matthew Aitkenhead, James Mackay and Richard Macadie will all be absent for the Scorries.

Managerless Strathspey are expected to be down the bare bones with four players definitely out due to injury or work commitments, while three others are doubts after picking up minor injuries.

Watch: Highland League Weekly – Fraserburgh v Banks o’ Dee and Strathspey Thistle v Keith highlights