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Highland League: Buckie Thistle edge Banks o’ Dee as leaders Brechin City draw with Forres Mechanics

Graeme Stewart's side make up ground on the league leaders after a hard-fought win against Dee.

Banks o' Dee's Michael Philipson and Buckie's Jack Murray. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.
Banks o' Dee's Michael Philipson and Buckie's Jack Murray. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

Buckie Thistle manager Graeme Stewart was delighted with his side’s “massive” 2-1 win over Breedon Highland League title rivals Banks o’ Dee.

After a goalless first half at Victoria Park, Josh Peters opened the scoring for Buckie in the 58th minute before Andrew MacAskill scored direct from a corner five minutes later.

Dee pulled a goal back in the 89th minute through Ethan Cairns but Buckie held out for the victory.

The win moves Stewart’s men up to fourth in the league on 55 points, two clear of fifth-placed Formartine, who have played two games more, and two behind Fraserburgh, who have played four games more than the Jags, in third.

Dee remain in second with 59 points but now trail leaders Brechin City by four points after the Angus side’s draw at Forres.

Buckie boss Stewart said: “We had to win because of what happened at the weekend (defeat at Lossiemouth) – it was a must win.

“The game on Saturday made this more important, so I’m delighted. I thought the performance was outstanding and we probably should have been a wee bit more out of sight. I’m not happy with their goal, but we’ll get over that and move on.

“In the second half we played the conditions perfectly. We put them under pressure and we got the goals, and probably should have scored more.

“It was a tough week, losing players and with boys struggling, so I’m over the moon.

“It is a massive win. There will still be twists and turns but I have said to the guys they are capable of winning every game from now until the end of the season – but, so are Brechin.

“I hope we don’t have any more twists and turns.

“I hope we’re more stable and we play to our capabilities, but I’ve got a funny feeling because of the games and the injuries there will be more twists and turns.

“As long as we stay in it I will be delighted and when we get to the last couple of games we’re still in contention.”

Andrew MacAskill celebrates with his teammates after scoring from a corner to make it 2-0. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Peters and MacAskill on target

The best chances of the first half fell to the visitors with Michael Phillipson having a shot saved, before sending another over the bar.

Buckie had opportunities of their own with Dee goalkeeper Daniel Hoban called into action to collect a tame header from Jack Murray before he made a superb stop at close-range to deny Max Barry.

Dee threatened again before the half was up with Mark Gilmour and Ethan Cairns both seeing shots blocked, before the former hit a long-range strike over the bar.

Hoban made another good stop in the closing stages of the first half to deny Peters, who went on to find the back of the net 13 minutes after the break.

The Buckie forward was played in behind by Pugh and slotted the ball into the bottom corner to give his side the lead.

It was 2-0 not long after as MacAskill found the back of the net direct from a corner with a superb floated ball from the left-hand side.

Buckie goalkeeper Tom Ritchie pounces on the ball ahead of Lachie Macleod. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Dee got a goal back in the 89th minute when Cairns tapped home from a couple yards out at the back post.

Banks o’ Dee co-boss Josh Winton said: “The conditions played a big part and we knew they would.

“We had the wind in the first half and knew we had to capitalise on that. We didn’t get a goal and knew it would be a tough shift in the second half because the wind would be on top of us.

“We’re disappointed with the two goals. They were two unforced errors and it was disappointing to give ourselves an uphill task against a very good side.”

Forres Mechanics 1-1 Brechin City

Breedon Highland League leaders Brechin City were held to a draw by a battling Forres Mechanics at Mosset Park.

City scored the opening goal after 56 minutes through Grady McGrath but Forres equalised 12 minutes later when Hamish Thomson headed past his own keeper.

The strong, blustery wind made conditions difficult for both sets of players during the opening 45 minutes.

City, with the wind at their backs, dominated play but were unable to create any clear-cut chances in front of goal with long-range efforts from Ewan Loudon and Fraser Macleod barely testing home keeper Corey Paterson.

The hosts, despite being under pressure for long spells, defended really well and the best opportunity of the half fell to them after 16 minutes when Calum Frame raced clear of the City defence only to blast a right-foot drive over the bar when a bit more composure might have paid better dividends.

City made the vital breakthrough 11 minutes into the second half when McGrath, who had replaced Matthew Wright just seconds earlier, blasted the ball past Paterson following a Macleod cross.

Forres hit right back and City keeper Lenny Wilson did well to block a Calum Howarth header.

The Can Cans, with the strong wind at their backs, surged forward in search of an equaliser and they deservedly levelled the match in the 68th minute when Thomson headed a Mark McLauchlan cross past his own keeper.

McLauchlan almost gave his side the lead five minutes later when he fired a left-footed drive from the edge of the box past the post.

Brora Rangers 2-1 Nairn County

Brora Rangers’ last-gasp 2-1 victory against Nairn County resulted in them overtaking their defeated opponents into sixth spot in the Highland League.

Kyle MacLeod shot Brora ahead in the first half before Callum Maclean’s header in the second period seemed to have earned a share of the spoils until James Wallace guided home a late winner for the Sutherland side.

Despite being side by side in the league, Brora are still playing fixture catch-up, having played five games fewer than their midweek opponents. They are now one place and one point better off than Nairn.

Following on from Saturday’s 1-0 win at Forres Mechanics, the Cattachs made four changes, with Mark Nicolson, Alistair Morrison, Martin Maclean and James Wallace coming in for player-boss Ally MacDonald, player-assistant manager Josh Meekings, Millar Gamble and Dale Gillespie.

A three-match winless run for Nairn was halted at the weekend as they were 3-1 winners at Turriff United.

Assistant manager David Hind and first-team coach Brian Macleod took the team, with work commitments in England ruling boss Steven Mackay out for this one. Their sole change was Jamie Carnihan coming in for Aaron Nicolson.

Traffic issues stemming from roadworks just north of Inverness led to a 15-minute delay in kick-off, but both sides were quick out of the traps with early forays into their opponents’ boxes amid a fierce wind.

The closest to an early breakthrough came when, after Paul Brindle’s drive was blocked by Nairn goalkeeper Dylan MacLean, Kyle MacLeod’s follow-up had too much height and flew over the top.

There was a moment of panic for home goalkeeper Logan Ross when he almost spilled a hooked lob from distance from Harry Hennem, but he gathered his composure in time to spare any blushes on 26 minutes.

Ten minutes later, Brora were ahead when MacLeod made no mistake with a cool finish beyond MacLean after he was superbly picked out by Ali Sutherland.

Just before the break, Nairn skipper Fraser Dingwall almost levelled, but scooped the ball over the crossbar when he met a free-kick sent into the danger zone by Inverness loanee Matthew Strachan.

Nairn’s second half pressure paid off on 68 minutes when Callum Maclean pounced in the box to power a header home from Strachan’s pin-point corner.

However, with two minutes to go Wallace broke through and looped a shot over the advancing MacLean as he beat the offside trap to score the clincher for Brora.

This Saturday, Formartine United are the visitors to Brora, while Nairn host Fraserburgh.

Strathspey Thistle 1-6 Wick Academy

Wick Academy moved up to 12th spot in the Breedon Highland League thanks to a 6-1 victory at Strathspey Thistle.

The Scorries were four ahead at the break with Jack Halliday netting the opener after 15 minutes.

Mark Macadie doubled the advantage on the half-hour mark before grabbing his second and Wick’s third only four minutes later.

Marc Macgregor scored number four seven minutes before the interval.

Owen Loveland pulled one back for the Jags from the penalty spot in the 57th minute but Gary Pullen restored Wick’s four-goal advantage five minutes later and Ross Gunn made it 6-1 in the 69th minute.

The result moves Wick above Keith and Lossiemouth while stretching bottom of the table Strathspey’s losing streak to 14 games.

Wick travel to Huntly on Saturday while Strathspey head to Deveronvale.

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