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Highland League: Buckie Thistle beat Brechin City to tighten up the title race

The Jags triumphed 2-1 at Victoria Park against the Hedgemen.

Max Barry, centre, celebrates scoring for Buckie Thistle against Brechin City. Pictures by Jasperimage.
Max Barry, centre, celebrates scoring for Buckie Thistle against Brechin City. Pictures by Jasperimage.

Buckie Thistle came from behind to beat Brechin City 2-1 and ramp up the pressure in the Breedon Highland League title race with boss Graeme Stewart elated.

In tricky underfoot conditions following the recent rain both sides served up an enthralling contest for the large crowd packed into Victoria Park.

Ewan Loudon put the Hedgemen in front, but in the second half Max Barry and Jack Murray struck to win it for the Jags.

The result means fourth-placed Thistle are seven points behind City – who top the table – but crucially have two games in hand.

Second-placed Fraserburgh are three points off the summit, having played a game more than Brechin and three matches more than Buckie. Banks o’ Dee, who are third, are a point behind the Broch, having also played 30 games.

Although Brechin remain in control of their own destiny, the race to win the league could go to the wire again.

‘We had to win’

Buckie’s Stewart said: “It’s one of our best performances of the season – we were outstanding from start to finish.

“To have a realistic chance of still winning the league we had to win.

“Us winning the rest of our games will be a big enough feat and I can’t see Brechin dropping too many.

“We had to win and we did. I know it’s outwith our control but every game in the Highland League is a test.

“Any team can trouble you and fingers crossed they get troubled.

“You could say it was appropriate Max and Jack scored, there are others up with them in terms of performance levels.

The Buckie players celebrate Jack Murray’s winning goal against Brechin.

“But I think they are two outstanding young talents, not just in our team, but in the Highland League.

“Max came off early against Formartine with a pulled thigh and to play a week later shows a massive amount of character.

“Jack is a colossus at the back, he won every header, dominated their front two and his goal is typical of what he’s done this season stepping up.”

‘We’ve missed a big chance’

Brechin boss Gavin Price blasted his players and said: “Buckie worked harder than us, it’s really frustrating and unacceptable.

“We’ve missed a big chance. In the second half we didn’t work hard enough and we didn’t get close to people.

“We shouldn’t be asking players to work hard, that should be a given.
“We had a chance to take a big step towards winning the league and we’ve missed a great opportunity.

“There were some harsh words after the game and it’s deserved because it’s not acceptable.

“We need to up the desire and work-rate – you’ve got to have that to win the league.”

Early openings

The Jags had a couple of early opportunities. Joe McCabe’s pass in behind released Josh Peters, but City goalkeeper Lenny Wilson was out to block before the home striker could shoot or go round him.

Then McCabe headed over from Andrew MacAskill’s right-wing cross.

In the 17th minute the Hedgemen had the ball in the net with Loudon finishing from Danny Handling’s pass, but the offside flag was up.

On 25 minutes Buckie had a gilt-edged chance when Fyffe’s ball forward was missed by Lewis Martin. That let MacIver in on the left side of the area but, with a clear sight of goal, he blazed over the crossbar.

Ewan Loudon, right, scores for Brechin against Buckie.

A minute later Brechin punished that profligacy by taking the lead.

Euan Spark’s clearance was controlled by Grady McGrath on halfway and with the Jags playing a high line he slipped Loudon through on goal, who calmly rounded goalkeeper Tom Ritchie and found the net.

As half-time approached Thomson’s vital interception stopped Barry from scoring and at the other end Sam Pugh blocked a Handling effort.

Then Brechin’s McGrath found space on the left side of the area, but his net-bound shot was tipped away by Ritchie at full stretch.

Jags hit back

The next goal felt like it would be important, particularly for Buckie’s hopes of victory, and they got in the 54th minute.

MacIver and MacAskill worked a short-free-kick on the left flank and the latter teed up Barry to blast a low right-foot shot into the bottom right corner from 20 yards.

Thistle were in the ascendancy and had a glorious chance to take the lead in the 64th minute.

Peters’ header down found Munro inside the area, he squared the ball for Lyall Keir, but he cracked his shot against the right post.

It seemed like Brechin had weathered the storm as the contest became scrappier.

Brechin’s Grady McGrath, left, holds off Ryan Fyffe of Buckie.

However, Buckie remained the team doing most of the probing and it paid off when they got the winner in 77th minute.

Barry did well to find space on the left to cross, Peters controlled with his back to goal and laid the ball back for Murray at the edge of the area and his drive took a wicked deflection and looped into the top right corner.

Defender Murray has been a talismanic figure for the Jags, both at the back and in attack, and that was his 19th goal of the season.

Four minutes from time Peters could have sealed the points for Buckie, but he fired wide from 15 yards.

However, it didn’t prove costly as the Jags saw the game out to set up a potentially thrilling climax to the campaign.


Buckie Thistle (4-1-4-1) – Ritchie, McCabe, Fyffe, Murray, Munro (Ramsay 90+1); Pugh; MacAskill (Wood 90+3), MacIver, Barry, Keir; Peters.

Subs not used – Morrison, MacKinnon, Harvey, Storrier, Goodall, Adams, Knight.

Brechin City (3-4-2-1) – Wilson, Spark, Thomson, McHattie; Martin, Patrick, Mackintosh, Strachan (Richardson 78); Handling 6 (MacLeod 54), McGrath (Wright 66), Loudon.

Subs not used – Ferguson, Cooney, Tosh, McDonald, Cruickshank, McCabe.

Referee – Joel Kennedy 6.