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Highland League reaction from every game as Buckie Thistle boss says title race is OVER

Graeme Stewart says "that’s the league gone" after a 0-0 draw at Deveronvale paired with Brechin City's win at Wick Academy.

Max Barry shoots for Buckie Thistle against Deveronvale. Image: Jasperimage.
Max Barry shoots for Buckie Thistle against Deveronvale. Image: Jasperimage.

Buckie Thistle manager Graeme Stewart feels the Jags’ inability to take numerous chances in their 0-0 draw at Deveronvale has cost them this season’s Breedon Highland League title.

Buckie created openings in each half, but Vale cleared two efforts off the line.

Jags defender Jack Murray was then denied his 20th goal of the season four minutes from the end as Vale keeper Sean McIntosh showed incredible reflexes to block a six-yard header.

As the game entered stoppage time, Buckie’s Max Barry saw his left wing cross hit the bar and rebound to safety.

Buckie boss Stewart said: “It wasn’t good enough as we showed Vale are a poor team as we battered them for 90 minutes – but if you can’t score, you don’t win the game.

“My players are too nice and I have told them before it is easy to get up for the games against Brechin and Banks o’ Dee. But if you want to win the league, you have to get up for these games as well.

“I have let them off with some excuses lately, but I will sort it out, as we need to get players who may not have the same ability but they will have the dig and desire to go and win a game like that.

“The teams I played in at Buckie would have won that game easily as we had that capability.

“That’s the league gone this season – and if it’s not, we don’t deserve it due to having the results we have had recently.

“To beat Brechin and come here and not win against the team who are third bottom of the league is disappointing, but I will sort it out as I’m not happy we didn’t score.”

Vale interim manager Grant Noble was full of praise for his team, saying he could ask no more from his players.

Ryan Fyffe shoots for Buckie Thistle but Deveronvale goalkeeper Sean McIntosh saves. Image: Jasperimage.
Ryan Fyffe shoots for Buckie Thistle but Deveronvale goalkeeper Sean McIntosh saves. Image: Jasperimage.

He said: “We got absolutely everything out of them from the first whistle until full-time. The spirit among them to keep running was outstanding – and we could even have won it with a couple of chances near the end.

“We expected to be under the cosh as we know how strong a team Buckie are and they are going for the league. We rode our luck a few times with Sean (McIntosh) producing some good saves for us, but that is what he does so it was a good point.

“We need to keep this going until the end of the season.”

Brechin City capitalise on Buckie slip-up with win at Wick Academy

Brechin City extended their lead at the top of the Highland League table following a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Wick Academy at Harmsworth Park.

City opened the scoring after 18 minutes when home keeper Graeme Williamson allowed a long-range Grady McGrath drive to squirm under his body, but the Scorries levelled the match nine minutes later when Kyle Henderson swivelled at the edge of the City box before firing a left-footed shot into the bottom corner of the net.

The visitors had the better of the second-half and they scored what proved to be the winning goal with 20 minutes remaining when substitute Craig Tosh rose above the home defence to head home a Matthew Wright cross.

“It was a hard, physical match, but at this stage of the season getting the three points is what it’s all about,” Brechin boss Gavin Price said.

Brechin City manager Gavin Price. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.
Brechin City manager Gavin Price. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

“We knew that it was going to be a very hard task because Wick haven’t been beaten at home since November.

“I felt that although we dominated the second half, I really couldn’t see us scoring, but it was a real bit of quality from the two subs – Wright and Tosh – which brought us the goal which could well turn out to be vital.”

Scorries boss Gary Manson was disappointed with the outcome, saying: “It was a really tough match.

“I thought that we had slightly the better of the first-half as Brechin found it difficult to adapt to the conditions.

“However, after the break I felt that we never really got going. We spoke at half-time about Brechin coming at us playing down the hill with the wind at their backs, but we just never got to grips with things apart from maybe a couple of breakaways.

“I was hoping that we would be able to see the game out and pick up a point, but, unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.”

Clachnacuddin 1 Banks o’ Dee 0 – home keeper Miele on inspired form

A wonder goal from Connor Bunce earned Clachnacuddin a shock 1-0 victory against third-placed Banks o’ Dee at Grant Street Park.

The goal came six minutes from the break, against the run of play, when Bunce curled a shot into the net off the inside of the far post.

But goalkeeper Michael Miele was also a hero for the Lilywhites, pulling off a string for fine saves – from Kane Winton, Michael Philipson and Max Alexander in the first half, and then Lachie MacLeod and Hamish MacLeod in the second – to keep the Dee forwards at bay.

Clach manager Conor Gethins said: “It was a good day for us. The way we planned it worked to a tee.

“Not one person put a foot wrong. It was just pure heart and determination – that’s the best I’ve seen it since we’ve come in.

“We are on 20 points now. To get 16 points since we’ve come in is down to hard work – the effort the boys are giving us we can’t argue with it.”

Dee co-manager Josh Winton said: “We had enough chances to win the game. Their goalie was probably the man of the match.

“Dan (Hoban) has had a good save at the start of the second half and the boy had a great finish with the goal.

Connor Bunce, centre, scored for Clach.

“But apart from that I don’t think they created too many problems, but ultimately over 90 minutes we’ve not scored.”

Dee missed the chance to go second in the table, but Winton admitted: “We knew we were out of the title race – but with the Broch not playing (due to the Highland League Cup final), it gave us an opportunity, which we let slip. It’s disappointing.”

Keith go 10 games unbeaten with 1-0 victory over Huntly

Keith beat neighbours Huntly for the first time in seven years, stretching their unbeaten streak to 10 games – the Maroons’ best run for more than 16 years.

Gavin Elphinstone’s 10th goal of the season – which came when he pounced on a short back-pass to goalie Fraser Hobday to slam home a low drive – secured Keith’s 1-0 victory.

In a scrappy affair at Kynoch Park, Huntly had a late Ross Still header chalked off for an infringement.

Keith manager Craig Ewen said: “I’m delighted for the players. They deserve all the plaudits just now – they keep churning out results and working hard for each other.

“Conditions were tricky with a swirling wind. We felt at half-time the first goal could win it and thankfully Gav’s capitalised on a mistake and taken his goal well.

Keith's Gavin Elphinstone . Image: Jasperimage.
Keith’s Gavin Elphinstone. Image: Jasperimage.

“That gave us a platform to soak up pressure, and just now we don’t look like conceding too many goals.

“For us to go 10 games unbeaten in the Highland League just now is a fair achievement.”

Huntly manager Colin Charlesworth said: “You can’t play for 35 minutes in a derby match and expect to get something – Keith had more fight, more drive and more will to win. They were winning every second ball, they got in our face, and we lacked the fight and the quality.

“It was a poor decision for our goal to be chalked off. Ross was surrounded by four bodies, but still managed to get his header in.”

Nairn County win 4-0 at Strathspey Thistle

A clinical display from Nairn County saw them end a three-game winless run with a 4-0 victory against Strathspey Thistle at Seafield Park.

In tricky conditions, the Wee County struck three times in the first half.

Alan Kerr’s slip let Andrew MacLeod go through on goal and he unselfishly teed up Calum MacKay to finish. Aaron Nicolson then headed home an Alasdair Gillies cross, before MacLeod calmly rounded Jags goalkeeper Ethan Rae to net the third.

After the break Strathspey had some chances, with the best falling to Jack Davison, but they couldn’t take them and Gillies’ low finish rounded off the scoring.

With two games left, eight-placed Nairn are a point behind Huntly in sixth – though it’s likely both are in a fight for seventh as Brora have five games in hand.

Nairn player-manager Steven Mackay said: “The conditions were tough for both teams, but I thought we managed the conditions really well in the first half with how we played.

“We got three goals and I’d hoped for more of the same, but in fairness to Strathspey, they came back us, created some chances and were maybe unlucky not to score.

“We play Huntly in our last game of the season, so it might be a case of whoever wins that finishes seventh.

“We’ve won 16 games, which is four more than last season and we are making gradual progression.”

Strathspey are 10 points adrift at the foot of the Breedon Highland League and have five games left.

Interim boss Michael Rae said: “Nairn handled the conditions really well in the first half and played some really good football.

“We created chances to get back into the game, but unfortunately didn’t take them.”

Turriff United 0-0 Lossiemouth

Veteran goalkeeper Darren McConnachie was back between the posts for Lossiemouth and kept a clean sheet as they drew 0-0 with Turriff United at the Haughs.

With Cameron Farquhar absent, 40-year-old McConnachie – who has had two spells with Coasters, as well as stints with Deveronvale and Rothes – was drafted in as a trialist.

The point for Lossie means they have passed last season’s tally of 27.

Boss Frank McGettrick said: “Darren’s handling and kicking was excellent and he’s got great experience. He was happy to help us out and it was great to have somebody like him coming in with Cameron unavailable.

Darren McConnachie was in goal for Lossiemouth against Turriff.

“It was a hard game, but we defended well as a team. We maybe rode our luck at times, but with what we put into the game, I felt we deserved a point.

“It’s good to get past last season’s tally. We would like to have scored more goals – and if we had, we’d have more points.”

In the first half, Michael Weir flashed an effort wide for Lossie

After the break, Turriff turned the screw and hit the woodwork three times. Murray Cormack’s long-range attempt struck a post, Andrew Watt headed on to the crossbar from a corner and a deflected Cormack strike also rattled the bar.

Turriff boss Warren Cummings.

United manager Warren Cummings said: “You’re never wholly satisfied if you don’t win, but it was a good performance.

“We were brave on the ball, dominated possession and looked solid defensively. I can’t be critical of the players – they gave everything, and on another day, we might win the game.

“Credit to Lossiemouth, because they defended their box really well and were resolute.”

Formartine United score four at Forres Mechanics

Formartine United's Paul Campbell. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.
Formartine United’s Paul Campbell. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

Formartine United picked up a comfortable 4-0 victory over a toothless-looking Forres Mechanics at Mosset Park.

The visitors led 1-0 at half-time through Paul Campbell’s early strike, and added to their advantage in the second half through Aaron Reid, Julian Wade and substitute Adam Emslie.

Formartine manager Stuart Anderson said: “Everyone put in a good performance, the subs included, so it was a good day. Our set-up was good, the boys stuck to the gameplan and I couldn’t fault any of them.

“We have got five weeks to go, so we’ll keep going and keep trying to put in good performances and see where we end up.”

Forres manager Steven MacDonald said: “First half we did OK and I thought we were unfortunate to come in one down. We created chances and it was the same old story that we couldn’t take them.

“Second half we were really poor. I can’t hide from that – the goals we gave away were diabolical.”