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Highland League: EVERY game previewed as title race heads towards thrilling finale

We preview Saturday's Highland League action.

Brechin City manager Gavin Price is preparing to face Forres Mechanics in the Breedon Highland League.
Brechin City manager Gavin Price is preparing to face Forres Mechanics in the Breedon Highland League.

Brechin City boss Gavin Price wants his players to embrace the pressure of trying to win the Breedon Highland League.

With three games left, the Hedgemen are three points ahead of Fraserburgh and Buckie Thistle, with the Jags having a game in hand.

City are seven ahead of the Broch and nine clear of the Jags on goal difference prior to tomorrow’s game against Forres Mechanics at Glebe Park.

It’s set to be a tense conclusion to the campaign, but Price is calling for cool heads in the Brechin camp.

He said: “I said to the players: ‘How many times in a football career do you go into the last week of the season playing for a league title?’

“You need to embrace the situation. The players recognise you don’t get these opportunities very often so I want them to enjoy the week ahead.

“We’ve got a week to go, we have to give it our all and try to put on our best 270 minutes of the season.”

Brechin were beaten by Fraserburgh last weekend.

Price is aware goal difference could become a deciding factor in who wins the league.

He added: “Leagues have been won on goal difference before and it’s worth an extra point for whoever has the best goal difference.

“But you can’t let that become your objective or you forget about doing the basics in a game.

“We need to try to be efficient in all departments. If you can keep control of a game it gives you a better chance of getting a better result.”

Can-Cans look for upset

Forres Mechanics are 16th in the table, but drew with Brechin at Mosset Park a month ago.

Midfielder Craig MacKenzie, 20, said: “We played well against Brechin at home so we have to take confidence from that.

“We’re focusing on trying to get results for ourselves. We’re not happy with where we are in the table so we’d like to be the villains in this game by getting a result.

Craig MacKenzie in action for Forres.

“Some of the performances we’ve had this season, we’ve been left thinking: ‘How have we not got a result from that?’

“I don’t know what you can put it down to – I don’t think you can just say it’s unlucky, but in some games we’ve been very frustrated not getting a result.

“If we keep doing the right things then it should change and hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.”

News from around the Highland League

Elsewhere, Huntly and Nairn County finish their seasons with a clash at Christie Park, with a victory for either potentially putting them in pole position to finish seventh.

The Black and Golds are missing Michael Clark, Ross Still, Zander Jack, Joe Gauld, Alex Thoirs, Ruari Fraser and Owen Morris.

For Steven Mackay’s last game in charge of the Wee County, they are set to be without Ben Barron and Andrew Greig.

Brora Rangers welcome Banks o’ Dee to Dudgeon Park. Daniel Hoban, Ally Stark and Kane Winton are out for the visitors, but Jevan Anderson could return.

Julian Wade is back for Formartine United’s game against Rothes at North Lodge Park. Rhys Thomas, Daniel Park and Johnny Crawford are still missing for the Pitmedden side.

For the Speysiders’ last match of the season, Michael Finnis, Allen Mackenzie, Ben Johnstone, Fraser Robertson, Owen Alexander, Liam Shewan, Kyle Whyte, Bailey Paxton and Gary Kerr are unavailable.

Inverurie Locos and Clachnacuddin meet again at Harlaw Park with the Lilywhites attempting to avenge Wednesday’s 4-2 defeat at Grant Street Park.

Brothers Richard and Mark Macadie return for Wick Academy’s Harmsworth Park clash with Keith, but Owen Rendall, Alan Hughes, Sean Campbell and Conor Farquhar are still missing.

The Maroons welcome back James Brownie and Josh Buchan, but Jake Stewart, Ethan Smith and Joey Wilson are out.

Ryan Stuart, Henry Jordan, Ryan Farquhar, Baylee Campbell and Ross Elliott won’t feature in Lossiemouth’s Grant Park encounter with Turriff United. Dylan Stuart and Owen Kinsella are absent for Turra.

Swim when you’re winning for Buckie’s Murray

Jack Murray has been making a splash on and off the pitch as Buckie Thistle chase the Breedon Highland League title.

He has netted 20 goals from defence to aid the Jags’ challenge, and has also turned to swimming to help his recovery between matches.

Thistle face local rivals Deveronvale at Victoria Park tomorrow in the midst of a gruelling run which sees them play their final six league matches in 13 days.

On his goal return and his efforts in the pool, Murray, 23, said: “I’m happy with my goal return. I was looking to get to 20 and there are a few games left so I’ll try to get a few more.

Jack Murray, top, in action for Buckie against Deveronvale.

“The schedule is tough on the legs, but we’ve got Hamish Munro (player-coach) who offers good advice on how to look after yourself.

“I went for a swim on Tuesday night, but I’m not very good at swimming.

“I was doing a few lengths, but I was struggling so that needs to improve – and you could say it’s sink or swim for us in the league as well.”

Buckie are three points behind leaders Brechin City with a game in hand and trail the Hedgemen by nine on goal difference.

Noble unsure about Vale future

Meanwhile, since being appointed as interim Deveronvale manager, Grant Noble has led the Banffers to three draws – which included a 0-0 against Thistle on March 30 – and one victory.

He’s looking for another positive display, but remains undecided as to whether he wishes to take on the job at Princess Royal Park on a permanent basis.

Noble said: “The last game against Buckie shows us what’s required, at the end of that game some of the boys were out on their feet.

“If we’re going to get something out of this game we’ll need that same level of work-rate to give us a chance against a very good side.

“We came in until the end of the season and we’ll see what happens after the last two games.

“Personally I’ve got a lot of things going on, but Graeme (Watt, interim assistant manager) and I have enjoyed it.

“The boys have been really good to work with and given us everything.

“I’m aware that doing the job permanently is a very big commitment. We’ll see what happens at the end of the season.”

Broch look to sustain challenge

Mark Cowie is determined to ensure Fraserburgh have a chance to win the Breedon Highland League come the last day of the season – even if it’s only a small chance.

If the Broch beat Strathspey Thistle at Seafield Park tomorrow and do the same on Wednesday against Brora Rangers, at worst they will trail Brechin City and Buckie Thistle by three points heading into the final day.

Fraserburgh are seven behind Brechin on goal difference, but two ahead of Buckie.

At this stage his team may be the outsiders in the championship battle, but boss Cowie said: “If we do our jobs right then at worst we’ll be three points behind going into the last game.

Fraserburgh boss Mark Cowie isn’t giving up on their title hopes.

“We want to be going into the last day with a chance. It might only be a one percent chance of winning, but we want to ensure we have that chance.

“It’s a big ask, but football is a strange game and you can never take anything for granted.

“We have to make sure we do our jobs and hopefully come next Saturday we’re still in contention.”

Defeat tomorrow would confirm Strathspey as finishing bottom of the division.

In their final four games, the Grantown Jags face the Broch home and away and Buckie home and away, but interim manager Michael Rae is undaunted by that.

Rae added: “In a roundabout way, the boys are involved in the title race – I want them to enjoy being involved in these games.

“We’ve got nothing to fear. All the pressure is on Fraserburgh and Buckie in the games, so we’ll give it our best and see what happens.”