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Highland League reports and reaction: Fraserburgh stay in title fight as Buckie Thistle move into pole position

We round-up Wednesday's action.

Fraserburgh's Ryan Sargent, centre, tries to beat Brora Rangers goalkeeper Logan Ross, left. Pictures by Darrell Benns/DCT Media.
Fraserburgh's Ryan Sargent, centre, tries to beat Brora Rangers goalkeeper Logan Ross, left. Pictures by Darrell Benns/DCT Media.

Mark Cowie isn’t getting carried away but praised Fraserburgh for ensuring they are in the Breedon Highland League title race on the final day of the season.

The Broch still have a chance, albeit slim, of being crowned champions this weekend after beating Brora Rangers 2-0 at Bellslea.

Cowie’s side are three points behind leaders Buckie Thistle and Brechin City in second. Fraserburgh are nine behind the Jags and seven adrift of the Hedgemen on goal difference.

To be champions the Broch will need to defeat Strathspey Thistle handsomely at home and hope Buckie lose to Keith at Victoria Park and Brora beat Brechin in Golspie.

After making it nine league wins in a row and securing third spot with victory against the Cattachs, manager Cowie said: “We probably should have scored more, but we played well.

“It secures third and we’ve probably got a 0.005 percent chance of winning the league, but at least we’re there.

“We’ve taken it to the last day and I’ve been in this game long enough to know anything can happen.

Fraserburgh’s Aidan Sopel, right, tries to get away from Brora’s Ross Hardie.

“I’m delighted with how we’re finishing the season, we’ve won nine in a row in the league, but it’s maybe not quite enough.

“We can’t have any regrets because ourselves, Buckie and Brechin have all dropped points we didn’t want to drop.

“I just want to finish strongly and make it 10 league wins in a row. We need to make sure we’re at it and try to cause Strathspey problems.”

Broch on top

In this encounter Fraserburgh dominated when it came to chances. In the first period Lewis Hyde did well to block Kieran Simpson and Ryan Sargent efforts on the goal-line, while goalkeeper Logan Ross repelled Sargent and Aidan Sopel twice.

Just before the break Brora had a clear sight of goal through James Wallace 14 yards out, but Joe Barbour saved.

In the second half Sargent struck the right post with a shot from the edge of the box. On 57 minutes he galloped onto Scott Barbour’s pass and was initially thwarted by Ross before striking the other upright on the rebound.

Brora goalkeeper Logan Ross saves an attempt from Fraserburgh’s Ryan Sargent.

A minute later Fraserburgh made the breakthrough with Logan Watt’s ball into the area picking out captain Willie West, who volleyed home with his right foot from 15 yards.

In the 63rd minute the Broch made it two. Simpson’s ball down the left found Scott Barbour and his angled drive flashed beyond Ross.

Cattachs punished

Brora player-manager Ally MacDonald said: “I’ve got no argument with the result.

“We were well in the game for most of it, but we were maybe lacking at the top end and we were punished.

“Fraserburgh make you defend constantly because they make good forward runs and put your backline under pressure.

“What Brechin are playing for on Saturday has got nothing to do with us.

“We need to start performing against these bigger teams and try to build momentum for the boys going into next season.

“We go into Saturday focusing on what we’re doing and we’ll see how that effects whatever goes on.”

Strathspey 0-7 Buckie Thistle

Buckie Thistle manager Graeme Stewart insists his Highland League title contenders are far from being crowned champions – because Keith are their last-day opponents.

After watching his side thrash basement side Strathspey Thistle 7-0, the Moray Jags are now ahead of Brechin City at the summit on goal difference, by two goals.

Last year, they lost a head-to-head clash to Brechin City and it’s the Angus club again they are wrestling with for the title, while Fraserburgh would require both Buckie and Brechin to lose to stand a chance of an unlikely title win.

Just two nights after beating the same opponents 6-1, goals from Joe McCabe, Scott Adams and a Jack Murray penalty had Buckie breezing by half-time, despite being kept out for the first 20 minutes.

The goals kept coming and the rout was completed by another from Adams, and two more from Murray for his treble before Cohen Ramsay nodded in number seven in injury-time

This Saturday, in their final fixtures, Buckie host Keith, while Brechin face Brora Rangers in Golspie.

Boss Stewart felt the scoreline could have been even more emphatic, but is thrilled to be top of the pack with one game left.

He said: “We could have been more clinical, if I’m being honest, but we’re thrilled – if you’d offered us 7-0 beforehand we’d have taken it, but we’re disappointed with the chances we had, we didn’t score two or three more.

Buckie Thistle manager Graeme Stewart.
Buckie Thistle manager Graeme Stewart.

“We’re delighted to be top of the league, but this job is miles from being finished. I watched Keith (lose 1-0) against Brechin on Tuesday night and they were outstanding. They have been on a great run until recently and they won’t want to finish the season losing to Buckie.

“It’s a local derby, the closest team to us, and we often struggle against them. We did beat them 3-0, but it was not an easy game.

“The guys know the job’s not finished. We’re fully focused on Keith.”

Goals flow in Grantown

Buckie’s epic marathon campaign is concluding with six high-pressure fixtures within just 13 days, but they are now in pole position.

Strathspey were 2-0 down inside five minutes on Monday, but they held out for 20 minutes here. The breakthrough came when McCabe crashed home a header from a corner after Ethan Rae turned an Adams drive around his post.

The Grantown team competed well and were asking questions of their own in attack.

However, on 37 minutes it was two when Adams beat Rae to a long ball into the box to guide it into the empty net.

James McShane drew a save from Tom Ritchie moments later as Strathspey sought an instant reply.

But Buckie added a third before half-time when Murray tucked a penalty low into the bottom right corner after Adams was tripped in the area by Alan Kerr.

Adams, who was a menace all night, guided a low drive past Rae five minutes into the second half to make it 4-0. The expectant visiting fans roared their men on for more.

Battling Strathspey were far from folding and were breaking when they could, looking at least for a goal from this game, but Buckie always cleared the danger.

Murray made it 5-0 on 62 minutes after being lined up by Adams and, a few minutes later, Murray completed his hat-trick with a lethal drive.

In stoppage-time, Ramsay nodded in the last goal to offer further hope to Buckie this weekend.

Strathspey host Fraserburgh on Saturday, with Broch’s midweek 2-0 win against Brora seeing them remain third, three points behind the front-runners.

Formartine United 1-1 Inverurie Locos

Formartine United and Inverurie Locos shared the spoils from a game of few opportunities at North Lodge Park.

Both goals came before the break with Aidan Wilson equalising for Locos after Adam Emslie’s opener.

The Railwaymen were the first to threaten, Cole Anderson hooking Wilson’s cross over the bar in the seventh minute.

Formartine began to dominate the ball but didn’t have their first effort until the 25th minute when Aaron Reid got on the end of an Emslie corner but could only glance his header wide.

The home side took the lead on 32 minutes, Emslie latching onto a loose ball before firing an unstoppable shot beyond Zack Ellis from just outside the box.

Having taken the lead, United applied a lot of pressure on the visiting defence but weren’t able to test Ellis further. Graeme Rodger passed up the best opportunity, lifting his effort over the bar.

Locos levelled a few minutes from the break when Wilson picked his way into the penalty area before lashing home.

Greg Mitchell headed over the bar early in the second half but clear chances were few and far between for much of the second half, despite both teams getting into some promising positions.

Cameron Middleton kept out Anderson’s low drive ensuring a point apiece which was probably a fair reflection of a tight game.

Forres Mechanics 3-1 Wick Academy

Forres Mechanics ended a 12-game run without a win in the Breedon Highland League by defeating Wick Academy 3-1 at Mosset Park.

The Can Cans took the lead in the 12th minute when Calum Howarth headed home from a corner kick.

Marc MacGregor restored parity for the Scorries in the 59th minute but Forres regained the lead only four minutes later through a Craig MacKenzie penalty.

Forres made sure of the points with two minutes remaining when Ben Kelly slotted home.

The win moves Forres above Deveronvale and up to 15th spot in the table, while Wick remain with only one away win this season – a 6-1 triumph at bottom of the league Strathspey Thistle last month.

Forres complete their league fixtures with a home match against Turriff on Saturday. Wick, with three games still to play, host Banks o’ Dee.