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Buckie Thistle win the Highland League on a dramatic final day

Three teams were in contention to win the championship as the Jags prevailed.

Buckie Thistle's Hamish Munro, right, is challenged by Michael Taylor of Keith. Pictures by Jasperimage.
Buckie Thistle's Hamish Munro, right, is challenged by Michael Taylor of Keith. Pictures by Jasperimage.

Buckie Thistle won the Breedon Highland League for the 12th time after beating Keith 1-0 at Victoria Park as the title race reached a thrilling finale.

Max Barry’s early goal for the Jags earned them the points to make them champions, their first silverware since winning the title in 2017.

Thistle’s nearest challengers Brechin City, who were level on points but two goals behind on goal difference at kick-off, defeated Brora Rangers 2-1 in Golspie, but it wasn’t enough for the Hedgemen.

Third-placed Fraserburgh started the afternoon three points adrift of the top two and nine behind Buckie on goal difference. Although results didn’t go their way, the Broch did their bit by beating Strathspey Thistle 11-0 at Bellslea.

In the last two seasons Buckie had missed out on winning the league on the last day of the season, but on this occasion there was to be no hard luck story for Graeme Stewart’s men.

After a raft of postponements earlier in the campaign Thistle have also had to overcome a gruelling schedule which has seen them play their final six fixtures in 13 days.

But crucially they have won all six of those matches which has propelled them to glory.

The Jags could yet win a second trophy this term as they play Inverurie Locos at Kynoch Park, Keith in the Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup final on Tuesday.

Early strike does the trick

Buckie started well and took the lead after eight minutes.

From a throw-in on the right Jack MacIver took it and got the ball back from Andrew MacAskill, MacIver’s low cutback found Barry who curled a left-foot shot in off the left post from 15 yards.

The Jags continued to be fluent in the early stages with Josh Peters and MacIver shooting over from decent positions.

After half an hour Peters did well to wriggle away from Lewis Coull inside the penalty area, but the striker dragged his low shot narrowly wide.

Buckie’s Jack Murray wins a header.

As the interval approached MacIver’s 25-yard free-kick rippled the side-netting and Peters had another effort deflected over.

Search for a second

After the break Buckie tried to push for a second and Jack Murray’s strike from 20 yards was turned away by Keith’s trialist goalkeeper – former Lossiemouth, Rothes and Deveronvale custodian Darren McConnachie.

In the 52nd minute Barry drove forward and shot, but his attempt from 25 yards was held by McConnachie.

Although Keith hadn’t offered too much going forward they were still very much in the contest and just after the hour mark they almost equalised.

Michael Taylor’s cross-cum-shot from just inside the box drifted wide of the left post with Gavin Elphinstone unable to get the touch that would have turned it into the net.

Max Barry, right, celebrates scoring for Buckie against Keith.

It was becoming increasingly nervy for Buckie, but news of Brora’s equaliser against Brechin seemed to galvanise them.

Sub Scott Adams almost robbed McConnachie, who was also alert to clear a MacIver through ball under pressure from Adams as the Jags looked for a crucial second.

With five minutes left Lyall Keir could have kickstarted the title party when he went through on goal, but he could only shoot straight at McConnachie.

The Maroons performed with credit throughout, but couldn’t equalise despite some late pressured and when the full-time whistle went hundreds of Buckie supporters burst onto the pitch to celebrate.

Brechin win but it’s not enough

At King George V Park in Golspie Brechin got themselves ahead after 36 minutes with Ewan Loudon scoring when Brora goalkeeper Logan Ross spilled a Marc Scott cross from the left.

Soon after Cattachs player-assistant manager Josh Meekings was sent off for dissent in a further boost to the Hedgemen.

But Brora didn’t fold and they equalised in the 71st minute when Tony Dingwall beat a couple of City defenders inside the box before finding the net.

Ewan Loudon, number 18, scores Brechin against Brora. Picture by Jason Hedges/DCT Media.

Loudon netted a second in the dying embers for Brechin before the division’s top scorer Grady McGrath was sent off for a foul on Ross.

Fraserburgh do their bit against Strathspey

At Bellslea the Broch won handsomely, as they needed to, beating Strathspey Thistle 11-0.

Fraserburgh made a quick start as Sean Butcher gave them a ninth minute lead with a bicycle kick from Ryan Sargent’s cross.

After quarter of an hour the Broch had doubled their lead when Jamie Beagrie released Sargent who lobbed a finish into the net.

Fraserburgh were in the mood and quickly scored their third and fourth goals.

First Scott Barbour capitalised on Alan Kerr’s slip to finish before Greg Buchan volleyed home from Aidan Sopel’s cross in the 20th minute.

Scott Barbour celebrates scoring for Fraserburgh against Strathspey.

Shortly after the half hour mark Barbour made it 5-0 to Fraserburgh, pouncing from close range after Ethan Rae had parried Butcher’s effort.

The Broch onslaught continued with Sopel’s free-kick from the edge of the box making it six.

Before the interval Barbour converted a Buchan cross for his hat-trick and the team’s seventh and Sopel’s shot broke for Sargent to net his second and Fraserburgh’s eighth.

In the second half the Broch soon racked up double figures with captain Willie West heading home from a Barbour corner.

Butcher made it 10 on 55 minutes from a Sopel cross as Fraserburgh continued to do their bit.

As time ticked down Logan Watt’s header from a Barbour corner made it 11-0.