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Highland League reaction: Brechin City and Fraserburgh miss out on title glory on dramatic final day

Brechin and the Broch both won but it wasn't enough to prevent Buckie Thistle claiming the title.

Brechin manager Gavin Price during his side's 2-1 win at Brora Rangers. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson. .
Brechin manager Gavin Price during his side's 2-1 win at Brora Rangers. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson. .

Brechin City’s hopes of retaining the Breedon Highland League title came to an end at King George V Park in Golspie despite beating Brora Rangers by 2-1.

Buckie’s 1-0 home victory over Keith at Victoria Park clinched the championship for the Jags in a dramatic finale to the season.

City grabbed the opening goal nine minutes before the break when Ewan Loudon was on the spot to blast the ball into the roof of the net after Cattachs keeper Logan Ross fumbled a Marc Scott cross.

The hosts were reduced to ten men shortly afterwards when assistant manager Josh Meekings was sent off for dissent.

However despite being a man down, Brora were playing well and they levelled the match in the 71st minute when Tony Dingwall evaded a number of tackles before dispatching a low drive into the bottom corner of the net.

Although Loudon scored the winner for City in the final minute when he was left with a clear run-in on goal, it was too little too late and Grady McGrath’s late dismissal for a foul on home keeper Ross made it a dismal day for the visitors.

Brechin’s Ewan Loudon, right, celebrates with Grady McGrath after scoring against Brora. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson.

Despite his disappointment of losing out on the final day, Brechin boss Gavin Price was quick to offer his congratulations to the new Highland League champions.

He said: “I would just like to say congratulations to Buckie and their manager Graeme Stewart on becoming champions. They have had a fantastic run-in as the campaign drew to a close and deserve to be champions.

“Despite our win today I am obviously very disappointed with the final outcome. The key period for me was at the beginning of the second-half.

“With a man advantage we created a number of opportunities in that early spell and if the second goal had gone in at that stage it might well have changed the complexion of everything.

“As we threw men forward it left us a bit exposed at the back and Brora were able to take advantage of that with their goal and although we scored towards the end it just wasn’t enough.”

Brora’s Tony Dingwall (number 7) scores against Brechin. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson.

“We didn’t lose the league today, despite our victory. We lost the league in losing four games to Fraserburgh and Buckie.

“We let ourselves down in those games both physically and mentally and that’s something we can’t repeat next season.

“We have to be stronger both physically and mentally next season and our recruitment must ensure we bring in the types of players we need.”

Despite his side’s narrow defeat, soon to be departing Brora manager Ally MacDonald was very pleased with the way his side had performed.

“I thought it was fairly evenly balanced in the opening 45 minutes but going a man down made things a lot trickier for us,” he said.

“We knew that Brechin would have to come at us so it was important that we defended well and were effective on the break and I thought that we handled both of those aspects extremely well.

“We’re obviously disappointed to lose the game but I was really proud of the players efforts and I couldn’t ask for more.”

Fraserburgh 11-0 Strathspey Thistle

Fraserburgh rounded off the season in resounding fashion by beating Strathspey Thistle 11-0 but results elsewhere meant the Buchan club had to be content with a third-place finish.

Broch manager Mark Cowie paid tribute to his players for the way they ended the season.

He said: “The attitude of the players today was immense, every time we went forward, we were a threat, and the goals were well taken.

“We went a bit more direct today with Sean Butcher and two wingers and to finish with that scoreline and performance was testament to the players.

“The way we’ve finished the season has been really strong, some games we probably should have taken more from, but to take the title to the last day of the season is credit to the boys.

“Fair play to Buckie and congratulations to Graeme and his players.

“To do what they have done over the past two seasons and come back stronger this season and get it over the line shows the character he and his players have.

“I always believe that the team that finishes top deserves to win the title and they’ve proved that.”

Fraserburgh’s Willie West, left, celebrating with Jamie Beagrie after scoring to make it 9-0. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

The home side took the lead after nine minutes when Ryan Sargent’s cross found Sean Butcher who finished with a bicycle kick.

The Broch doubled their lead on 16 minutes when Sargent latched onto Jamie Beagrie’s pass and lobbed the Strathspey keeper, before Scott Barbour netted a minute later to make it 3-0.

Greg Buchan extended the lead further on 20 minutes firing home from the edge of the box after Aidan Sopel’s cross had been cleared.

Barbour got his second of the afternoon on 32 minutes, tapping home the rebound after Ethan Rae had made a brilliant stop to deny Butcher.

Sopel made it 6-0 on 36 minutes, firing home a free kick from 22 yards after he had been upended by Owen Paterson.

Four minutes before the break Barbour notched his hat-trick, firing home Buchan’s cross from the right at the back post. On the stroke of half time Sopel’s shot landed at the feet of Sargent and he coolly stroked the ball home from eight yards to make it 8-0.

Seven minutes into the second half Willie West headed home a Barbour corner from the right, and moments later it was 10 for the Broch when Butcher slammed the ball home from close range after good work by Sopel on the left.

Strathspey made a couple of forays into the home side’s half in the last 20 minutes which saw Sam Inglis make a couple of good saves.

With six minutes remaining Logan Watt glanced the ball home with his head from Barbour’s corner from the left and almost immediately the striker made way for Ryan Cowie who was making his 346th and final appearance for the club after announcing his retirement from football earlier in the week.

Fraserburgh’s Scott Barbour celebrating after scoring for his hat trick. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Interim boss Mike Rae wasn’t too disappointed by Strathspey’s overall showing despite the scoreline.

He said ”it’s been a difficult week for us, a lot of the guys have come in from the North Caledonian League and to face top teams in the Highland League has been an enjoyable experience for them albeit we’ve conceded a lot of goals.

“It’s been a steep learning curve for them, today’s the first time I’ve had a bit of a go at the players at half time.

“But fair play we came out after the break and gave it a bit of a go and I can’t ask for any more than that.”

Deveronvale 0-3 Formartine United

Formartine United completed their Highland League season with a deserved victory over Deveronvale.

All three goals came in the first half as United eased to victory.

The Pitmedden men also missed good chances to add to their tally as the woodwork, two great saves from Sean McIntosh and missed opportunities saw them fail to add to the scoreline.

Julian Wade netted after 11 minutes with Adam Emslie adding a second five minutes later and Scott Lisle completed the scoring with a header on the stroke of half time.

United manager Stuart Anderson said: “What was pleasing was another clean sheet as we lost too many sloppy goals earlier in the season.

“In the past five or six games we have only lost two or three so that added to our performance.

“Twenty-two victories over the season is a good return as the league has got tougher with the pyramid system and every team has got better.”

Vale interim manager Grant Noble said: “We did get into some good areas but our final ball was lacking, especially in the first half.

“While we didn’t concede in the second half we never created enough to threaten.

“In our earlier games the lads have been aggressive but that didn’t happen and you can’t do that against teams like Formartine as they are a good team.

“There is a good bunch of boys in the dressing room and whoever gets the manager’s job will now look to bring a bit more belief to them as they are young while adding some more experienced players will also help them achieve that.”

Wick Academy 1-1 Banks o’ Dee

David Allan made his comeback after two years on the sidelines with injury in Wick Academy’s 1-1 draw with Banks o’ Dee at Harmsworth Park.

The point for secured fourth place in the Breedon Highland League for the Aberdeen outfit and a Challenge Cup spot for next season.

Scorries winger Allan ruptured his patellar tendon in April 2022, but came on for the final quarter of an hour.

Academy player-manager Gary Manson said: “It was a welcome sight getting David back onto the pitch

“He did really well, you’d never have thought he’d missed two years of football.

“He was throwing himself into tackles and almost set up a goal, racing down the right, like he always used to, and cutting the ball back for Gordon MacNab, whose shot was blocked.

David Allan, left, in action for Wick.

“I also thought he could have won a penalty in the last minute. I thought he was bundled over by Jevan Anderson, but the ref (Joel Kennedy) just said play on. That would have been a fairytale on his comeback.

“Hopefully he’ll play some part in our last two games. For the the team, the club, the fans it would be a massive boost to see David back playing regularly next season.

“He’s been one of the best players in the league over the last 15 years and we’ve missed him a lot in the last two years.”

Honours even

Banks o’ Dee took the lead on 12 minutes when Gary Pullen tripped Ramsay Davidson inside the box and Michael Philipson converted the resultant penalty.

Wick levelled six minutes from time. Visiting goalkeeper Gregg Sim spilled a Kyle Henderson delivery from the right and Gordon MacNab headed the loose ball into the net.

Dee co-manager Paul Lawson said: “I thought we had done enough to win the game when we were ahead.

“We wanted all three points rather than one, but it didn’t effect our league position.

“It’s pleasing where we’ve finished. At the start of the season we spoke about improving on last season in the league and winning a trophy.

“We’ve done that and it’s up to us to try to kick on again next season and see where we can go.”

Forres Mechanics 1-0 Turriff United

Forres Mechanics made it back-to-back wins as they concluded their Breedon Highland League campaign by beating Turriff United 1-0 at Mosset Park.

Shaun Morrison’s lay-off teed up Mark McLauchlan for a low left-foot finish with five minutes remaining.

The Can-Cans have finished 14th and manager Steven MacDonald said: “We’re pleased to have won our last two games.

“I was chuffed for the boys to finish the season on a high.

“It’s about trying to make progress with our young players. That was a game we might have lost 1-0 earlier in the season so to win it is encouraging.”

Defeat for Turriff means they will finish ninth, despite still having a game to play.

Manager Warren Cummings said: “It was similar to recent games for us where we were good in two thirds of the pitch, but didn’t have that cutting edge in the final third.

“We had a couple of chances at 0-0 which we didn’t take and then we got punished.

“It was frustrating, but I don’t think we deserved to lose the game.

“We’ve been a bit disappointed in the last 10 games with our productivity in terms of scoring goals and getting points on the board.”

Clachnacuddin 2-0 Lossiemouth

Clachnacuddin finished the season on a high as George Robesten’s brace earned them a 2-0 victory against Lossiemouth at Grant Street Park.

Two clinical finishes from the on-loan Ross County forward were decisive in a match which marked stalwart Martin Callum’s last game for the Lilywhites and Lossie manager Frank McGettrick’s final game in charge of the Coasters.

Clach manager, Conor Gethins said: “We wanted the three points to give Marty and Deeks (Derek Arris, Clach’s goalkeeping coach) a send off as it was their last involvement with the club.

Clach manager Conor Gethins.

“In the first half we put them under pressure, I’m disappointed we didn’t score a few more goals but at 2-0 at half time we couldn’t argue with that.”

“Fair play to Lossie they came out in the second half and put some pressure on us but our defenders defended really well.”

Gethins had a special word for the retiring player-coach Callum, who has been with Clach for 13 years and received a testimonial against Elgin City last Wednesday.

Gethins added: “I calculated last week that he’s given 1,380 days of his life to Clach, if you include training and match days in his last 13 years.

“When you break that down that’s five years. The club can’t thank him enough for the service he has given.

“He’s been an absolute pleasure to work with and generally one of the nicest guys I have met in football.”

Robeston at the double

Clach made the perfect start when Robeston scored from close range in the third minute after an effort from Robert Urquhart – who signed a contract extension after the game – was blocked.

Lossie’s best chance of the half came in the 21st minute when a cross field ball from Aiden Cruickshank fell for Ross Morrison but he fired wide of Daniel Rae’s left hand post.

The Lilywhites doubled their on 28 minutes when Lewis MacKenzie played in Robesten, who coolly slotted the ball home.

Post-match Clach also made their first summer signing with former Forres Mechanics and Loch Ness attacker Allan Macphee returning to the club where he started out in the Highland League.

Lossie manager McGettrick said: “Clach deserved to win over the 90 minutes. They wanted it a bit more than us on the day.

“We needed to get a goal in the second half to get back into the game but we just couldn’t get that goal.

McGettrick revealed why he was stepping down, he added: “I’m going in for a full knee replacement, I’ll need to recover from that, I’ve been struggling for the last year. I’ll need to take a season out.”