Fort William manager Alan Gray is urging his side to rise to the challenge against North Caledonian League champions Loch Ness when they meet at Fortrose on Saturday.
Fort are three points behind leaders Invergordon in second spot and have a three-point advantage over last season’s title-winners.
Loch Ness, who are appealing a three-point deduction for fielding an ineligible player, have a game in hand and have yet to taste defeat this season.
Fort’s last fixture was a fortnight ago when a last-gasp goal from Andrew McLean salvaged a 1-1 draw against Clachnacuddin reserves.
On the same afternoon, Loch Ness registered an impressive 3-0 victory at Golspie Sutherland.
⚫️ NEXT MATCH ⚫️
This Saturday we are hosting @FortWilliamFC in a highly anticipated league fixture.
More info 👇
— Loch Ness Football Club (@LochNessFC) October 11, 2023
‘Let them worry about us’ – Gray
Gray hopes his squad can turn the belief they have in their own abilities into a strong performance and, in turn, a positive result.
He said: “We had Loch Ness at Claggan Park last season when they won it 2-1 with a last-minute goal.
“We must be confident with our game and not show them too much respect. Let them worry about our players. It’s just now about getting our guys to have that mindset for Saturday up in Fortrose.
“On our day, when everyone turns up and does what they’re meant to do, other teams should be worried about us.
“Our guys know every week it’s going to be a tough game, because there are many tough matches in this league, but we should be positive about our strengths and go and take games to our opponents.
“We can’t control what happens on the day, obviously, because an injury, someone not being available, or a slice of luck could make a difference, but we’re always confident.”
Fort playing ‘fast, attacking football’
Gray is largely upbeat about how the West Highlanders’ season has gone so far, although cup defeats have been low points.
The Fort boss also feels they must post better home results in order to stay in contention at the top of the division.
He said: “We probably had our best performance of the season when we played Invergordon last month, then four errors from set-pieces (in a 4-3 defeat) cost us a fantastic result against the team currently top of the league.
“Aside from the cups, we’ve done really well. We’re playing fast, attacking football, and doing a lot of things we said we’d do.
“Our home form, however, needs to be looked at. I don’t feel Claggan Park, at the minute, is a place teams worry about visiting. We need to address that.
“We’ve done well on the road, but we’ve lost (3-1) at home to Golspie in the Football Times Cup, Clydebank steam-rollered us here (10-1) in the Scottish Cup and we let ourselves down two weeks ago with the 1-1 home draw against Clach.
“If we have aspirations of being up at the top of the table, these are games you should be winning, especially in front of your own fans and the local community.
“So, that has been disappointing, but overall, we’ve had a positive start to the season.”
This Friday, Fort William FC are hosting a kids’ coaching event at Lochaber High School, with pre-school running from 10am until 10.45am, primary years 1-3 between 11am and noon, then from 12.30pm until 2pm it’s the P4-P7s.
Tain Saints are next up for Inverness
After a near total washout of the fixtures last weekend, Inverness Athletic are chasing back-to-back wins as they visit Tain to take on St Duthus. Both mid-table teams are on seven points from seven fixtures.
Fourth-placed Halkirk United return to action after two idle weeks as they entertain Orkney, who are level with them on nine points, but have played two matches more and trail the Anglers on goal difference.
Hosts Golspie will tackle Invergordon in the rearranged Football Times Cup semi-final, with Inverness Athletic awaiting the winners.
Rescheduled game this Saturday pic.twitter.com/mKuyEQmhQn
— Golspie Sutherland (@GolspieSuthFC) October 11, 2023
Two sides determined to rediscover their winning form go head-to-head as Clachnacuddin ‘A’ face Bonar Bridge. Clach’s youngsters have gone five league and cup games without a victory.
Bonar, who have had no game for two weeks, are chasing their first win since beating Alness United 1-0 over a month ago, losing three on the spin since then.