WICK Groats were left stunned as a James Murray strike shattered their unbeaten run.
Groats had made a flying start to the league campaign in Cafa Division One but close rivals Pentland United had other ideas as a determined display ground out a 1-0 win at Upper Bignold.
It was a big result for United – one that blows the title race wide open.
Wick Groats remain top of the table but Pentland United are just two points behind and have a game in hand.
Boss Kevin Anderson was naturally disappointed with the loss.
However, he was never convinced that this season was going to be plain sailing for his team – especially given recent history.
He said: “The last five years we won the league title but, if you look closely, each win was close.
“We’re talking about the main prize being decided right up to the wire here so we’re under no illusions as to how this season will go.
“Yes, we got off to a great start, winning our first five games in a row, but it was only a matter of time before that ended.
“There are some very good sides in the division – Pentland United being one – and all of them will have their say in where the final destination of the league title is.
“For the neutral, this result opens everything up but this league is packed with teams who can take points off each other.
“As for the game itself, I felt we were in control in the first half but the second was much more even.
“I felt a draw would have been the right result but full credit to James Murray who took his goal well.
“We’ll just have to take this one on the chin.”
Anderson’s counterpart Ross Sutherland was not one for making any title talk either.
He added: “It was a good win for us – no doubt about that. But there’s a lot of miles in this season still to go.
“James got the winner but he could have had one in the first five minutes. However, he made amends with a very good header and a special word for goalkeeper James More who pulled off a superb save before we scored.”
Elsewhere, John O’Groats were left ruing a last-minute lapse in concentration as a late goal for Staxigoe United saw the visitors head home with a 3-3 draw.
John O’Groats led via Eddie MacGregor before goals from Colin Sinclair and Blair Duncan put United in front.
Gavin Shearer and Jimmy Budge struck for the home side and the latter’s strike looked to have won it before Martin Banks headed in at the death.
Staxigoe boss Andrew Banks said: “When you hear of an equaliser being scored via a header from a long throw-in into the box, you’d expect a big centre forward or centre half to have nodded it in.
“But step forward Martin – the shortest player on the pitch – and his personal goalscoring run continues.
“We got a point but we were not at our best. For 10 or 15 minutes we played some great stuff, only for other spells in the game looking like the lads had all just met each for the first time.”
’Groats boss Grant Budge admitted his men might have a mental block when it comes to closing games out.
He added: “It’s not the first time we’ve let a lead slip early on and maybe the boys had that in the back of their minds just before Staxigoe levelled.
“A draw is not the end of the world and, as Saturday’s Highland Amateur Cup tie showed, we are a good side when everything clicks.”