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Academy aiming to add to Forres woes as Connelly returns to Harmsworth Park


By Alan Hendry

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Wick Academy loan signing Mark Munro beats Huntly's Michael Clark to the ball after coming off the bench in the 4-3 win at Christie Park last Saturday. Picture: Mel Roger
Wick Academy loan signing Mark Munro beats Huntly's Michael Clark to the ball after coming off the bench in the 4-3 win at Christie Park last Saturday. Picture: Mel Roger

Wick Academy will be going all out to prolong Gordon Connelly's nightmare start as Forres manager when the Can-Cans visit Harmsworth Park this weekend.

The ex-Wick boss began his second spell in charge at Forres with successive 7-0 home defeats – at the hands of Rothes last midweek and Fraserburgh on Saturday.

Connelly will be looking for a reaction from his team against an Academy side who will have a spring in their step after picking up only their second Highland League win this season, and their first away from home, in a dramatic 4-3 victory at Huntly.

Wick manager Gary Manson is looking forward to seeing his former boss but hopes any Forres revival begins after this weekend's fixture.

Connelly managed Academy for three seasons, leading them to their North of Scotland Cup triumph in November 2015, before stepping down in August 2017.

“I loved working with Gordon," Manson said. "I've spoken to him numerous times since he left. I have a good relationship with Gogs and it'll be good to see him back in Wick.

“Hopefully following on from Saturday, he will do a good job with Forres and get them moving. He has had an awful start but I'm sure he is going to turn that around.

“He's a good manager and a good football man. I wish him all the very best – but obviously after Saturday.”

Midfielder Jack Henry drives forward for Wick Academy in Saturday's game at Huntly. Picture: Mel Roger
Midfielder Jack Henry drives forward for Wick Academy in Saturday's game at Huntly. Picture: Mel Roger

Fraserburgh's win at Mosset Park, which included a four-goal haul from Paul Young, allowed them to maintain their three-point lead at the top. Forres keeper Stuart Knight was injured in the warm-up and this week they signed Buckie Thistle's Lee Herbert on a short-term loan as a replacement.

Connelly said: "It's very difficult to take for the lot of us. We've played the top two teams in the league, and you can see why, but we are miles off it.

"Forres Mechanics should not be getting beaten 7-0 at home, no matter where teams are in the league. It's just not acceptable and I've told them that.

"We need to quickly get a system in place that is going to make us difficult to beat and build from there."

Looking ahead to the trip to Wick, Connelly said: "Let's hope it is a contest first and foremost because we haven't competed in the first two games.

"It'll be very tough – I know the team very well and they'll have seen our last two results and will fancy their chances.

"They won at Huntly, which was a good result, and they'll want to build on that."

Meanwhile, Academy have signed 17-year-old striker Mark Munro on loan from Ross County. He came on as a substitute midway through the second half of Saturday's win at Huntly.

Manson said: "He'll bring pace, enthusiasm and a real goal threat. He's with us on an initial short-term loan until January."

Forres Mechanics' new manager Gordon Connelly looks on during their 7-0 defeat to Rothes at Mosset Park. Picture: Becky Saunderson
Forres Mechanics' new manager Gordon Connelly looks on during their 7-0 defeat to Rothes at Mosset Park. Picture: Becky Saunderson

After last weekend's 4-3 win at Huntly, Gary Manson admitted he remains concerned about the number of goals Wick Academy are letting in.

“Again it was symptomatic of our season," the manager said. "We are always going to score goals, with the attacking players that we have, but it's the goals and the manner of how we are conceding them. Week in, week out, it's not defending our box – either from winning the first header or winning the first challenge or the knock-downs or the second balls.

"It's something we will need to brush up on if we're going to improve our form in the second half of the season.

“The boys know all about it, we know all about it. It's just something that we need to work on and improve.”

Academy have yet to keep a clean sheet this term in any competition.

Manson himself netted the winner at Huntly with a late penalty.

Jack Halliday's double, including a spot-kick, had the visitors two up inside 15 minutes. Huntly fought back to take a 3-2 lead with goals from Logan Johnstone, Michael Dangana and Michael Clark, but Academy's Joe Anderson equalised with 10 minutes to go before Manson sealed all three points.

It was the Scorries' first away win since January 2020 and it lifted them above Keith into 14th place in the table.

In Wednesday night's Highland League action, Buckie moved up to fourth place after a 4-1 home victory over Nairn County, while Formartine United came from behind to win 2-1 at Keith.

Highland League fixtures for Saturday: Brora Rangers v Deveronvale; Clachnacuddin v Inverurie Locos; Formartine United v Fraserburgh; Fort William v Rothes (at Rothes); Lossiemouth v Buckie Thistle; Nairn County v Keith; Strathspey Thistle v Huntly; Wick Academy v Forres Mechanics.


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