Academy denied first league win by Vale's last-gasp equaliser
A STOPPAGE-time equaliser denied Wick Academy a first Highland League win of the season on Saturday as Deveronvale escaped from Harmsworth Park with a 2-2 draw.
Colin Charlesworth’s breakaway strike was a bitter blow for the Scorries who had been well on top after gifting the visitors an early opener. Sam Mackay’s stunning leveller and Craig Gunn’s clinical finish looked to have set Academy on course for all three points, but they paid the price for not putting the game out of Vale’s reach.
There was one change to the Wick line-up from the midweek cup win against Invergordon, with Gunn starting in place of the injured Davie Allan.
Deveronvale had done the double over Academy last term and they inflicted more punishment with eight minutes gone after Sean McCarthy badly misjudged a kick-out. Ross Archibald’s shot was blocked by the keeper but Robert Scott was on hand to tap in the rebound.
Richard Macadie and Vale defender Ross Aitken rose together to meet Gordon MacNab’s cross from the left, and the ball almost crept in at the near post.
On 20 minutes Gunn burst through on goal but was slightly stumbling as he rounded the keeper and the ball rolled wide.
The Scorries were raising the tempo now and MacNab drove in from the left only to see his shot parried by keeper Grant Pennet.
The equaliser came in spectacular fashion after 22 minutes, just after Macadie had come close with a glancing header from an Alan Hughes cross. The ball was played back across and, from outside the box, Mackay fired a swerving right-foot shot into the far corner.
Gary Manson found MacNab, who again cut inside, but this time Pennet held his low shot.
Gunn picked out Hughes with a superb reverse pass but the forward found himself crowded out by a clutch of defenders.
Charlesworth wasn’t far off with a long-range attempt at the end of the first half.
Academy got themselves in front three minutes after the break when Macadie played the ball through to Gunn, who controlled it instantly and dispatched a powerful strike past Pennet.
A shot by Charlesworth was well saved by the diving McCarthy but Academy continued to look the more creative and threatening side.
Mackay was dominant in central midfield, dictating the play and spraying passes around. As the sun continued to beat down, players were taking every opportunity to grab water bottles from the dugout area.
MacNab played a neat ball through to Hughes but his effort was blocked by a backtracking defender. Another attack culminated with Gunn almost bundling the ball in, then Manson sent a curling effort just past.
By the time Vale’s Ross Aitken was sent off for a second bookable offence, a home win appeared to be a formality. Then came the sucker punch as the visitors raced upfield and Charlesworth gleefully slammed the ball past McCarthy.
Sam Mackay was presented with a special man-of-the-match trophy in memory of Hector Buttress.
Wick Academy: McCarthy, R Allan, G Steven, Farquhar, D Mackay, Manson, S Mackay, Gunn, MacNab (Martens 75), Macadie, Hughes (Koziol 75). Subs not used: R Mackay, More.
Deveronvale: Pennet, Dunbar, Willox, Aitken, Dunn, Cooper, Charlesworth, Scott, Archibald (Munro 73), Noble, Robertson (Wallace 65). Subs not used: Smith, Buxton, Stewart, Gauld, Blanchard.
Referee: Will Smith.
- For manager reaction from Tom McKenna, see Wednesday's Caithness Courier.
Four clubs share top spot in the Highland League table with maximum points from their opening two fixtures. Brora Rangers lead the way on goal difference from Fraserburgh, Nairn County and Buckie Thistle.
Summer signing Jordan Macrae kept up his scoring run for Brora and further goals came from Martin Maclean and Kyle Macleod in a 3-0 home win against Turriff United. The Dudgeon Park side have yet to concede.
Fraserburgh built on their convincing opening-day victory over Academy with a 2-1 win against Formartine United in Pitmedden, despite having Jamie Beagrie sent off. Paul Campbell and Ryan Cowie got the goals for the Broch before Stuart Anderson reduced the deficit.
Dylan Mackenzie scored all the goals for Nairn County as they recovered from their 5-2 humbling at Fort William in the North Cup with a 4-3 success at Huntly.
Buckie celebrated 100 years at Victoria Park with a 2-1 win against Strathspey Thistle. Scott Adams and Sam Robertson scored for the Jags before Andy Skinner pulled one back.
Following their cup heroics, Fort William were brought back down to earth with a 4-1 defeat to Inverurie Locos at Claggan Park.
Cammy Keith struck a stoppage-time winner as Keith defeated Clach 4-3 at Grant Street Park.
Forres Mechanics, who sat out the first round of league fixtures, were on the receiving end of a 4-1 thumping at Rothes.
Highland League fixtures for Saturday, August 10: Deveronvale v Huntly; Forres Mechanics v Brora Rangers; Fraserburgh v Clachnacuddin; Keith v Buckie Thistle; Lossiemouth v Rothes; Strathspey Thistle v Fort William; Turriff United v Inverurie Locos; Wick Academy v Formartine United.