Brora will be wary of 'new manager bounce' in derby clash with Wick
Steven Mackay says Brora Rangers will be wary of the potential “bounce” effect as Wick Academy go into Saturday’s far north derby under their new management duo.
The Cattachs will be clear favourites as they look to take another decisive step towards the Highland League title – but player/manager Mackay knows that Gary Manson and Stewart Ross will see the game at Dudgeon Park as a chance to make a dream start.
They were appointed two weeks ago after the departure of Tom McKenna but postponements have ensured they are still waiting for their first match as co-managers.
“Games against Wick are always tough,” Mackay said. “We’ve scraped through many a game with Wick. We’ve had some pretty comprehensive victories as well, but more often than not they’re very close games.
“I’ve known Gary and Stewart over the years and I know they’ll be champing at the bit. They’ll be desperate to make a good start and make a good impression on the players and on the fans.
“You know what it’s like when there’s a new manager or duo at the helm – the players can get a lift and you get that new manager bounce, so we’ll be very conscious of that.
“We’ll always be conscious of what a derby can potentially throw up, but even more so with the change in management and the lift that will have given the players, and the fact that they’ve not played for over a month. They’ll be really hungry to get back on the pitch and playing, so there are a lot of things that we need to be very wary of and we just need to plan accordingly.”
The Scorries gave Brora a scare when they met in the corresponding fixture at Harmsworth Park in October. Dale Gillespie’s first-half strike was all that separated the sides, with Academy coming agonisingly close to a last-gasp equaliser when a Jack Halliday effort struck the base of a post.
“We were probably a bit lucky to come away with that victory,” Mackay admitted.
“We’ve played a lot better. However, I always felt we were fairly in control until the last 20 minutes when they threw everything at us and we were really under pressure.
“If it hadn’t been for the width of a post we could have been having a completely different discussion. We felt sure it was in.
“It was a funny kind of a day because we scraped that victory, and were very grateful for it, and on the same day Inverurie Locos went to Fraserburgh and won – so defining moments over the course of a season go in your favour from time to time and that was definitely one for us.”
Fraserburgh remain arguably Brora’s closest challengers, despite being fifth in the table. The Broch have games in hand on all the teams above them, including four games in hand over Brora.
The Cattachs’ 2-1 win at Bellslea Park a fortnight ago has put the league leaders in a seemingly unassailable position but Mackay is taking nothing for granted.
“It’s hard not to look at all the different permutations that are available to us but we’re trying not to get carried away,” he said.
“Obviously we had a fantastic result at Fraserburgh which has put us in a really strong position but we’re too focused and too professional to look at ifs, buts and maybes.
“We’re focusing on the game on Saturday, which will be challenging in itself, and if we’re lucky enough to win that game then we know it’s another one ticked off.
“We know how many points Fraserburgh can potentially accrue over the season and we know how many we can, so it doesn’t take a scientist to work out where we need to be. However, we’re not getting carried away.
“You look at it from a neutral perspective and you automatically are drawn to the fact that Inverurie or Rothes are potentially our nearest challengers – you almost forget that Fraserburgh have got four games in hand.
“It has probably worked in our favour in terms of the way the fixtures have gone – we’ve not had many games called off and they have, so they’ve always kind of been behind and we’ve had the points on the board. I’m sure they’ll do their best to go and win their games in hand.”