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Title race pendulum swings Groats' way


By Matt Leslie


John Budge hooks the ball clear for Wick Groats in Monday's Division One clash with Pentland United.
John Budge hooks the ball clear for Wick Groats in Monday's Division One clash with Pentland United.

Wick Groats scored a massive boost in the race for the Caithness AFA Division One title after beating main rivals Pentland United 2-0 at the Upper Bignold Park on Monday night.

James Mackay got the ball rolling when his header put them ahead inside the first 90 seconds, and Ryan Campbell beat the offside trap midway through the second half to seal the three points.

Although the season is only a handful of games old, given how the two sides are again expected to be vying for the championship this victory could prove pivotal for Groats come August.

However, their manager Kevin Anderson is not cracking open the champagne yet – thrilled though he may be with the win.

He said: "I'm absolutely delighted – especially as this was a fixture we lost last year. We had to go to their place and win in order to cancel that one out last season.

"Obviously we are only four games into the season but this is a massive result. However, there is a long way to go and there are points that can be dropped.

"As for the match itself, it was a very solid performance from the lads – not the best game to watch but it was the result that mattered.

"I don't recall our keeper having to make any saves of note. If you don't concede, you won't lose, and our strong defence gave us a foundation to get the two goals we got."

Wick Groats' Ben Sinclair takes on the Pentland United defence.
Wick Groats' Ben Sinclair takes on the Pentland United defence.

Pentland United boss Michael Gray is refusing to give up on the title race at this early stage of the campaign despite Monday's setback.

He said: "I'm disappointed as we didn't really do ourselves justice. We got off to the worst possible start, and while we made some good opportunities, we didn't test their keeper.

"In saying that, our keeper had a quiet night too but Groats got a couple of chances and took them.

"It was a game of two contrasting styles and their system managed to smother any attempts we made to try and get behind their defence.

"We've just got to dust ourselves down and get on with it. We'll see where we both are when we next meet each other in the league."

Elsewhere in Division One, Thurso Swifts' poor start to the season continued after falling at home to Castletown 2-1.

We are not going to be talking about the 'P' word

Michael Smith and Gavin Henderson netted for the visitors with Swifts' reply coming via Nigel Mackenzie.

In Division Two, Watten kept up their fine start to the season as they thumped Top Joes 5-1 to go to the top of the table.

Doubles from Kai Cameron and Scott Macalpine, with Michael Budge also netting, wrapped up a comfortable victory with Top Joes netting through Russell Bain.

While Watten may be the early pacesetters in the race for promotion, boss Stuart Sinclair is banning all such talk in the dressing room.

He said: "No, we are not going to be talking about the 'P' word.

"One of the boys asked about what would happen if we won promotion and we told him not to jinx it.

"On the whole, we're very grounded and realistic about the season and we'll just carry on as we are and see where it takes us.

"The pre-season we had has helped as the boys are fitter and are ending games very strongly – that showed the other night as Top Joes were only 2-1 down with 15 minutes left before we moved up a gear."

Elsewhere, Halkirk beat Keiss 5-2 with goals from James Watson (2), Stuart Campbell, Liam Miller and Liam Mackay. Aiden Young netted a brace for Keiss.

The ball goes sky high as Wick Groats and Pentland United battle it out at the Upper Bignold.
The ball goes sky high as Wick Groats and Pentland United battle it out at the Upper Bignold.


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