Gray says players can't be faulted for effort as Wick Academy go up to eighth
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Assistant manager Michael Gray said the Wick Academy players could not be faulted for effort as they moved up to eighth place in the Highland League following Monday's gutsy 2-0 victory over Lossiemouth at Harmsworth Park.
A first-half own goal by Ross Archibald set the Scorries on their way to a fifth win in six games, although there was a nervy finale before Davie Allan's injury-time strike killed the game off.
A combination of injuries and Covid-19 issues meant the home side were seriously under-strength as they sought to continue their upward momentum.
Liam Bremner and Luke Manson were brought in as trialists from North Caledonian League clubs Golspie and Thurso respectively, with both coming on as second-half substitutes, while teenager Conor Farquhar played the full 90 minutes and put in a very satisfactory shift on the Wick left.
Gray said: “In the last 10 minutes we knew there would be a Charge of the Light Brigade from Lossiemouth and we had to show a little bit of resolve at that point.
“We have quite a number of players missing just now with Covid issues, injuries and suchlike so we were pretty threadbare again. We are grateful to Golspie and Thurso for helping us out and providing us with Liam Bremner and Luke Manson.
“It's very close to Christmas, people have been having a period of time with their families. With the best will in the world there's going to be a little bit of excess at this time of year, so it was always going to be a case of blowing away the cobwebs.
“We're not looking for excuses but we had eight or nine players missing again – we're not able to field the same team twice, so trying to get that kind of continuity and understanding is very difficult.
“But in terms of effort we certainly couldn't fault the guys. They gave us 100 per cent and that's all we can ever ask for.
“Sometimes the quality that we're looking for maybe wasn't there, but there are mitigating circumstances.”
Academy came close on 38 minutes when Gary Manson picked out Mark Macadie, whose header brought an acrobatic save from Lossie keeper Logan Ross. Macadie latched onto the rebound but fired it wide.
The deadlock was broken three minutes later when Sean Campbell delivered a deep cross from the right and Ross Archibald turned it into his own net.
Academy continued to have most of the possession in the second half. Allan played a tempting ball through to Bremner and there were shouts of handball when the trialist's net-bound shot came off Archibald who was flat out on the goal-line.
Another substitute, Alan Mathieson, thought for a moment he had netted his first Academy goal after Allan and Steven Anderson linked up to create the opening, but the teenager was adjudged to have been in an offside position.
Campbell was putting in another all-action performance and he produced a vital intervention when Ross Morrison threatened to sneak in to finish off a Lossie counter-attack.
Academy had to be disciplined in defence and captain Danny Mackay was in commanding form to ensure the visitors were kept at bay.
There was a late scare for Wick when Farquhar was over-enthusiastic in a challenge on substitute Harry Allen deep on the Lossiemouth right, on the edge of the box. Referee Billy Baxter awarded a free kick, although Lossie felt they should have been given a penalty.
Deep in stoppage time, with the visitors piling forward, Academy broke up the park and Mathieson played Allan through for a clear run on goal. Allan had Bremner in support but didn't need him as he confidently dispatched the ball high past Ross to seal the Scorries' fifth win since November 20.
Lossiemouth manager Joe Russell felt his team deserved to take a share of the points from Monday's clash at Harmsworth Park, although he acknowledged that justice had probably been done over the course of the two league games between the clubs this term.
“The game ebbed and flowed,” Russell said after Wick's 2-0 win. “Both sides had a wee bit of possession without really creating any clear-cut chances.”
The Lossie boss was convinced his team should have been awarded a penalty in the closing stages after a challenge by Wick's Conor Farquhar on substitute Harry Allen on the edge of the area. Referee Billy Baxter adjudged it to have been just outside and awarded a free kick.
“From where I was it was a stonewall penalty,” Russell said. “To be fair to the linesman, it was difficult to see inside the box but the referee should definitely be able to see it.
“We were disappointed with that. That's another decision that didn't go our way, but that's the way it goes.
“We were pushing for the equaliser and we let in the second goal, which was disappointing to say the least.”
Russell felt that better lines of communication could have prevented the opener, when Ross Archibald turned Sean Campbell's dipping right-wing cross into his own net.
“He wasn't under that much pressure, to be honest,” Russell said. “He wasn't quite sure how close the boy behind him was and he probably had more time than he thought.
“A wee bit of communication between the goalkeeper and himself would have been ideal in that scenario.”
Davie Allan's breakaway goal in stoppage time made the points safe for Wick.
When the sides met at Grant Park in August, a late strike by Liam Archibald secured a 2-1 victory for the Coasters.
Russell said: “As gutted as we are, I suppose it's one each because we nicked a late winner down at Lossie. They were two close games.
“It was quite an even contest today. Probably a draw would have been a fair result, but I suppose a draw would have been a fair result the last time as well.”
Wick Academy: Williamson, S Campbell, C Farquhar, Mackay, Hardwick, G Manson, MacNab (L Manson 84), D Allan, S Anderson, Munro (Mathieson 73), M Macadie (Bremner 73). Subs not used: R Macadie, R Allan, More.
Lossiemouth: Ross, Weir, Stewart, McAndrew, R Archibald, L Archibald, McCauley, Sewell (Leslie 70), Morrison, Farquhar (H Allen 80), B Allen.
Referee: Billy Baxter.