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Halkirk United manager would have preferred to see North Caledonian season brought to a close


By Alan Hendry

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Halkirk United's Jonah Martens tries a bicycle kick in a goalless draw with Invergordon at Morrison Park in November. The Anglers' manager Ewan McElroy would have been content to see Invergordon being declared champions on a points-per-game basis. Picture: James Gunn
Halkirk United's Jonah Martens tries a bicycle kick in a goalless draw with Invergordon at Morrison Park in November. The Anglers' manager Ewan McElroy would have been content to see Invergordon being declared champions on a points-per-game basis. Picture: James Gunn

Halkirk United manager Ewan McElroy has expressed misgivings about the plan to complete the 2020/21 North Caledonian League fixture list, saying he would have preferred to see the season called to a halt.

While "desperate" to get back to competitive football, McElroy feels there are still too many uncertainties over Covid-19 as well as difficulties surrounding match-day protocols.

He believes it would have been sensible to award the title on a points-per-game basis, which would have meant leaders Invergordon being declared champions. Instead, both divisions are to be played to a finish between the end of May and the end of June, with the Anglers having three games left in Division One.

"Obviously everyone is desperate to get back playing," McElroy said. "However, there are still concerns about the timing and purpose of the restart.

Halkirk United boss Ewan McElroy: 'For me, the pragmatic decision would be to discontinue the league.' Picture: James Gunn
Halkirk United boss Ewan McElroy: 'For me, the pragmatic decision would be to discontinue the league.' Picture: James Gunn

"There is still the uncertainty regarding the virus itself, coupled with no changing facilities, travel limitations and no spectators within the area – all issues that continue to cast doubt over the likelihood of a summer season as well.

"From my own perspective I would have followed the Highland League example and looked to start afresh in August, with folk secure in the knowledge that the vast majority of adults will have been vaccinated and allowing a decent pre-season for teams.

"For me, after a 20-week break, the pragmatic decision would be to discontinue the league, award it on a points-per-game basis and allow the vaccine to continue to be rolled out. We would then be able to start again without the worries over changing facilities, spectators and travel restrictions."

McElroy added: "That being said, I’ve no doubt all the boys and the coaches, including myself, are itching to get back involved and will likely appreciate football all the more after a prolonged break."

The last competitive action in the league took place on December 19 before the scheduled midwinter break. The North Caledonian Football Association management committee agreed in early January to pause the season after the whole of mainland Scotland had gone into lockdown because of rising cases of Covid-19 across the country.

Under the latest easing of lockdown measures, adult outdoor contact sport can resume from May 17. North Caledonian League fixtures will restart on May 29.

Thurso and Halkirk United are fourth and fifth respectively in the six-team top division, both on seven points. The Vikings have five fixtures still to play.

Invergordon are top with 13 points from their opening five fixtures. The Easter Ross side are a point clear of Golspie, who have played one game more, with St Duthus a further point behind having played eight matches.

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