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Manager McKenna angered by first-half red card in defeat to Cove

By Alan Hendry

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Wick Academy boss Tom McKenna was angered by the sending-off decision that had such a huge bearing on the outcome of Saturday's defeat to Cove Rangers.

Defender Michael "Joe" Steven was given his marching orders for a challenge in the penalty box on Cove striker Mitch Megginson just after the half-hour mark at Balmoral Stadium.

Keeper Sean McCarthy saved Megginson’s spot-kick and it remained goalless at the break, but the league champions and title favourites took charge with five second-half goals – three of them coming in the last five minutes.

A frustrated McKenna was adamant that a yellow card would have been sufficient punishment for Steven and he felt the decision by referee Dan McFarlane spoiled the match as a contest.

“Up to then we were very much in the game," McKenna said. "We went toe to toe with Cove, we were really competitive with them, and it was a very evenly matched game. Unfortunately that [the sending off] changed the whole outcome – it had a massive influence.

“The lads still battled away and still played good football with 10 men. To go in at half-time at nothing each, the lads’ performance was very commendable.

“The challenge itself wasn’t reckless – there was no malice in it at all. The decision could have been a penalty and give Joe a yellow card and it’s done then, and you’ve still got 11 players on the park.

Gordon MacNab of Wick Academy drives towards Cove's Darryn Kelly at Balmoral Stadium on Saturday. Picture: Bob Roger
Gordon MacNab of Wick Academy drives towards Cove's Darryn Kelly at Balmoral Stadium on Saturday. Picture: Bob Roger

“It was just a wee bit of clumsiness from Joe. There were a lot of players in the box – it’s not as if he [Megginson] had an open goal or anything.

“There was a crowd of bodies in there so I don’t think it warranted a red card.

“It just spoils the whole game because we were as good as them. We could have come away with something really creditable.

“To go to places like that you need to be at your best and you need to keep 11 players on the park. The lads were unbelievable, you couldn’t ask for any more of them.

“We created a few chances ourselves and Sean McCarthy was unbelievable – he saved a penalty and some of his other saves were fantastic.

“The result doesn’t really reflect the game itself – there were three deflections, three goals in the last five minutes. By that time the lads were dead on their feet, mentally and physically.

“It’s just really, really frustrating – you play so well, you put so much effort in, and you come away with nothing. The result didn’t reflect how much good work the lads put in.”

The result came just two weeks after Academy lost 3-1 at the same ground in a Highland League Cup semi-final, and ended the Scorries' eight-game unbeaten league run.

Now comes the north derby against second-top Brora Rangers at Harmsworth Park on Wednesday.

With Steven missing out through suspension, McKenna hopes Danny Mackay and Andy Hardwick will both be available to bolster the defence.

The manager will have to rethink his forward options too as Davie Allan is also suspended.

“It’s a massive disappointment because Joe has been exceptional this year and I’ll have to reshuffle the attacking side of the game in David’s absence,” McKenna said.

"If we can put in the same kind of performance as we did at Cove then we won’t be far away. But I think Cove are a better footballing team and Brora are more physical – they try and bully you. I think it’ll be more of a physical match on Wednesday."

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