Manson hopes Scorries can kick on after picking up three points against Fort William
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Gary Manson is hoping Wick Academy can follow up their first win of the season in the Highland League with another positive result when they host Brora Rangers on Wednesday night.
The manager said Saturday's 3-1 victory over Fort William had come as a relief after a frustrating series of six score draws and three defeats in their opening nine fixtures.
The league champions are sure to pose a tougher challenge as they look to bounce back from their North of Scotland Cup final loss at the weekend.
The Scorries had to come from behind against an improved Fort side at Harmsworth Park after Marios Avraam's opener. Andrew Hardwick levelled before half-time and it was one-way traffic for much of the second period as Jack Halliday and Davie Allan added further goals.
Manson felt the only disappointing factor was that Academy didn't win by a bigger margin.
“Hopefully that's the monkey off our back now and we kick on from here," he said.
“They [Fort William] are a dogged team. They dig in, they work hard for each other, they leave their foot in when they have to.
“They got a good result against Nairn in midweek [3-3], so they will take points off teams this season.
“It could have ended up a lot more comfortable than it was. We had them camped in their own half in the second half and we could have added to the goal tally.
“But we'll take the 3-1 win and move on.”
Manson added: “I wasn't too happy with the first half, going up the hill against a strong wind. We defended our box reasonably well but we gave away a goal and we didn't keep the ball well enough for my liking.
“But in the second half we created numerous chances. The message at half-time was for the back four to squeeze right up to the halfway line and just play in their half, get the ball to the front three early and then just play from there.
“I thought the front three caused them a lot of problems at the back. It was generally a really good performance – the only downside is that we could have had a few more goals.
“I know we weren't getting results, but confidence wasn't at a low – the boys were confident going into each game. But yes, it is definitely a boost.
“That's the first win on the board. It's the local derby now and we'll try to win it as well.”
Fort – who are looking for a new manager following the resignation of Ashley Hollyer – went ahead in the 16th minute when David Nyembwe swung in a cross from the right and the unmarked Marios Avraam netted from close range. Some spectators thought Avraam looked offside but the flag stayed down.
Andrew Hardwick equalised on 33 minutes with a deft head-flick that took the ball beyond the reach of keeper Ryan Hunter.
There were some feisty exchanges as the game wore on but Academy kept their focus and went ahead after 73 minutes when Davie Allan played a short pass to captain Jack Halliday and his ferocious shot from about 20 yards flew past Hunter in the blink of an eye.
Two minutes later, Ross Allan delivered a free kick from the left which the keeper could only parry and Davie Allan was on hand to nod it into the net.
Fort's line-up was unrecognisable from when the teams had last met, in early January 2020 (a 4-1 win for Wick). Substitutes Ruairidh MacDonald Mateusz Kulbacki were the only surviving members of the Fort squad that travelled to Harmsworth Park that day, whereas 10 of the Academy players who featured in the 2020 match are still at the club.
It was Academy's first league win in 20 months. The previous one was a 2-0 victory at Lossiemouth in January 2020, before the pandemic halted the 2019/20 campaign.
The Scorries managed only two league fixtures – both defeats – in the Covid-disrupted 2020/21 season.
Academy remain 14th in the table but are now a point behind Lossiemouth and two points behind Deveronvale.
Wick Academy: Williamson, Hughes, Manson, R Allan, Hardwick, Halliday, Henry (MacNab 76), R Campbell (Bain 84), D Allan (Mathieson 84), S Campbell, M Macadie. Subs not used: J Anderson, C Farquhar, More.
Fort William: Hunter, Nyembwe, Fangas, Caulker, White, Owusu-Barnieh, Foster, Brew, Avraam (MacDonald 76), Kalbah (Evans 63), Tshibikubula. Subs not used: Kulbacki, Rydings.
Referee: Billy Baxter.
A second-half comeback secured a first North of Scotland Cup triumph in 42 years for Rothes as they saw off Brora Rangers in Saturday's final at Grant Park in Lossiemouth.
Matthew Wright put Brora ahead in the first period but goals from Michael Finnis and Ryan McRitchie gave the trophy to the Speysiders.
It is the second piece of silverware for the club during Ross Jack's time as manager. They lifted the Highland League Cup last year.
Fraserburgh remain seven points clear at the top of the Highland League after a last-minute goal by Scott Barbour gave them a 2-1 away win against Clachnacuddin.
Brechin City edged out fellow title contenders Buckie Thistle 3-2, while there was a first league win of the season for Turriff United as they thumped Deveronvale 4-0.
Results – Highland League: Brechin City 3, Buckie Thistle 2; Clachnacuddin 1, Fraserburgh 2; Forres Mechanics 0, Keith 0; Fort William 1, Wick Academy 3 (at Wick); Nairn County 0, Inverurie Locos 1; Turriff United 4, Deveronvale 0. North of Scotland Cup final: Brora Rangers 1, Rothes 2.
Highland League fixtures for Wednesday night: Buckie Thistle v Forres Mechanics; Deveronvale v Keith; Formartine United v Clachnacuddin; Fraserburgh v Lossiemouth; Huntly v Nairn County; Inverurie Locos v Brechin City; Rothes v Turriff United; Strathspey Thistle v Fort William; Wick Academy v Brora Rangers.