Manson sees 'abundance of positives' as Academy have to settle for another draw
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Wick Academy produced arguably their best performance of the season at Rothes on Saturday, according to manager Gary Manson – although once again the Scorries were forced to settle for a share of the points.
He felt that "an abundance of positives" could be taken from the 1-1 draw at Mackessack Park, especially given the number of absentees, and said he was confident that a win would come soon.
Ross Gunn, from Wick, put the Speysiders ahead on 37 minutes with what Manson called “a soft goal to give away”. Academy levelled after 66 minutes when the ball broke to Gordon MacNab about 20 yards out and he hit a clean strike into the bottom corner.
It means six of Academy's opening eight Highland League fixtures have ended in score draws. Manson's side are 14th in the table, with the same number of defeats – two – as fourth-placed Clachnacuddin.
“We were away from home with a severely depleted squad," the manager said. "If you weren't at the game you would think it was a good away point against an in-form team who are unbeaten and in a cup final.
“But certainly after viewing the game it was more a case of two points dropped. We were the better team by a distance, I would say. In the closing stages we were pushing really hard to try and get the winner but it just wasn't to be.”
Manson added: “I've never known a start to the season like this, at any level of football. I can't think of anyone that has started with six draws out of eight games.
“It was another in a long line where there are an abundance of positives to come out of the game and not many negatives."
Academy have become the Highland League's draw specialists this term, having shared the spoils with Forres Mechanics, Strathspey Thistle, Clach, Turriff United, Deveronvale and now Rothes.
“We should be sitting comfortably in the top 10, or top six even, the way the games have gone," Manson said. "Football is finely balanced at times and it's just not going our way at the moment. But I'm sure it will change because we're playing extremely well.
“It possibly was our best performance of the season. To go away with a depleted squad and play one of the so-called better teams in the league, to dominate them for large spells and have them penned in at the end of the game was very pleasing.”
Gary Manson admitted that injuries to key players have contributed to Wick Academy's less than ideal start to the Highland League campaign – but the manager was delighted with the way one of the Scorries' teenage prospects stepped up in the draw at Rothes.
“We started with 16-year-old Joe Anderson at centre-half," Manson said. "He was up against good, seasoned Highland League players and he handled himself excellently."
Anderson has featured regularly in the first-team squad this term, along with fellow under-18s Conor Farquhar and Liam Bain.
Two of the club's most experienced players, Richard Macadie and Alan Farquhar, have been sidelined by long-term injuries. Macadie is Academy's record scorer while Farquhar is the club captain, and between them they have racked up more than 900 appearances.
“You're always going to miss those kinds of players, even just in and around the dressing room – sometimes that's just as important as missing them out on the pitch," Manson said.
“It has not been an easy start to the season in terms of personnel and injuries and availability, but we've got on with it and we are where we are. We just need to kick on now once we get some players back."
Academy are at home this Saturday to league leaders Fraserburgh.
Clachnacuddin's positive start to the Highland League season continued on Saturday as they moved into fourth place in the table following a 3-0 victory at Keith.
James Anderson netted twice at Kynoch Park after Eachainn Miller had opened the scoring. The Lilywhites have now gone six games unbeaten in the league.
Nairn County and Forres Mechanics shared the points in a 2-2 draw at Station Park.
Conor Gethins put Nairn in front nine minutes before half-time and Forres were reduced to 10 men before the break when Ross Macpherson was sent off.
Robbie Duncanson levelled for the Can-Cans early in the second half and Allan Macphee put the visitors 2-1 up on the hour mark. Nairn's Callum Maclean equalised with 12 minutes left.
Forres were reduced to nine men when Craig Dorrat was dismissed late on.
Lossiemouth climbed out of the bottom three after their first league win at Turriff. First-half goals by Ross Elliott and Dean Stewart wrapped up a 2-0 victory for the Coasters.
Deveronvale beat Strathspey Thistle 3-0 at Princess Royal Park with all the goals coming in a 12-minute spell before the break courtesy of Max Stewart, Ross Aitken and Grant Noble.
Inverurie Locos gave manager Richard Hastings his first win with a 3-1 success over Formartine United at Harlaw Park.
Fraserburgh are now six points clear at the top following a 4-0 win against Huntly on Friday night. Sean Butcher, Paul Campbell (2) and Scott Barbour got the goals.
The last remaining Highland League team in the SPFL Trust Trophy, Buckie Thistle, were beaten 4-0 by Championship leaders Caley Thistle.
Highland League results: Deveronvale 3 Strathspey Thistle 0; Fraserburgh 4 Huntly 0; Inverurie Locos 3 Formartine United 1; Keith 0 Clachnacuddin 3; Nairn County 2 Forres Mechanics 2; Rothes 1 Wick Academy 1; Turriff United 0 Lossiemouth 2.