Manson wants Wick to start piling up points after edging seven-goal thriller at Huntly
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Wick Academy manager Gary Manson hopes Saturday's seven-goal thriller at Huntly can be a springboard for the Scorries to start piling up points in the second half of the Highland League campaign.
Academy earned only their second win this season, and their first away from home, in a topsy-turvy encounter at Christie Park.
Jack Halliday's double, including a penalty, had the visitors two up inside 15 minutes. Huntly battled back to take a 3-2 lead with goals from Logan Johnstone, Michael Dangana and Michael Clark, but Academy's Joe Anderson equalised with 10 minutes to go and Manson scored from the spot to seal a morale-boosting 4-3 win.
“The most pleasing part was the attitude and the character the boys showed," Manson said. "After being 2-0 up and then losing three goals to be 3-2 down, and the way things have gone this season so far, it could have been easy for them just to chuck the towel in and say 'oh, here we go again'.
“But they showed great character and dug deep, and to come out with a 4-3 win after that was the most pleasing part.
“It was like a game of basketball at times – you attack, we attack, you attack, we attack. It was entertaining.”
It was the first time Academy had scored four goals away from home in a league game since September 2019 and they managed it despite having their strikers Steven Anderson and Gordon MacNab ruled out through suspension.
“We were seven or eight players short on Saturday, and it's not an easy place to play – the pitch was quite boggy," Manson said. "To come away with the three points was pleasing.
“It was four goals and it could have been more – we had chances for more goals. I set the team up to be on the front foot and to get bodies forward and attack, and it worked out like that.
“We were two up within about 20 minutes and absolutely cruising, and could probably have been more than two goals up at that stage.”
Asked whether the win at Huntly could prove to be a turning point for Academy, Manson replied: "We'll just need to see how it pans out.
“But certainly the atmosphere in the changing room on Saturday was more akin to what you'd expect in a Wick Academy dressing room. In the last few weeks it has been quite depressing going in after the games, but hopefully that fuels the boys to kick on because we've got a half-decent run of games coming up now so we should be looking to pile points on the board.
“It might be a turning point but you just never know how football works out.”
Academy's equaliser and winner at Huntly on Saturday came just five minutes apart – but there was a 21-year age gap between the two goalscorers.
Joe Anderson, who made it 3-3 with 10 minutes to go, turns 17 at the start of next month, while Gary Manson, who sealed victory from the penalty spot, will be 38 a few weeks later.
It was Anderson's first goal at Highland League level and Manson is convinced the defender has a bright future in the game.
“That's three games in a row that Joe has started now," Manson said. "For a 16-year-old boy he is incredibly comfortable at Highland League level already and he's just going to go from strength to strength.
“He can have a wonderful career if he really wants it, and I'm sure he will. He is still a young boy and he will only get better with age.”
As for the penalty that gave Academy all three points, Manson said: “I knew exactly what I was going to do and thankfully it worked out. We managed to see the game out after that.”
Jack Halliday opened the scoring for Academy after six minutes with a low drive. Eight minutes later Halliday scored from the spot after Kyle Dalling fouled Davie Allan.
Huntly pulled one back on 26 minutes when a free kick by Greg Buchan was headed down by Michael Clark and Logan Johnstone netted from close range.
Huntly levelled two minutes into the second half when Michael Dangana was played through and he chipped the ball over Graeme Williamson.
The home side got themselves in front in the 70th minute when a Buchan free kick was headed on by Dalling and Michael Clark fired it in.
With 10 minutes to go, Joe Anderson found the net with a low drive for his first senior goal for Academy.
The Scorries were awarded another spot-kick with five minutes left when Dalling was penalised for a challenge on Allan. Manson made no mistake to give the Scorries all three points with their first away win since January 2020.
The result lifted Academy above Keith into 14th place.
On a high-scoring afternoon in the Highland League, Deveronvale were top of the goal charts as they hammered in 10 without reply against relegation-threatened Fort William.
Vale had a trialist in their starting line-up and he made an impression by scoring three times. Max Stewart's first-minute goal, an Innes McKay strike and further efforts by Ross Aitken, James Connelly (penalty), Mikey Watson (2) and Dane Ballard completed the rout.
Gordon Connelly's baptism of fire as new Forres manager continued with another heavy defeat. The Can-Cans made it back-to-back 7-0 home losses in Connelly's first two games in charge as Fraserburgh eased to victory at Mosset Park, with Paul Young netting four times for the league leaders.
Matthew Wright grabbed a second-half hat-trick as Brora Rangers thumped Keith 7-1 at Kynoch Park. Conor Gethins struck four goals in Nairn County's 6-0 win at Turriff, while two more goals by Kieran Shanks helped Inverurie Locos to a 5-1 home victory over Strathspey Thistle.
Buckie Thistle remain in the title mix after coming from behind to defeat Clachnacuddin 4-1, with Sam Urquhart scoring a second-half double including a penalty. Brechin City returned to second place after a 5-0 success at home to Lossiemouth.
Rothes were held to a goalless draw at home to Formartine United.
Rothes, the holders, will host league leaders Fraserburgh in the quarter-finals of the GPH Builders Merchants Highland League Cup.
Brechin City have been handed a home draw against Brora Rangers, who knocked out Wick Academy in the first round.
Buckie Thistle will take on Inverurie Locos at Victoria Park, while Forres Mechanics are at home to Clachnacuddin in the other tie.
Highland League Cup quarter-finals (ties on December 4): Brechin City v Brora Rangers; Buckie Thistle v Inverurie Locos; Forres Mechanics v Clachnacuddin; Rothes v Fraserburgh.