McElroy insists table-topping Halkirk United can still improve
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Ewan McElroy insists there is still plenty of room for improvement in his Halkirk United squad after a run of five wins in a row propelled them to top spot in the North Caledonian League.
The manager hailed Saturday's 4-0 victory at Fort William as a "complete performance" and says the challenge for the players is to keep delivering positive results consistently.
James Mackintosh made the breakthrough just before the hour mark at Claggan Park. Stuart Campbell found Jonah Martens with a 40-yard pass and Martens beat his man before cutting it back for Mackintosh to score.
Sean Munro added the second with a bullet header at the back post from a cross by Martens, and James Mackintosh struck again after an Innes Mackintosh delivery.
Andy Mackay completed the scoring from about 25 yards, possibly with the aid of a deflection.
"It was a really complete performance," McElroy said. "We travelled with a strong squad and although we knew it was going to be a difficult game we were confident we could aim for the three points.
"It’s one of the real strengths this season – every week, whether we are home or away, we are putting out a strong, like-minded group of 16 players and there is a really competitive nature about the squad.
"Despite not scoring, I was as pleased with the first half as I was with the second. We started really well, controlled most of the game, and the only thing missing was the goal.
"We said at half-time that we needed to remain patient, stick to our strengths, and if we could maintain a similar tempo chances would come.
"Speaking with their manager after the game, he was really impressed with both full-backs, Innes Mackintosh and Stuart Campbell, along with Aaron McNicol who is relatively new at centre midfield. Fort William have been scoring at will this season and I would agree they did an excellent job to nullify the majority of Fort William threats going forward.
"James Mackintosh is improving each week as number nine and this is probably the best I have seen Jonah Martens perform on a regular basis.
"All that being said, we are not even halfway through the season and the real challenge for the boys is to keep this up on a consistent basis. There is plenty room for improvement across all areas and that is what we are aiming for both on and off the pitch."
Halkirk United's last three matches have brought maximum points against Orkney, Golspie and Fort William with 15 goals scored by the new league leaders. The only goal conceded during that run was late on against Orkney when the Anglers were already 6-0 up.
On Saturday they have another away fixture, this time against second-bottom Bonar Bridge, and McElroy is taking nothing for granted.
"Every match brings its own challenge," he said. "It’s a hugely competitive league and although Bonar’s form has slightly dipped in recent weeks the majority of their games have been tight and they have already caused mini-upsets against St Duthus, Inverness and Alness.
"We have a couple of knocks we will have to assess towards the end of the week."
North Caledonian League results: Clachnacuddin "A" 6, Orkney 1; Fort William 0, Halkirk United 4; Golspie 4, Bonar Bridge 1; Invergordon 3, Alness United 0; Inverness Athletic 3, Loch Ness 4; Thurso 0, St Duthus 3.
North Caledonian League fixtures for Saturday: Bonar Bridge v Halkirk United (1pm); Invergordon v Fort William; Inverness Athletic v Golspie; Orkney v Alness United; Loch Ness v St Duthus; Thurso v Clachnacuddin "A" (1pm).