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McKenna hails spirited display after his toughest week as Wick manager

By Alan Hendry

Tom McKenna praised his makeshift team for their “spirited” display against Rothes on Saturday – after admitting it had been the most difficult week so far in his time as Wick Academy manager.

A combination of suspensions, injuries and players being unavailable left Academy with a seriously under-strength squad for the Highland League trip to Mackessack Park.

McKenna’s starting XI included three trialists – Jakob Koziol, Aidan Reid and Sean Campbell – while teenagers Mark Macadie, Grant Aitkenhead and Greg Mackay all came off the bench.

Trialist Jakob Koziol on the ball for Academy against Rothes at Mackessack Park on Saturday. Gary Manson and Richard Macadie are the Wick players looking on. Picture: Bob Roger
Trialist Jakob Koziol on the ball for Academy against Rothes at Mackessack Park on Saturday. Gary Manson and Richard Macadie are the Wick players looking on. Picture: Bob Roger

The depleted Scorries showed great togetherness and looked on course to take something tangible from the match after Craig Gunn put them in front just before half-time. However, the Speysiders snatched all three points after a late double by Allen Mackenzie.

“I thought it was a spirited performance by the boys,” McKenna said. “They had to battle, and they went long stages without possession of the ball, so they had to defend and be resolute.

“They did it and we went 1-0 ahead. There wasn’t much between the teams but I just thought we lacked the relevant experience and quality in certain areas of the park. If we’d had everyone available I think it’s a game we would have won quite convincingly.”

McKenna was delighted with the attitude of Reid, Koziol and Campbell and the performances they produced, helped by the experienced players around them.

“I can’t fault them,” the manager said of his trio of trialists. “I thought they did exceptionally well to come in at short notice and to play at this standard of football. I thought they dealt with it really well and didn’t look out of place.

“Aidan Reid played centre midfield, a deep role, something he’s not familiar with, and I thought he coped with it really well, but he had loads of experience round about him to help him through the game.

“Jakob Koziol played wide on the left and wide on the right and he looked a threat when in possession of the ball.

“Sean Campbell went in at right-back – he’s played there before and he coped with it really well.

“I have no complaints about anyone. I thought the guys’ attitude was really professional, every single one of them.

“I’ll be honest, it was probably the hardest week I’ve had since I’ve been with Wick – chasing people, and just getting knockbacks, knockbacks. Fortunately I got three lads who were really keen to come in and help us out.

“The first half was even. Rothes were more dominant when they were in possession of the ball and we were a bit disjointed, which was understandable.

“At 1-0 we did create chances and we could have gone two up – the keeper palmed one off the line from Aidan Reid’s head, and Richard Macadie hit the woodwork.

“The lads looked tired but they put in a fantastic shift. Rothes really had a go at us in the second half, they were pushing players forward.

“Aidan, Sean and Jakob got cramp halfway through the second half but they gave everything they could. They did themselves proud, and you can’t take anything away from the players round about them who helped out with communication – Alan Farquhar, Gary Manson, Danny Mackay and Richard Macadie took on a lot of responsibility.

“The lads were gutted in the changing room. They thought they were going to see it through and they were really despondent. They thought they were so close to getting three points, and it’s a shame really when you see them so disheartened and disappointed after putting a lot of effort into it.

“Okay, the result has not gone our way, but it was a creditable performance.”

With Davie Allan and Jack Henry returning from suspension and other players back in contention, McKenna expects to have a stronger squad available for the home match against Keith on Saturday. “We should be in a better place for next week,” he said.

Cove Rangers – conquerors of Wick Academy in the semi-finals – lifted the Highland League Cup after a 2-0 victory over Formartine United at Inverurie’s Harlaw Park. Sam Burnett and Mitch Megginson got the goals.

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