McKenna happy with progression as Wick Academy secure seventh spot
Tom McKenna may not have been overly impressed with Saturday’s victory against Fort William – but looking at the season as a whole he is happy with the progress made by his Wick Academy side.
The Scorries rounded off their 2018/19 Highland League campaign with a comfortable 5-1 win at Claggan Park, although they only began to pull clear after their lowly opponents had two players sent off within an eight-minute spell early in the second half.
The result meant McKenna’s men duly achieved their end-of-season target of seventh in the table – five places higher than last term.
“It was three points and that’s what we wanted,” the manager said. “At 11 v 11 there wasn’t much between the teams, to be honest. The sendings-off made a big impact and that’s what changed the game.
“They were a very young team, very enthusiastic, full of energy, and we just struggled really."
It took until the 40th minute for Academy to make the breakthrough, courtesy of Sam Mackay, and his goal separated the sides at the interval.
Fort’s Jordan Andrew got his marching orders on 55 minutes for a second yellow and the home side were reduced to nine men after 63 minutes when Aiden Taylor was red-carded.
Academy took full advantage with Richard Macadie doubling the lead on 67 minutes before Alan Hughes added a third a minute later.
Davie Allan struck twice, in 81 and 88 minutes, either side of a Panenka-style penalty by Fort’s Scott Hunter.
“At half-time I said to the guys, as much as you’re frustrated, you’ve got to show a degree of patience and don’t let that frustration take over,” McKenna said.
“It was good to see Davie getting a couple of goals and ending up 5-1 but, as I say, that’s probably due to the two guys getting sent off. Fort William just let themselves down.
“We did want to keep a clean sheet and that was the really disappointing part of the game.
“I spoke to the lads after the game and thanked for them for their support. I came in six months into our first season together and we finished 12th. Now we’ve got seventh, so there is progression there, and that’s what you want.
If we can keep progressing then I don’t think we can ask for much more.
“In a competitive environment you want to win things – you want to win trophies, you want to win medals, but sometimes you’re up against it when you’ve got teams in the league who have a lot bigger financial resources. But if we can keep progressing then I don’t think we can ask for much more.”
McKenna and his coaching staff will be looking for greater consistency next season.
“The teams that dominate the league and win things have got consistency and we don’t have that,” he said, adding: “The biggest thing for me this year is that we’ve had good numbers at training.
“The first year we had eight or nine players there but this year there have been consistently good numbers. We’ve gone to places with healthy squads, so there’s competition. That’s the biggest thing for me this year and I think that’s why we’ve ended up where we have done – we’ve had good numbers at training week in, week out, whereas in the first season we really struggled."
Wick’s starting line-up on Saturday saw five changes from the side that lost 1-0 at Huntly, with Gordon Clark, Gary Manson, Alan Farquhar, Danny Mackay and Davie Allan all coming in. Teenagers Mark Macadie and Greg Mackay were brought on for the last 20 minutes or so.
McKenna paid tribute to the young Scorries who have secured the SHFL Under-17 North title for a second successive year and stressed that Academy are determined to look after their talented youngsters and ensure they develop in the right way.
“The under-17s are doing fantastically well and the club seems to have a very good youth structure in place,” the manager said. “We want to try and bridge the gap from under-17s to the first team.
“There are some good young individuals there and we don’t want to lose them. We want to try and keep them under the umbrella of Wick Academy and keep them in a positive environment where they can grow and we can monitor that. So that’s something we are looking into.”
Looking towards next term, McKenna added: “I’ll take a couple of weeks’ break and I’ve spoken to Tich and Ross [co-assistant managers Richard Hughes and Ross Suttar] about freshening it up for next season. We want to change a lot of things – I don’t want to become stale.
“We can’t really change the personnel so it’s about myself, Ross and Tich developing ourselves and trying to freshen things up so we can move forward.”
Highland League champions Cove Rangers won 2-1 at East Kilbride on Saturday in the first leg of their SPFL pyramid play-off semi-final.