Nervy finish but Academy hang on for victory
Last-minute nerves thankfully failed to get the better of Wick Academy as they headed north from Turriff United with a 3-2 victory.
Goals from Jack Halliday, Jack Henry and Grant Aitkenhead – his first for the club – had put them three up with six minutes remaining in Saturday's Highland League clash at The Haughs.
However, Turriff staged a late rally with stoppage-time goals by Cammy Bowden and Murray Esson reducing the deficit.
Academy had edged their noses in front in the sixth minute when a superb passing move culminated in Henry and Halliday exchanging a one-two and the latter producing a cool finish.
After withstanding a barrage of pressure from Turriff, the Scorries emerged from their half-time team talk a more composed side and began to assert themselves more.
Their good work was rewarded on 64 minutes when another flowing move cut open the Turriff defence to allow Henry to fire in a shot from out the box that left United keeper Fraser Hobday helpless.
Halliday nearly got a second when his chip over the goalie clipped the post but fell invitingly to substitute Aitkenhead, who tapped in from close range four minutes after coming off the bench.
All done and dusted with 84 minutes played? Not so, as some slack marking gave centre-half Bowden all the time in the world to smash in from six yards as the game entered injury time and some defensive uncertainty then allowed Esson to fire home.
Wick, though, held on and boss Tom McKenna admitted that he was happy with his side's performance – for the first 84 minutes at least.
He said: "I was very pleased with how things had gone until then, although I could have done without the heart attacks at the end.
"In all seriousness, I think we were let down by officials a wee bit towards the end – in saying that we probably got too involved with them at that point.
"We started really well with a cracking goal, a brilliant team move that led to Jack firing it in. I made sure to compliment the boys on that because the football played from the start of the move to the ball hitting the net was superb.
"Unfortunately we sat off them after that and we had to thank Gordon Clark for ensuring the half-time score was 1-0.
"Fair play to Gordy. Sean [McCarthy] had been struggling with a groin problem and the night before he phoned to say that he was not going to be fit for this one.
"Gordy has come along week after week and been ready to make himself available if anything happened during a game to Sean.
"Some of the saves he pulled off were brilliant and he played as if he had been doing it for us on a weekly basis.
"The second half – last six minutes apart – was much better. We got closer to them, saw good movement off the ball, and when we got the ball we kept it for long periods.
"Jack scored another cracker of a goal and then Grant got his first-ever goal for us.
"I'm delighted for him because Grant has put in the hard miles with us. He works hard in training and has had to be very patient in terms of getting first-team action.
"I'd love to give him and the rest of the youngsters more but I've got to get us three points first. If we're doing well in a game and in control of it, I can put them on the park then.
"But Grant got an opportunity and has taken it with a good performance and a goal. I'm delighted for him as he's well liked by the rest of the squad."
The result meant Academy had done the double over Turriff for a second successive season.
• For more football news, click here