Red card ends Academy's hopes of a derby comeback at Brora
THE scoreline was emphatic in the end, but for much of the second half of Saturday’s north derby Wick Academy looked capable of emerging with at least a point against the runaway Highland League leaders. The consequences of one misplaced pass proved to be their undoing as Brora Rangers ran out 4-1 winners, with Greg Morrison helping himself to a hat-trick.
Having gone in at the break two goals down, the Scorries were camped in the Brora half for prolonged spells during the second half and they reduced the deficit with a fiercely struck shot from Sam Mackay.
Then, after 73 minutes, Jack Halliday misjudged a crossfield ball which was instantly picked up by Morrison. As the Brora forward charged towards goal, the backtracking Halliday was over-zealous in seeking to atone for his error and his foul on Morrison just outside the box brought a red card from referee Scott Leslie.
A couple of minutes later Morrison completed his treble and an unfortunate own goal by Alan Farquhar finally killed the game off.
A series of weather-related postponements mean Academy hadn’t played since the end of January, so this was the first match in charge for recently appointed co-managers Gary Manson and Stewart Ross.
They would have wanted to keep Brora at bay for as long as possible, but the opener came after nine minutes. Jordan Macrae didn’t appear to have many options but he slipped a clever ball through the Wick defence and Morrison poked it first-time past Gordon Clark.
Macrae’s involvement was cut short six minutes later when he fell awkwardly and went over an ankle. He hobbled off to be replaced by his namesake Andrew.
The substitute was soon making his presence felt. First he blasted a shot over the bar, then he was tripped 25 yards out and from the resultant free kick Dale Gillespie was just wide of the mark with a dipping effort.
Academy weren’t posing much of a threat at the other end at this stage, but Brora keeper Joe Malin was forced into action to block Sam Mackay’s header from a Ross Allan corner on 25 minutes.
Morrison doubled his tally on 33 minutes with a screamer from outside the right edge of the penalty area. Clark dived acrobatically but could do nothing to stop the ball flying past him.
Craig Gunn directed a header towards goal after good work on the right by Alan Hughes and Davie Allan, but it didn’t have enough power to trouble Malin.
Brora came close in first-half stoppage time when a powerful shot from Macrae was parried by Clark. The ball fell to James Wallace, who looked certain to score, but he knocked it just wide.
The second period began with Academy showing more urgency and Davie Allan was proving to be a handful as he ran at the Brora defence in his customary style – direct, purposeful and always looking to create an opening.
Clark had to be alert at the other end, keeping out Paul Brindle’s first-time shot with his feet.
Academy attacked again and Davie Allan fed the ball to Craig Gunn whose shot was blocked. The ball came out to Jack Henry and he unleashed a rising shot from about 30 yards which Malin caught just under his crossbar.
Most of the action was happening in the Brora half and Academy earned a succession of corners. It was from one of these, on 59 minutes, that they deservedly pulled a goal back.
Brora couldn’t clear properly from another Ross Allan delivery and when the ball fell to Sam Mackay on the edge of the box he fired a left-foot shot into the corner of the net. Malin looked to have got a touch but he couldn’t prevent it going in.
A counter-attack ended with Clark taking a knock while saving at the feet of Tom Kelly. Danny Mackay tried a speculative effort from long range which was deflected over for yet another Academy corner.
Then came the sending off, and Brora put the outcome beyond any doubt on 75 minutes. Macrae played the ball across the box to Morrison, who had time to steady himself before sending a low drive beyond Clark.
Another goal arrived with 10 minutes to go when Farquhar diverted a glancing header into his own net from a Brora corner on the right.
Wick came agonisingly close to a second goal on 87 minutes when Richard Macadie sent a free kick into the middle of the box from the left. Davie Allan moved towards it but didn’t appear to get a touch, and the ball looked net-bound until Malin produced a superb reflex save to tip it onto the underside of the bar.
Brora Rangers: Malin, Kelly, Pickles, Williamson, Nicolson, Gillespie, Morrison, Maclean (N Macdonald 84), J Macrae (A Macrae 15), Wallace (Wagenaar 76), Brindle. Sub not used: Mackay.
Wick Academy: Clark, Hughes, R Allan, Farquhar, D Mackay, Campbell, Henry (R Macadie 67), Halliday, Gunn (M Macadie 67), S Mackay (Sinclair 82), D Allan. Subs not used: Aitkenhead, MacNab, Martens, More.
Referee: Scott Leslie.