Scorries stay positive ahead of Nairn trip after midweek defeat to Brora Rangers
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Assistant manager Michael Gray says Wick Academy will be going into Saturday's Highland League game at Nairn in a positive frame of mind despite their midweek derby defeat to Brora Rangers.
After a keenly contested first half on Wednesday night, the Cattachs ran out 4-1 winners. Matthew Wright, on loan from Ross County, hit a hat-trick – the first two coming either side of Steven Anderson's brilliant equaliser – and Harry Hennem was also on target for the visitors.
Conditions were difficult, with a strengthening wind blowing down Harmsworth Park.
Gray accepted that Brora had been more clinical as the champions got their league challenge back on track after last week's North of Scotland Cup defeat to Rothes.
“On the balance of play I thought Wick were the better team in the first half," Gray said. "I thought we created the better chances, but unfortunately in this game it’s about being clinical.
“We didn’t take our chances and we conceded from two cross balls.
“That has been the deciding factor. Looking at the conditions, at 2-1 down it was always going to be a tough ask for the guys.
“They stuck at it manfully but Brora just showed a clinical side when we didn’t.”
Academy had been buoyed by their long-awaited first win of the season when they came from behind to beat Fort William 3-1.
“On Saturday, again in difficult circumstances, I thought they played well and showed a really good appetite for the game," Gray said. "Despite going behind, they stuck at it and got their rewards.
“Tonight I thought they were bright on the ball, brave on the ball, they really attacked as a team and looked good for I think 70 or 80 per cent of that first half – but it’s that 20 per cent that is killing us at the moment. We’ve just got to try and overcome these issues."
Looking ahead to Saturday's trip to Station Park, Gray said: “Nairn away is not an easy game by any stretch of the imagination but we will be positive and will be looking for the three points.”
Defender Andy Hardwick will be unavailable for a few weeks, while Sean Campbell is facing a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury. Campbell limped off with 20 minutes gone on Wednesday after twisting to reach a cross and head it back to Anderson for a volley that struck the outside of Joe Malin's left-hand post.
“What you get from Sean is all action," Gray said. "He’s fully committed, he’s a very honest player and he’s got a trick in his box as well. It has just been unfortunate for him.”
Academy were pressing well in the early stages, looking lively and passing the ball around at pace, but it was Brora who made the breakthrough on 22 minutes. Wright rose to meet a deep cross from the right and his header dipped over Graeme Williamson into the net.
The Scorries got themselves level on 34 minutes when Anderson latched on to a knockdown from a free kick and fired a swerving half-volley beyond Malin.
Four minutes later Brora restored their lead when Max Ewan delivered a low cross from the left and Wright had time to control it before slamming the ball into the net.
Jack Henry and Jack Halliday both had decent efforts on goal for Academy in the first period, while Brora's Jordan Macrae came close with a looping header.
Wright was put through again early in the second half but this time he was denied by a goal-saving clearance from Ross Allan.
Wright completed his treble after 67 minutes when he stuck home a rebound after an attempt by substitute Ali Sutherland had been blocked by Jack Halliday.
Substitute Hennem, on loan from Caley Thistle, completed the scoring after 76 minutes with a perfectly placed volley from the edge of the box.
Wick Academy: Williamson, Hughes, Manson (MacNab 73), R Allan, Hardwick, Halliday, R Campbell, S Campbell (Henry 20), D Allan, S Anderson, M Macadie (Mackay 78). Subs not used: J Anderson, C Farquhar, Mathieson, More.
Brora Rangers: Malin, Kelly, Nicolson, Gamble, A Macdonald, Gillespie (Sutherland 60), Mackinnon, G MacDonald, Ewan (Hennem 73), Wright (A Macrae 70), J MacRae. Sub not used: Stephen.
Referee: Gordon Seago.
Wednesday's Highland League results: Buckie Thistle 3, Forres Mechanics 1; Deveronvale 2, Keith 0; Formartine United 4, Clachnacuddin 2; Fraserburgh 6, Lossiemouth 1; Huntly 1, Nairn County 3; Inverurie Locos 2, Brechin City 1; Rothes 4, Turriff United 1; Strathspey Thistle 7, Fort William 3; Wick Academy 1, Brora Rangers 4.