Ten-man Wick Academy out of luck as Nairn continue winning run
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Subscribe to a digital package and support local news publishing.
Wick Academy manager Gary Manson admitted the manner of Saturday's 3-2 home defeat to Nairn County was hard to take.
And he maintained there is still little to choose between the teams, even though it was the third time this season County had got the better of the Scorries.
Two goals in the space of a minute just before half-time turned the match in Nairn's favour after Wick had taken an early lead. The home side levelled early in the second half but were reduced to 10 men when Ryan Campbell was sent off and teenage substitute Jamie Carnihan struck a fortuitous winner in the closing stages.
It was Nairn's seventh victory in a row in the Highland League and they are up to third in the table, with Academy dropping to 14th.
Manson said: “Even with 10 men I didn't see them scoring in that last 10 minutes or so. But they're on a good run – and when the luck is with you, and you've got momentum, that's the sort of goal you score.
“It was a cross and it just went on off the back post. There's not a lot you can do about those.
“It's just the luck you get when you're on a good run.
“There was nothing in that game at all. They had the better of the first half and I thought we had the better of the second half.
“We came out and scored a really good goal, then we had two really good chances that we really should have done better with.
“I just said that to the players – if we'd taken those two chances, plus the ones that we scored, the chances are we'd walk away with a 4-2 win.
“I felt really bad for them because they worked their socks off, they played some good stuff, created some good chances in the second half, and to lose in that manner was difficult.”
Academy got off to a great start when Marc Macgregor ran through on the right and his cutback was slotted in by Gary Pullen for a third-minute opener.
Graeme Williamson had been the busier of the two goalkeepers but Academy looked like taking their lead into the half-time break.
Then came the dramatic turnaround, though.
Nairn grabbed a scrappy equaliser after 43 minutes when the ball found its way across the face of goal and George Robesten was waiting to knock it in at the back post.
A minute later, referee Stuart Randall spotted a trip on Aaron Nicolson inside the box and the young Nairn forward picked himself up to score from the spot.
Four minutes into the second half Academy made it 2-2. Keeper Dylan Maclean blocked a shot from Pullen and Macgregor was on hand to tuck in the rebound.
Campbell got his marching orders on 74 minutes after bringing down substitute Ben Kelly just outside the penalty area.
Academy's hopes of emerging with at least a draw were dashed in the 86th minute when Carnihan fired the ball into the box from wide on the right. It looked like a cross but it sneaked in at the back post.
Campbell's red card meant that for a second successive Saturday the Scorries had to play the last quarter of an hour with 10 men. This time, however, Manson had no arguments with the decision.
“As soon as someone gets sent off, the opposition's tails go up,” he said. “They are a bit more energetic, looking for the ball and looking to get forward, and our guys maybe just sat back a wee bit more.
“It happens. Ryan held his hands up. He took a bad touch and then let their guy in and tried to rectify it. It's just disappointing.”
Manson added: “We conceded three goals today but it didn't feel like we were under an awful lot of pressure in terms of shots on goal.
“The first one was a cross that shouldn't bounce in your six-yard box. The second was a penalty within a minute of the first goal.
“We're down in the bottom half of the table and they're on a good run. That's the luck that goes with you.
“I said before the game there's nothing between the sides and I am still of the opinion there's not a lot between the sides. It's just that they've got momentum, they've got belief, and momentum and belief and confidence are massive in football.”
Buckie Thistle are looking forward to a money-spinning tie against holders Celtic in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup.
The Jags will go to Celtic Park on the weekend of January 20.
The tie is Buckie's reward for coming through a dramatic third-round clash on Saturday away to Broxburn Athletic, the East of Scotland League Premier Division leaders.
Scott Adams was sent off in the first half for Buckie, who trailed twice but managed to equalise at the end of the 90 minutes and then in the dying stages of extra time – both goals coming from Josh Peters – before going on to win 5-4 on penalties.
Brora Rangers were handed a home tie against League One outfit Cove Rangers. The Cattachs saw off Pollok, from the West of Scotland Premier Division, thanks to a solitary goal from Jordan MacRae in the first half at Dudgeon Park.
Formartine United went out of the competition after losing 3-0 at Falkirk.
Leaders Brechin City suffered their first defeat of the season in the Highland League as Ryan Cowie’s first-half goal gave Fraserburgh a 1-0 win at Glebe Park.
Results – Highland League: Brechin City 0, Fraserburgh 1; Forres Mechanics 0, Rothes 1; Huntly 1, Banks O' Dee 3; Inverurie Locos 3, Deveronvale 0; Lossiemouth 5, Clachnacuddin 3; Strathspey Thistle 1, Turriff United 8; Wick Academy 2, Nairn County 3.
Scottish Cup, third round: Brora Rangers 1, Pollok 0; Broxburn Athletic 2, Buckie Thistle 2 (Buckie won 5-4 on penalties); Falkirk 3, Formartine United 0.
Fixtures for Saturday, December 2 – Highland League: Banks O' Dee v Strathspey Thistle; Clachnacuddin v Inverurie Locos; Deveronvale v Buckie Thistle; Forres Mechanics v Brechin City; Keith v Wick Academy; Nairn County v Huntly; Rothes v Formartine United; Turriff United v Lossiemouth.
Sunday, December 3 – Highland League Cup final: Brora Rangers v Fraserburgh (at Harlaw Park, Inverurie).
Wednesday, December 6 – Highland League: Forres Mechanics v Huntly; Keith v Banks O' Dee; Lossiemouth v Inverurie Locos; Strathspey Thistle v Wick Academy.