Three-goal burst by Fraserburgh puts game beyond Wick's reach
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Wick Academy's hopes of upsetting the Highland League leaders were swept aside in a five-minute spell before the break on Saturday as Fraserburgh scored three times to effectively make the points safe.
The Broch went on to complete a 5-2 victory and open up a seven-point lead at the top, leaving Academy still searching for their first win.
The game went ahead in an unrelenting downpour at Harmsworth Park and during that brief spell from the 35th minute it was raining goals after the under-strength Scorries soaked up a fair amount of pressure in the opening half-hour.
The Broch added another early in the second period and rounded off the scoring in stoppage time after Steven Anderson's superb double had brought about the faint possibility of an Academy fightback.
Wick manager Gary Manson watched from the stand as he served the remaining part of his suspension following his recent red card at Keith.
“Apart from that five-minute spell in the first half when we lost three goals, there wasn't too much between the teams,” he said.
“We gave as good as we got in that second half, scored two good goals and had a couple of other half-chances that on another day might have gone in and it could have been different.
“But you can't lose five goals and expect to take anything from the game.”
After six weeks of significant water scarcity in the Wick area, there was no shortage of rainfall by Saturday. Players struggled to stay on their feet at times but the pitch itself held up well.
Academy again had a raft of absentees so two of the club's stalwarts from the past, Gary Weir and Stewart Ross, were given places on the bench. Craig Gunn was again able to help out and he played from the start.
Both teams hit the crossbar in the first half – first a fiercely struck shot from Fraserburgh's Lewis Duncan after he cut in from the left, then a swerving free kick by Gunn.
The visitors made the breakthrough in the 35th minute when a deep cross from the left by Ryan Cowie was thumped in at the back post by Owen Cairns.
Two minutes later they struck again when Paul Young took a pass from Paul Campbell and drilled a low shot beyond keeper Graeme Williamson from the edge of the box.
With 39 minutes on the clock, Scott Barbour slipped through to add a third.
Weir came on after the break for his first Wick game since April 2018 and he performed well.
However, Fraserburgh extended their lead in 52 minutes with a free kick by Cowie which appeared to take a slight deflection, leaving Williamson wrong-footed.
Academy responded three minutes later when Gunn picked out Anderson, who instantly brought the ball under control before firing an unstoppable shot past keeper Paul Leask.
The home side's injury woes looked to be worsening at one point when Anderson, Gunn and Davie Allan were all down on the ground simultaneously.
Captain Jack Halliday had come close with a speculative drive in the first half and he tried his luck from distance again with a 40-yard strike which forced Leask to make a diving save.
Anderson reduced the deficit to 4-2 after 85 minutes with another deadly finish, this time rattling the ball in off both posts after being set up by Davie Allan.
However, the Broch had the final say in stoppage time as Barbour got past Andrew Hardwick and picked out substitute Gary Harris, who netted from close range.
Next up for Academy is the first-round Scottish Cup tie at home to Bo'ness United of the Lowland League.
“We should be more or less full strength next weekend, apart from obviously Richard Macadie and Alan Farquhar,” Manson said.
“I said to the players we've got to dust ourselves down, make sure we train hard on Tuesday and Thursday and then go again next Saturday, and hopefully progress in the Scottish Cup.”
This is the first time Academy have gone nine games without a win from the start of a Highland League season for 17 years, albeit in that 2004/05 campaign they began with nine straight defeats whereas this time they have lost just three and drawn six.
Wick Academy: Williamson, Hughes, R Allan, Hardwick, Mackay, Halliday, R Campbell, S Campbell (Weir 46), S Anderson, D Allan, Gunn (C Farquhar 77). Subs not used: Ross, Miller, Mathieson, Cannop, More.
Fraserburgh: Leask, Cairns, Hay, Cowie, Young, G Campbell, Beagrie, Duncan (Watt 84), P Campbell (Harris 80), Butcher (Sargent 74), Barbour. Subs not used: D'Ambruoso, Flinn.
Referee: Darren Munro.
Fraserburgh manager Mark Cowie insists it is too early for title talk as there will be many “twists and turns” in the race to become Highland League champions.
Saturday's 5-2 victory at Wick allowed the Broch to open up a seven-point gap at the top of the table, although some of the other leading sides have games in hand.
“I don't think you can put 'favourites' tags on anybody yet,” Cowie said. “I knew Brora would come good at some point, and Brechin are still strengthening.
“There are a lot of good teams and there are a lot of twists and turns yet.
“Wick up here will cause a lot of teams problems, so that's one that we've ticked off and we just look forward to the next one.”
There looked to be no way back for Wick after Fraserburgh's three-goal burst in a five-minute spell leading up to half-time, and so it proved.
“Any win up here is a great result,” Cowie said. “We've come up here and been let down on more than one occasion.
“I didn't think we started the greatest – we weren't really our usual selves. Then a five-minute spell put the game to bed a wee bit, even though there was still a half to go.
“Wick must have been gutted going in at half-time 3-0 down because it was just a quick flurry.
“Once the guys do click they are good, but that can change at any moment if we're not quite at it and if we don't hit the standards that we've set.”
Cowie admitted that Gary Weir had proved a handful after coming on as a substitute after the break. Weir was playing his first Highland League game for more than three years after being drafted in to add some experience to the depleted Wick ranks.
“Credit to Wick – I know they had a few boys missing but they've still thrown together a decent side,” Cowie said.
“I think Gary [Manson] should go and sign the boy Weir up because he caused us more problems than a lot of other strikers have. Fair play to him for that – he was a top player when he was here before.
“We have a few missing ourselves now but we have a squad at the moment that is covering it.
“We're delighted to come up here and get the three points. It's a difficult place to come and a lot of top teams will come up here and struggle.”
Manson thinks Fraserburgh are capable of going on to win the league.
“There were no surprises there. They're a good unit, they all know their jobs and they all carry out their jobs as well as they possibly can,” he said.
“There are no individual superstars in the team, they're just a well-oiled unit. I wouldn't be surprised at all if they went on to win the title.”
Highland League results: Brora Rangers 2, Buckie Thistle 0; Clachnacuddin 2, Deveronvale 3; Formartine United 5, Huntly 1; Forres Mechanics 1, Turriff United 1; Fort William 3, Inverurie Locos 10; Lossiemouth 2, Keith 0; Nairn County 1, Brechin City 3; Strathspey Thistle 1, Rothes 4; Wick Academy 2, Fraserburgh 5.