Wick Academy emerge with credit from Scottish Cup loss at Cowdenbeath
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Wick Academy's Scottish Cup campaign came to an end with a 2-0 defeat at Cowdenbeath today – but the Scorries emerged with a huge amount of credit for the way they handled a uniquely difficult set of circumstances.
While only occasionally posing a threat in the final third, Gary Manson's men worked tirelessly and played some neat passing football, especially in the first period, only to lose out to Craig Barr's long-distance strike and a close-range effort from Kris Renton either side of half-time.
Christmas was cut short for the Wick players and management as they made the long bus journey to Fife on Boxing Day just as tough Covid-19 rules were coming into force across mainland Scotland.
The tie against the League Two side came five days after Academy's energy-sapping extra-time victory over Musselburgh Athletic, and the atrocious conditions at Central Park made it all the more testing for the under-strength visitors.
Despite missing the experienced trio of Alan Farquhar, Danny Mackay and Andrew Hardwick, the makeshift Wick defence coped well and keeper Graeme Williamson inspired confidence with his handling and kicking despite the strong wind and driving rain.
The Blue Brazil threatened early on when Iain Russell was fouled by Jack Henry and, from the free kick, Fraser Mullen's effort was beaten out by Williamson.
Then a lay-off by Renton fell nicely for Robbie Buchanan who fired a low drive just wide of Williamson's right-hand post.
Academy were getting a decent amount of possession and linking up well, with Sean Campbell in particular looking lively.
In a counter-attack on 14 minutes Richard Macadie gave Ben Sinclair a glimpse of goal but Sinclair's shot seemed to take a deflection as it looped over the top.
Midway through the half Williamson was called into action again as he tipped a Kyle Miller shot over the bar.
Alan Hughes dispossessed Russell and his angled shot went narrowly wide of the far post. Academy soon ventured forward again and Craig Gunn's long diagonal pass picked out Davie Allan, but Campbell couldn't get on the end of Allan's cutback.
Cowdenbeath opened the scoring after 38 minutes when Barr let fly from about 40 yards and Williamson was helpless as the wind-assisted strike flew into the net.
Graham Taylor was next to threaten as he cut in from the left but he sent his shot high and wide.
Just before the break Mark Macadie did well to deliver a pass to Campbell in the middle of the box but the forward just couldn't bring it under control.
Cowdenbeath doubled their lead after 50 minutes when Mullen swung in a low cross from wide on the right and Renton turned it in from close range.
Taylor then headed over the bar as the Blue Brazil looked to kill the game.
When the Scorries were awarded a free kick about 40 yards out, Gunn decided to go for goal but his effort sailed over the top.
Wick's best effort of the game came after 74 minutes when Davie Allan attacked up the right and his ferocious shot was turned away for a corner by young keeper Nicky Hogarth, newly arrived on loan from Rangers.
A minute later Academy won a free kick in a promising position when Davie Allan was fouled by Jamie Todd as the defender tried to make amends for an error. However, Ross Allan's strike couldn't get past the wall.
Williamson again showed a safe pair of hands as he held Buchanan's low shot in the closing stages.
The League Two side were worthy winners in the end, but they certainly didn't have it all their own way. Academy will have won new admirers for the way they went about their business, and for the professionalism and commitment they showed.
Cowdenbeath: Hogarth, Mullen, Swann, Todd, Barr, Miller, Buchanan, Morrison, Renton, Russell (Kavanagh 77), Taylor (Hamilton 82). Subs not used: Herd, Glass, Pollock, Whyte, Watson.
Wick Academy: Williamson, Hughes (Brandon Sinclair 70), R Allan, R Campbell, Henry, Ben Sinclair (C Farquhar 88), R Macadie, S Campbell, D Allan, Gunn (Anderson 75), M Macadie. Subs not used: More, Manson.