Wick Academy 'gave it their all' in draw with Huntly, says Farquhar
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Assistant manager Alan Farquhar said Wick Academy "gave it their all" in Saturday's keenly contested 2-2 draw with Huntly in the Highland League.
The Scorries twice came from behind at Harmsworth Park and hit the crossbar a couple of times as they pushed for a winner. Even the Huntly management admitted they were lucky to emerge with a share of the points.
Manager Gary Manson was sidelined by flu, so Farquhar deputised alongside first-team coach Gordon McDonald and goalkeeping coach James More.
"I think we deserved to win," Farquhar said. "I would say we were the better team on the day, but I would have taken a draw before the start.
"We're proud of them all. They gave it their all and that's the main thing – you can't ask for any more than that. You saw that at the end, they were all still running and putting a shift in."
Huntly, third in the table at the start of play, took the lead with one minute on the clock after Angus Grant ran up the right and delivered a low cross into the box. Andy Hunter reached it a split second before Owen Rendall to knock the ball into the net.
Academy found themselves pinned back in those opening stages but with five minutes played they levelled after a swift counter-attack. Gordon MacNab broke forward and played the ball through to the unmarked Kyle Henderson, who kept his cool as he slotted it low past Fraser Hobday.
Huntly regained the lead on 21 minutes when a shot from Ross Still came off the base of a post and Hunter found the corner of the net from the rebound.
Hobday's trailing leg prevented MacNab from slotting in an equaliser but the Wick forward was not to be denied and after 33 minutes he made it 2-2 with a wonder strike – an unstoppable shot from about 30 yards.
MacNab injured his groin in the process and, after receiving treatment, was replaced by Gary Pullen.
Academy looked stronger as the game went on and came close on several occasions in the second half when playing up the slope. A close-range header by Marc Macgregor looked like a certain goal only for Hobday to pull off an acrobatic save, a long-range shot by Ross Gunn came crashing off the crossbar and then the ball again struck the bar after a goalmouth scramble.
There was also an appeal for a penalty after Gunn looked to have been bundled over in the box.
Farquhar said MacNab's injury was being assessed.
"He hit it and he pulled up," Farquhar said. "We'll see the severity of it.
"I don't know whether he has just tweaked something or whether it's long-term, but our physio was looking at him so we'll see how it goes.
"It was a cracking strike, and the same with Ross Gunn in the second half when he hit the bar.
"It was good to see Marc Macgregor getting 90 minutes in, and a big positive note as well was the back four – they were solid.
"Owen Harrold and Rob McLean have both been playing really well. It's a big step coming into the Highland League. Those boys have come on really well and they're only getting better."
Academy dropped to 13th in the table as a consequence of Lossiemouth's 1-0 win against Keith, while Huntly are now fourth.
Huntly's assistant manager Stefan Laird reckoned Wick Academy deserved their point from Saturday's 2-2 draw and were entitled to feel hard done by at not taking all three.
The Black and Golds have made a strong start to the Highland League campaign and they led twice at Harmsworth Park, but Laird felt they didn't tick enough boxes after taking the lead with a minute gone.
Andy Hunter claimed a double for the visitors and the Scorries replied through Kyle Henderson and Gordon MacNab, with all the goals coming in the first period.
"I think we were lucky to get a point," Laird said. "It might have been exciting for the neutral but I can assure you we were not excited by what we watched.
"The things that define us are our organisation, our intensity, our work rate, our willingness to stand up to the match physically. We didn't tick any of those boxes today.
"We want to try and finish above where we finished last season [eighth].
"I thought Wick played well and they thoroughly deserved their point. I think they'll be disappointed they didn't get three.
"But we should be putting on a much better performance. If our technical quality is not there, everything else should be – and for us, we didn't really think it was."
Henderson, who joined Academy in the summer after playing for Halkirk United in the North Caledonian League, says he is getting to grips with the demands of Highland League football.
Reflecting on his goal, the 24-year-old forward said: "I had a lot of time to think about it. I just had to make sure I put my foot through it.
"Gordy's strike was pretty good but it's a shame he has injured himself.
"We created a lot of chances. We're starting to pick up more points now so I'd say we're getting there.
"It is a tougher challenge but I'm coping with it. You can tell the difference – boys are a lot fitter in this league."
Nairn County lifted the North of Scotland Cup after an epic victory over Ross County in Sunday's final at Grant Street Park in Inverness.
Nairn came from two goals down to win 5-4 after extra time and win their first piece of silverware in 11 years. Aaron Nicolson was their hat-trick hero.
Manager Steven Mackay said: “It was a thrilling cup final. The character from the boys was incredible, but they have shown that in the last few weeks.
“It has been a long time since we’ve won a trophy, and we spoke about how this club needs to be competing for trophies.
“We had a tough run of games to get to this stage and to go one step further and beat an impressive strong Ross County team.”
Bottom club Strathspey Thistle won their first league game this season at the 10th attempt, beating Deveronvale 5-2 at home.
The Jags scored three goals in a late burst and are now within a point of Clachnacuddin and Inverurie Locos.
Managerless Brechin City reasserted their title credentials with a 6-0 victory over Clach at Glebe Park, with Grady McGrath scoring a hat-trick.
Ex-Hearts player Stephen Simmons is in temporary charge at Brechin following Andy Kirk's move to St Johnstone as assistant to Craig Levein.
Formartine and Brora Rangers drew 3-3 in Pitmedden, while the points were also shared between Forres Mechanics and Banks O’ Dee as it ended 2-2 at Mosset Park.
Buckie Thistle won 2-0 at Inverurie, while Turriff United had a 3-1 home victory over Rothes.
Results – Highland League: Brechin City 6, Clachnacuddin 0; Formartine United 3, Brora Rangers 3; Forres Mechanics 2, Banks O' Dee 2; Inverurie Locos 0, Buckie Thistle 2; Lossiemouth 1, Keith 0; Strathspey Thistle 5, Deveronvale 2; Turriff United 3, Rothes 1; Wick Academy 2, Huntly 2. North of Scotland Cup final: Nairn County 5, Ross County 4 (after extra time).
Highland League fixtures – Wednesday, November 15: Keith v Strathspey Thistle. Saturday, November 18: Banks O' Dee v Formartine United; Brora Rangers v Huntly; Buckie Thistle v Wick Academy; Clachnacuddin v Strathspey Thistle; Deveronvale v Lossiemouth; Keith v Inverurie Locos; Nairn County v Forres Mechanics; Rothes v Fraserburgh; Turriff United v Brechin City.