Wick Academy manager Gary Manson says 3-1 scoreline flattered Brechin City
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Wick Academy manager Gary Manson was left to reflect on two incidents that could have changed the complexion of Saturday's Highland League game against Brechin City.
After a goalless first half at Harmsworth Park, Academy found themselves up against it after strikes from Marc Scott and Hamish Thomson in the opening six minutes of the second period.
Davie Allan pulled one back midway through the half and, during a spell of intense pressure, Gordon MacNab hit the bar before a penalty claim was ignored when Steven Anderson looked to have been fouled in the box.
Brechin went on to wrap up a 3-1 win when substitute Scott slotted home his second of the afternoon deep in injury time.
“We hit the crossbar when it was 2-1 and had a really strong claim for a penalty, from my angle,” Manson said.
“It was anyone's game if we'd got a goal there. The third goal was purely from us chasing the game – you're going to concede chances when you throw bodies forward.
“I think 3-1 slightly flattered them.
“In the first half, you're coming up against a good team and you're shooting up the hill, so you're always going to concede a bit of territory. It's the way it is. You can't clear your lines the same as you can when you're shooting down the hill, so up against a good team you're always going to concede a bit of ground.
“But we were in their half for a lot of the second half, and created two or three really good chances.
"We conceded two goals in the first six minutes of the second half and it's really difficult to come back from that – you're 2-0 down against a good team, you're up against it straight away after half-time, so that was really disappointing.”
Brechin looked lively in the early stages, with a shot on the turn by Ewan Loudon being well held by James More and a header from David Cox dropping just over the bar.
Academy constructed a good move that culminated in Jack Halliday setting up Steven Anderson for a shot that was blocked.
Brechin threatened again as Jamie Bain swung in a low cross from wide on the right but Cox, arriving at the back post, blazed it over the top.
The Scorries were being pinned back at this stage but were competing well.
Five minutes before half-time Academy came close when they earned a free kick on the left and Ross Allan's delivery was headed onto the top of the bar by Andy Hardwick.
Brechin brought on Marc Scott at the start of the second half and the midfielder made an instant impact, racing onto a long ball to send a simple finish beyond More a minute after the restart.
The visitors doubled their lead in the 51st minute when Hamish Thomson directed a firm header past More in the aftermath of a corner.
Davie Allan came close with an instinctive shot that was stopped by visiting keeper Jack Wills at the expense of a corner. However, the long-serving Wick forward – who scored twice in the memorable Scottish Cup tie between the teams at Harmsworth Park 12 years ago – was not to be denied.
Ryan Campbell's flag-kick found its way to the back-post area where Allan bundled the ball into the net to reduce the deficit with 67 minutes gone.
A swift move involving Davie Allan, Steven Anderson and substitute Mark Macadie resulted in Gordon MacNab lining up a shot from the edge of the box that came off the bar with Wills beaten.
Danny Mackay fired a shot over the top, then Academy looked to have a decent claim for a penalty when Anderson was bundled over in the box only for nothing to be given.
Deep into stoppage time, with Wick committing men forward, Brechin broke up the park and substitute Cameron Ross picked out Scott for a clear run on goal. More got a hand to his first effort but Scott made no mistake at the second attempt, floating the ball into the far corner.
Brechin boss Andy Kirk praised the contribution of Marc Scott after the midfielder came off the bench to score twice in the 3-1 win at Harmsworth Park.
Kirk, a former Hearts and Northern Ireland striker, acknowledged his team had made mistakes but said collecting the three points was all that mattered.
“Marc works really hard, he competes all the time, he's quick and he can finish,” Kirk said.
“I tried to change things today, just to see how it would look, because I knew I always had Marc on the bench to come on and he always gives you something.
“I'm really pleased that he got his two goals which he thoroughly deserved. He's been great for us this season so far.”
Kirk added: “I thought we were really comfortable for large parts of the game, then made one or two errors to give the other team a lift.
“Fair play to Wick, they kept going the whole game, but winning is the most important thing. It was a difficult pitch, but we've done the job, we've got the three points and we're happy with that.”
Brechin, who have some players based in the Glasgow area, travelled north on Friday and stayed overnight in Inverness.
“It's a long time to ask the players to sit on a bus so we thought we would do it this way and it has been proved right because we've won the game,” Kirk said.
“In a competitive industry, winning is the thing that matters. Obviously we would love to do it every week by playing lovely football and dominating the game. Some weeks we will, some weeks we'll do it for parts of the game – but the other team is trying to win the game as well, not just us. That's what makes it difficult if you're not quite at it.
“There are good players in this league and teams that will work hard and will put you under pressure.
"I thought we dealt with a lot of things well today. We made some mistakes – that's going to happen, it's natural. But we won the game and that's the most important thing.”
Fourth-placed Brechin are one of four teams on 28 points, 12 behind Fraserburgh, with the Glebe Park outfit having two games in hand on the leaders.
While they have some catching up to do, Manson is sure Brechin will be in contention for the title – and a potential return to the Scottish Professional Football League – when the title race comes to a head.
“They'll definitely be up there,” Manson said. “We've played Brora, we've played Fraserburgh, we've played Rothes and now Brechin, all teams in the top six, and they'll be a match for most teams in this league this season.
“In the second half I thought we gave them a bit more of a game, but certainly in the first half I was impressed with them. They'll be up there – there's no doubt about that.”
Academy now have a free Saturday as the Scottish Cup second-round ties go ahead this weekend along with a couple of rearranged league fixtures.
“We've had three or four midweek games so far this season, so games have been coming thick and fast,” Manson said. “Maybe a rest will do them good. We'll train once this week and them give them the weekend off and then be back at it.”
Wick Academy: More, Hughes (Mathieson 87), R Allan, Mackay, Hardwick (M Macadie 80), Halliday, Henry, R Campbell, MacNab, D Allan, S Anderson. Subs not used: Manson, Sinclair, C Farquhar, Cowan.
Brechin City: Wills, Bain (Inglis 57), Thomson, Davidson, Denham, Cox, Mackintosh, Booth, Milne (Scott 46), Loudon (C Ross 74), Kucheriavyi. Subs not used: Currie, Cruickshank, Wade, I Ross.
Referee: Billy Baxter.
Fraserburgh eased to a 7-0 home win over Keith on Saturday to extend their lead at the top of the Highland League.
Inverurie Locos surrendered second spot after drawing 2-2 with Forres Mechanics as they dropped below Buckie Thistle, Rothes and Brechin City on goal difference.
A depleted Keith side kept Fraserburgh at bay in the first quarter but a Scott Barbour goal broke the deadlock.
Bryan Hay added a second in the opening minute of the second half and Barbour's 15th of the season extended the lead.
Keith were awarded a penalty but Dem Yunus hit a post.
It stayed 3-0 until the closing nine minutes when Paul Young scored a quick-fire double, followed by two more from Sean Butcher.
Inverurie got off to a flying start against Forres with Ryan Broadhurst opening the scoring and Kieran Shanks making it 2-0 from the spot.
Mechanics got one back through Paul Brindle, who then levelled three minutes after half-time.
Buckie went second as goals by Andy MacAskill and Marcus Goodall earned a 2-0 success at Huntly.
Rothes bounced back from their first defeat in 16 competitive matches in midweek by defeating Deveronvale 3-0. After a goalless first half, Fraser Robertson scored within a minute and Jack Brown added two more.
Brora Rangers' impressive form continued with a 4-0 success at Clach. Adam Mackinnon, Gregor Macdonald, Andy Macrae and Ally MacDonald were on target for the Cattachs.
Lossiemouth's good home form continued with a 2-0 success over bottom side Fort William, Ryan Sewell's penalty and a Brodie Allen goal lifting the Coasters out of the bottom six.
Formartine United were too strong for Turriff United in the derby at North Lodge Park, winning 5-0.
Nairn County came from behind to win 2-1 at Strathspey Thistle.