Wick manager warns 'there are no easy games any more' ahead of Strathspey clash
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Manager Gary Manson has acknowledged that Wick Academy are in no position to take anything for granted when they welcome Strathspey Thistle to Harmsworth Park on Saturday.
The Strathy Jags have been the Highland League's most notable strugglers since Fort William dropped down to North Caley level in 2022. The Grantown club finished bottom last year and are propping up the table again this season.
However, the Scorries haven't won since the start of November, when they beat Inverurie Locos at home, and they remain fourth from bottom.
Goals have been hard to come by for Manson's men recently. They have scored just once in their last five outings, albeit two of those were goalless draws.
Last weekend they lost 3-0 at Fraserburgh.
Manson said: "I've said for the past two years, there are no easy games any more – no disrespect to Fort William but over the last number of years every other team more or less started on six points.
"When you get rid of them and take in Banks O' Dee, you're more or less six points down on the points tallies from previous seasons.
"If you look at Strathspey's team on paper, they've got some good players. It'll be a really tough game, there's no doubt about that.
"We are in no position whatsoever right now to take any game for granted.
"It'll be a battle, it'll be a slog. Hopefully the weather stays reasonably good and the pitch is okay.
"It'll be a case of who makes the least mistakes that cause goals.
"We'll definitely be looking to win the game, obviously, but we're not taking anything for granted."
Gordon MacNab came off the bench at Fraserburgh after recovering from injury
"Hopefully we'll be okay squad-wise," Manson said. "We should be more or less full strength."
Academy will want to avoid a repeat of what happened on Strathspey's last visit to Caithness, for a midweek fixture last March. The visitors won 2-1, one of only two league victories for them all season.
Strathspey, now managed by Rob MacCormack, have picked up four points in the current campaign. Second-bottom Keith are on the 11-point mark, with Wick and Clachnacuddin both on 13 – although Academy have four games in hand on the Lilywhites, whose midweek fixture at home to Inverurie was postponed.
On Wednesday night the Jags were thumped 8-2 at Rothes, with captain Michael Finnis scoring three penalties for the Mackessack Park side.
Ben Barron hit a hat-trick on his home debut for Nairn County as they beat Lossiemouth 5-1 at Station Park, while Turriff United got a 90th-minute winner in a 3-2 victory over Fraserburgh.
Results – Highland League: Nairn County 5, Lossiemouth 1; Rothes 8, Strathspey Thistle 2; Turriff United 3, Fraserburgh 2.
Scottish Cup fourth round: Brora Rangers 1, Cove Rangers 3 (after extra time).
Highland League fixtures – Saturday, February 3: Banks O’ Dee v Keith; Brechin City v Lossiemouth; Clachnacuddin v Huntly; Deveronvale v Brora Rangers; Fraserburgh v Forres Mechanics; Nairn County v Buckie Thistle; Rothes v Inverurie Locos; Turriff United v Formartine United; Wick Academy v Strathspey Thistle.
Wednesday, February 7: Clachnacuddin v Forres Mechanics; Strathspey Thistle v Brora Rangers.
Saturday, February 10: Banks O’ Dee v Deveronvale; Brora Rangers v Clachnacuddin; Buckie Thistle v Rothes; Formartine United v Fraserburgh; Forres Mechanics v Wick Academy; Inverurie Locos v Brechin City; Keith v Nairn County; Lossiemouth v Strathspey Thistle; Turriff United v Huntly.