Beaten But Unbowed by Easton Thain

After the terrific effort at Turriff it was hoped that the Jags could produce a similar performance against reigning champions Brora Rangers at Dudgeon Park but that was always going to a be a tall order against the Cattachs who are a powerful outfit that score goals for fun having already hit 102 in the league before facing the Jags and whose defence was as mean as can be albeit that is probably because the opponents cant get at it as they are always defending themselves against a red tidal wave! On the face of it a 5-1 reverse suggests Thistle were the latest side to take a real battering from the Northern Rangers but those who attended the game will know it was a different story and the final difference was really down to poor defending by the Jags which is simply something you cannot afford to do against the fearsome Cattachs attack. In that respect then Thistle was the architects of their own downfall but there was some positives to take from the game notably that the Jags did not lie down to Brora and tried to attack when they could and with a bit of luck they would have had a couple of more goals themselves. The play also of youngsters Drew Copeland and Kyle Gauld when they came on also bodes well for the future and both showed intricate skills as did Kevin Fraser and when he fully establishes himself in Highland League football then Thistle will have a massive weapon in their arsenal. Lewis MacKinnon also looked solid on his return to the fray but elsewhere the defence was in disarray at times with Andy Burr not having his best game

The goalkeeper was a hero early on when, in the 3rd minute, a shot from Zander Sutherland was deflected into the path of Steven Mackay the most lethal striker in the Highland League and his header had goal written all over it until Andy Burr pulled off a magnificent save at the expense of a corner which Scott Graham helped on to Martin MacLean whose header was deflected for a corner. Thistle though matched the Cattachs at this early stage but the next chance fell to the homesters in the 16th minute when a low cross from Ally MacDonald fell to Scott Graham but he lashed the ball over. A minute later the Jags had a great escape when a cross was met by a superb dipping header from Scott Graham that crashed off the bar, the ball was cleared behind for a corner which Craig McKeown met but headed wide. It al started to go wrong for Thistle in the 21st minute as the Cattachs pounced on woeful defending when Andy Burr hesitated when the ball came through, he belatedly came out but it was too late as Scott Graham shot past him and the ball bypassed the defenders and rolled into the corner of the net. It was crucial that the Jags concentrated after this reverse but 60 seconds later they were 2 down thanks to further poor defending, a ball across found Andrew Greig and as Iain MacRae failed to make a tackle the winger drilled in a low drive which went in at the near post. In the 27th minute it looked as though it would be all over as Martin MacLean freed the deadly Steven Mackay who only had Andy Burr to beat but he shot wide. Thistle responded a couple of minutes later when Chris Angus held the ball up well before freeing Kevin Fraser who moved in on goal but his final shot produced a fine save by Joe Malin at the expense of a corner. Just before the half hour a ball through found Scott Graham but his shot was deflected for a corner. Thistle got their reward for dogged play in the 32nd minute when Shaun Carrol found Chris Angus who got free but saw his shot blocked by the keeper, the ball came back to the Blonde Bomber though and he slid it across to Shaun Wood who smashed it home for only his second Jags goal, the other coming away back in 2012! Brora won a free kick in the 37th minute but Grant Munro hit this straight to Andy Burr. Four minutes later though the Cattachs pounced again helped by wayward defending as Scott Graham found Steven MacKay who is the one man you have to close down, Thistle didn’t and ‘Sid’ duly smashed the ball into the far corner of the net. Two minutes later he had another chance when set up by Zander Sutherland but he sliced this wide.

Half-time Brora Rangers 3 Buckie Thistle 1

A minute into the second half a Rangers free-kick into the box was blocked by Andy Burr leading to a scramble but the ball was cleared. Two minutes later only superb goalkeeping denied the Jags a second goal. Andy Low sent a superb pass through to Chris Angus who in turn fed Kevin Fraser who waltzed into the box and fired in a low shot only to see Joe Malin brilliantly turn this behind for a corner. From the latter the ball was only cleared out to Jay Cheyn who thundered it goal-wards only to see the keeper pull off another great stop. In the 54th minute the game was all but over thanks to a controversial fourth goal for the Cattachs that should never have stood. Chris Hegarty went out to meet Steven MacKay and the striker clearly shoved the defender out of the way but the referee allowed play to continue and Zander Sutherland cracked the ball home. The Thistle defender was clearly incensed and blurted out an expletive, unfortunately this was personal against the whistler who took umbrage and immediately produced the red card. Things can be said in the heat of the moment but if you use a personal pronoun with a bad word then you risk getting sent off and the defender will now miss at least three games as a suspension was already due to start from the next game. Brora looked to capitalise on the extra man and five minutes on Andre Greig shook off Iain MacRae and fed Zander Sutherland but he shot just wide of goal. The Jags tried to respond and in the 65th minute the ball was fed wide to Chris Angus who raced in and was fouled but he didn’t go down and his cross was cleared, he was too honest for his own good! Four minutes later Andy Burr missed another ball through and it landed at the feet of Steven MacKay who knocked it goal-wards only to see Lewis MacKinnon make a fine clearance. With fifteen minutes left another Cattachs break led to Zander Sutherland finding Steven Mackay who drove in a hard shot but this time Andy Burr pulled off a fine save. With ten minutes left a ball through found Steven Mackay but he was denied by a great tackle from Darren Wood. The ace striker was causing all sorts of consternation and with five minutes left he met a Zander Sutherland cross with a flying header that only cleared the far post by inches. In injury time though Rangers went nap and it was another tale of woe for Andy Burr who could only palm down a ball in and in the ensuing scramble it reached Colin Williamson who fired it home

Full-time Brora Rangers 5 Buckie Thistle 1

Match Photo’s Courtesy of Allan Robertson

Brora Rangers – Malin, Williamson, MacDonald, McKeown, Munro (Houston), Gillespie (Morrison), Martin MacLean (Kettlewell), Graham, Sutherland, Mackay and Greig

Buckie Thistle – Burr, MacRae, Carrol, Hegarty, MacKinnon, Cheyne (K Gauld), Fraser, Munro (Copeland), Angus, Low and S Wood (D Wood)

Referee – A Shepherd

A pretty harsh result all told on Thistle but another learning curve as it showed them you simply cannot defend like that against a red-hot strike-force like Brora Rangers have. It was similar to the first game between the two at Victoria Park earlier in the season where the Cattachs were by no means streets ahead of the Jags but simply took their chances as they are prone to do. For effort alone Thistle deserved a better fate although there is no doubt that Brora deserved their win, on chance alone they could have won about 9-4. As I said though there was some positive signs in the play of the younger lads and they are the future of the club. Work on defending better must be done though as there are other teams out there who will pounce on mistakes and that will be the case in the next game if Thistle do not tighten up as Wick Academy can also be lethal. This game though gives the Jags every chance of claiming the scalp of one of the top teams as I feel if Thistle reproduce the play at Turriff and in stages at Brora they can send the Scorries back home to think again. Let us hope that is the case!

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