Battling Strathspey Secure Deserved Point by Easton Thain
Thistle went into the League game with their namesakes from Grantown on the back of four excellent victories and having produced a great display to see off Formartine United in the Aberdeenshire Cup semi the Jags were favourites to see off Strathspey Thistle at Victoria Park. The Strathy Jags though now have a young, enthusiastic and speedy side who had already caused major problems for some of the top teams in the league being unlucky not to hold them to draws so they would be no pushover and with Thistle’s record against ‘lesser’ sides of late having had more than the odd blip nothing could be taken for granted. In the end the Jags did not heed the warning and the battling Grantown side caused numerous problems and few could argue that, in the end, they deserved a point. And yet it could have been so very different for at one point Thistle were in command of proceedings and had established a two-goal lead and they had enough chances for that lead to have been at least four but they failed to take these and the warning signs were there towards the end of the first half when the lead was halved. These continued in the second half and the Strathy Jags rocked Thistle with an equaliser. The Jags had further good chances to go ahead again but failed to take them and only a brilliant late block by Kevin Main prevented a shock defeat. It is fair to say the Jags did not come close to reaching the heights of recent performances and were below par but you have to credit Brian Grant’s young side for that as they did not let Thistle play the game they wanted to.
There was early controversy when Chris Angus fed Andrzej Kleczkowski in the 5th minute and the Pole’s shot was spilled by Kyle Robertson, Andrzej went to follow up and was held back but no penalty was awarded. The visitors responded two minutes later when a cross from John Ross was only partially cleared and fell to Connor McAuley who smacked in a controlled drive which only just cleared the bar. The Jags then took control of the game and only superb goalkeeping denied them in the 10th minute. Andrzej Kleczkowski played a great pass through to Andy Low who crashed in a shot which Kyle Robertson superbly got to, the ball went in the air and out to Chris Angus who sent in a well-placed header only to see the keeper brilliantly tip it over the bar. From the resultant corner the ball was sent in deep and found Iain MacRae but he headed wide. In the 12th minute a cross from Chris Angus was half cleared and fell to Donnie Munro but his drive went wide. Five minutes later it really should have been 1-0 Thistle when a cross from Scott Adams was missed by the defence and the ball fell right into the path of Chris Angus who tried to find the far corner of the net but only succeeded in hitting the post. However, a further minute on the Jags did take the lead albeit a very fortunate one, a cross in found Chris Angus whose shot was spilled by Kyle Robertson which lead to a real old stooshie as Andrzej Kleczkowski and Chris Angus plus three defenders went for the ball which went into the air and Jack Maley headed it down whereupon the referee deemed the ball had crossed the line for an own goal. Buoyed by this the Jags pressed on and in the 24th minute a brilliant pass from Donnie Munro was met first time by Chris Angus but the effort went wide. Three minutes later, though, Thistle doubled their lead when Iain MacRae sent a brilliant cross into the box and Chris Angus took the ball down on his chest before blasting it into the net. Ten minutes before the break a cross from Scott Adams fell to Chris Angus but he blazed his effort wide. A minute after that a ball in from Shaun Wood was just touched by a defender and fell into the path of Andrzej Kleczkowski who hit a first-time shot but it went wide. Thistle then paid for their missed chances in the 38th minute when the Strathy Jags halved the lead. Intially Kevin Main brilliantly turned away and effort from Martin Groat but from the resultant corner Connor McAuley was left unmarked and he headed home.
Half-time Buckie Thistle 2 Strathspey Thistle 1
The Jags made a determined start to the second half and just a minute in Andy Low delivered a superb ball into the box from a free-kick which three team-mates all went for but none got a vital touch. In the 50th minute Liam Baxter hit the line and crossed whereupon Andrzej Kleczkowski attempted a first-time half-volley but Kyle Robertson made a routine save. Thistle though had a lucky escape three minutes later when Calum Murray foozled Bob Duncan and hit the bye-line before finding Jack Maley who crashed in a shot which Kevin Main superbly parried, the ball fell to Martin Groat but his effort was blocked. In the 56th minute a free-kick in by Shaun Wood was knocked down by Jay Cheyne to Andy Low but his firm drive flew wide. 60 seconds later Chris Angus sent in a cross which found Jay Cheyne but his drive was well saved by Kyle Robertson, the ball was not fully cleared though and reached Jay Cheyne again but his second effort was deflected wide. In the 62nd minute a corner was played short to Shaun Wood who then cut inside and across but his drive went wide. Just 60 seconds later the Jags were rocked back on their heels when a ball into their box led to all sorts of panic and Connor Aubrey gleefully whacked it home. Even after that set back Thistle had chances to win the game firstly in the 67th minute when a cross in from Shaun Wood found Andy Low but he drove his shot into the ground and the ball bounced up and over the bar. Two minutes after that came an even better chance when Andy Low curled in a super free-kick which Kyle Robertson saved superbly but the ball broke into the path of Shaun Wood but he blazed his effort wide. With eleven minutes remaining a ball over the defence led to a race between Andrzej Kleczkowski and Kyle Robertson, the former got there first but the keeper blocked the striker’s effort away for a corner. In the 85th minute Stephen Gauld set off on a great run before delivering a low cross which Andrzej Kleczkowski dove at and met but his header went wide. The final minute was nearly disastrous for Thistle though when a lightening break led to a tussle between Chris Hegarty and Josh Peters, the latter shook off the defender and only had Kevin Main to beat but the Jags goalie brilliantly blocked the ball away. In injury time Thistle nearly won it when a long ball in by Donnie Munro caught the keeper out, it found Liam Baxter who shot past Kyle Robertson but the ball was hoofed off the line by a defender. Had it gone in the result would have been harsh on the Grantown side whose dogged play deserved a point
Full-time Buckie Thistle 2 Strathspey Thistle 2
Buckie Thistle – Main, S Wood (S Gauld), Duncan, Munro, MacRae, Hegarty, Angus, Cheyne, Kleczkowski, Low and Adams (Baxter)
Strathspey Thistle – Robertson, Wardrope, Smith, Maley, Groat, McAuley, Murray, McKernie, Ross (McKie), Peters and Aubrey (Patience)
Referee – G Elder
A very disappointing outcome for the Jags in a game where had they taken their chances, notably in the first half, they would have won. The performance level of the previous matches definitely slipped and it will have to be raised to the highest again for the next game as they face a massive task away to West Super League cracks Auchinleck Talbot in the first round of the Scottish Cup. Beechwood Park is a veritable fortress for the junior side who have swept aside Highland League sides there in the past so only a top quality performance will give Thistle any chance of a positive result, a draw and a replay would be no bad outcome