Jags Edge Out Lively Fort by Easton Thain
In weather more suitable for ducks at Claggan Park on Saturday, Thistle edged out a lively Fort William side but the Lochaber side felt a bit hard done by as they put as much into the game as the Jags. That may be the case but on the balance of chances alone Thistle deserved the three points and although they can play better the Jags did what they had to do, got in, got a win and got out and in the tricky conditions there was no real chance of ‘fancy’ football being played anyway. The Jags worked hard to earn all three points and credit to them for playing some very good football at times despite the rain lashing down and there was no doubting the effort they put in deserved to bring some reward from the trip way out west. Catching the eye on the day were Kevin Main in goals and he again pulled off some top quality saves, Darren Wood at the back but he also supported the attack effectively whilst in midfield there was some nice play from Jay Cheyne, Drew Copeland and Scott Adams.
Thistle started positively when Darren Wood sent in a great cross in the first minute but it broke off a defender and then Robin Harvey turned the ball behind. Three minutes later the Jags won a free kick but Scott Adams’ effort when straight to the keeper. Thistle then got a nasty shock in the 10th minute as Fort took the lead and poor defending caused part of the downfall as a throw-in into the box caused all sorts of panic in the Jags defence and the ball found Sean Grant who rifled it into the corner of the net. Thistle responded positively and probably should have equalised three minutes later. Initially a drive from Shaun Wood after a fine run was turned behind by Robin Harvey, when the corner came in Chris Angus was free but he headed down into the ground and the ball bounced up and over the bar. 60 seconds later the ball was played over the defence to Liam Baxter but his shot didn’t test Robin Harvey. The Fort responded by winning a free-kick in the 16th minute and the kick caught Thistle sleeping as the ball was played to Sean Grant but fortunately he drove his shot over the bar. Two minutes on at the other end Andy Low delivered in a great free-kick which Darren Wood met but headed over, offside was given anyway. Alarm bells were ringing in the 26th minute when a rare error by Darren Wood gifted Fort possession, the ball was played out to Callum MacLean who fizzed in a cross-shot but fortunately it flew wide. On the half hour Andy Low played a superb ball out to Drew Copeland who held it up then delivered a tantalising cross that caused panic and led to a half clearance, the ball reached Darren Wood but his drive was blocked and a clearance followed. Ten minutes before half-time a Jags corner in was only half cleared and the ball reached Iain MacRae who turned inside and tried to place a shot into the far top corner of the net but the effort went wide. Two minutes after that Thistle really should have drawn level when a brilliant attack saw Shaun Wood find Drew Copeland who delivered in a superb cross into the path of the unmarked Liam Baxter but his frustration continued as he fired his shot over. On half time a ball forward fell to Andy Low but his shot was held by Robin Harvey
Half-time Fort William 1 Buckie Thistle 0
The Jags needed an early breakthrough in the second half to end their frustrations and they got it as they drew level just over a minute in when Scott Adams delivered a corner right into the heart of the defence and there was Jay Cheyne to head home. Fort were very much still in the game and in the 56th minute an attack led to Sean Grant cutting inside and firing in a drive but this was held by Kevin Main. Two minutes later the Jags bench was less than amused when the referee awarded a direct free-kick to the Fort and up stepped Sean Grant who crashed in a dipping drive only to see Kevin Main brilliantly tip the ball over the bar. On the hour luck went totally AWOL for Drew Copeland who won the ball before thundering in a ferocious shot only to see Robin Harvey brilliantly turn the effort onto the bar, the ball then came back off the post to Andy Low who knocked it home but from an offside position. Then in the 64th minute Andy Low fed Chris Angus who sent in a deep cross which Jay Cheyne met but he sent a tricky header wide. Fort responded three minutes later with a dangerous corner but this was superbly punched clear by Kevin Main. 60 seconds on at the other end a corner was half cleared into the path of Drew Copeland but his first time shot was blocked, the ball came out to Scott Adams but his effort went well wide. In the 72nd minute Fort broke through again and Daniel Mackintosh fired in a sweet drive only to see Kevin Main pull off a brilliant save. With ten minutes remaining luck deserted Thistle again when a deep ball in from Drew Copeland fell to Scott Adams who controlled it before firing in a shot but this cracked off the post and behind. Three minutes on though came the decisive moment of the game, Darren Wood played a superb ball down the line to Stephen Gauld who hit the bye-line, his cross was cleared but picked up and flung back into the mix whereupon a defender held Donnie Munro down with both hands and the referee rightly pointed to the spot. There was some murmurings when ‘Franny’ MacMillan stepped up to the plate but I had no fears and the striker duly slammed the ball home from 12 yards. The game was far from won however and in the closing moments the home side threw everything bar the kitchen sink at Thistle and in the 86th minute a deep corner into the Jags box found Barna Tot who sent in a powerful downward header but Kevin Main pulled off a magnificent save. Two minutes later Fort won a free-kick and Matthew Rippon drove this low past the wall but Kevin Main dove and turned it behind. 60 seconds on the home side won another corner which fell to David Forbes but fortunately he shot well over. The last chance fell to the Jags in injury time when Scott Adams set off on a great run before finding Stephen Gauld but his drive was deflected past for a fruitless corner.
Full-time Fort William 1 Buckie Thistle 2
It may not have been pretty to watch but conditions had a big say on this game and, overall, the Jags played the better football and created most of the chances so few can argue that the win was just about deserved. Fort cause a lot of problems all the same and better sides may well have taken chances they created and there was some ‘hail Mary’ defending from Thistle at times and they are missing the formidable presence of injured skipper Lewis MacKinnon at the back. The positives outweighed the minuses overall and a lot of effort went in to the victory. The jags now face two massive challenges at Victoria Park from bitter rivals Deveronvale on Wednesday and then Clachnacuddin on Saturday. Neither of the corresponding games brought wins last season and it will take maximum effort, determination and will to win for either to reap three points on these occasions. The players though will be well up for botch encounters and if they play to form they can send Vale and the Lilywhites back home to think again.
Match Photo’s courtesy of Allan Robertson
Fort William – Harvey, Tot, Quigg (Forbes), Hardwick, Moffat, Gemmell (Foggo), Mackintosh, MacLean, Rippon, MacLellan and Grant (MacLeod)
Buckie Thistle – Main, S Wood (MacMillan), D Wood, G Stewart (Munro), Angus, MacRae, Adams, Cheyne, Low, Baxter (S Gauld) and Copeland
Referee – A Shepherd