Match Report - By Cain Lindsay
City all but cemented a top 3 finish in the Highland League yesterday by fending off a late Brora revival to seal a crucial 2-1 win.
David Cox’s opener brought him level with Marc Scott on 17 goals for the season whilst local lad Michael Cruickshank netted his first City goal in an impressive home performance.
Andy Kirk named an unchanged side from Wednesday’s narrow victory over Inverurie and City looked up for it from the off. Once again the David Cox and Garry Wood strike partnership was highly effective in breaking down the opposition defence with both men testing Brora keeper Lenny Wilson early doors.
Despite enjoying the lion share of possession City were forced to wait 15 minutes before wearing down Brora’s back line. Ewan Loudon continued his spell in the starting line up, bridging the back line to the front and it was his determination which nearly set City up for the opening goal of the afternoon. After escaping a tough challenge Loudon slipped the ball through for Cox inside the penalty area, but his first time effort drilled into the side netting from a difficult angle.
Moments later City’s forward duo linked up again. Cox held up play on the edge of the box before releasing Wood. After a fortunate bounce Wood jinked past his man but his shot was blocked allowing Wilson to gather.
Brora, just five points off City in 4th prior to kick off, looked vulnerable throughout the opening forty-five. 20 minutes in a series of corners threatened to break the deadlock and it felt just a matter of time before The Cattachs would break. A Brora clearance fell to Michael Cruickshank who whipped in a dangerous ball forcing Wilson to tip over his own bar.
With 23 minutes played City were rewarded for their dominance. Garry Wood drove into the box after shrugging off defender Mark Nicholson before producing a fantastic nutmeg to lose his man. It appeared as though the play might break down when Wood’s heavy touch escaped him but some calamitous defending from the visitors provided a gift for City. As Nicholson attempted to clear the danger inside his own area the ball ricocheted off of Colin Williamson and landed on a plate for an unmarked DAVID COX just inches out. Cox tapped into an empty net, bringing his tally to 17 for the season, and giving City a deserved 1-0 lead.
Brora responded well to going a goal down. A penalty appeal was waved away when Ally MacDonald went down in the City box with the Brora man booked for simulation. Brora’s first real opportunity of the game arose just before the interval when Tony Dingwall was threaded through by Dale Gillespie. Iain Ross rushed out to smother the ball at Dingwall’s feet but it escaped the City keeper and returned to the Brora forward. Dingwall had the goal gaping before him but Jamie Bain intervened to smash the ball clear of danger and send City into half time one goal to the good.
Andy Kirk looked to shake things up for the second half and introduced Marc Scott for Ewan Loudon with Scott taking place out on the right wing. Kirk’s substitute had an immediate effect as Scott chased the ball down the right hand side before cutting it back to Cox. With a goal to his name Cox turned provider as he delivered a precise in-swinging cross with his left foot for the oncoming MICHAEL CRUICKSHANK who rose above the defender and headed beyond a helpless Wilson in goal.
It wasn’t until after the hour mark that Brora began to show flashes of league champions calibre. The introduction of Andy Macrae and Ali Sutherland to the field of play certainly bolstered their attack with the latter having a pop at goal almost immediately.
Brora began to bare their teeth in search of a way back into the fixture. Nicholson looked to make amends for his first half error but his looping header was forced off the line by Cruickshank following a corner. Brora’s substitutes forced Ross into action again as Sutherland and Macrae continued to provide the spark for the visitors. Sutherland squeezed the ball through for Macrae but his attempt was parried wide by Ross rushing off his line.
As City appeared to see out an 8th consecutive win and a clean sheet Brora were handed a lifeline when referee Stewart Luke pointed to the spot. Ross clipped Macrae as the forward latched onto a loose ball in the box giving the referee no option but to award the spot kick. DALE GILLESPIE nestled the ball into the bottom corner despite the faintest of touches from Ross to set up a nervy ending for City.
It proved to be nothing more than a consolation however as Kirk’s side held on for the win and kept a late title bid mathematically possible going into the final three games.
Victory over last years champions leaves City 3rd, 8 points ahead of Brora, and 4 adrift of table toppers Fraserburgh. Andy Kirk’s men look to end a difficult season on a high with two of three remaining fixtures at Glebe Park. City entertain Clachnacuddin and Fort William respectively before a final outing in Lossiemouth to curtail a maiden Highland League campaign full of mixed emotions.