Match Report - By Steven Mew
City had to dig deep as a late winner from Botti Biabi proved to be enough to earn a vital 3 points over Rothes at Mackessack Park yesterday afternoon.
Manager Andy Kirk had been looking for a similar performance to the one at Banks O’ Dee last time out, but on a bobbly surface they had to work hard for the win against a battling Rothes side.
The win ensured City held on to top spot by a point with a game in hand, with nearest challengers Buckie Thistle also narrow 1-0 winners up in Wick.
Captain Jamie Bain and Anthony McDonald came in to the starting 11 with City missing Kevin McHattie and Ewan Loudon through suspension, whilst Michael McArthur missed out through injury. There was the welcome sight of defender Hamish Thomson back on the bench after a lengthy lay-off, whilst Dominik Naglik was recalled from his loan spell at Tayport.
City came flying out the traps and after barely 30 seconds, MacLeod fired a shot that whistled just past the post and three minutes later, Biabi stung the hands of Iain Mackenzie who pushed away his powerful strike from the edge of the box.
The visitors kept pushing for an early goal and the lively McDonald was unlucky to see his goalbound shot blocked by the head of a defender.
Despite defending in numbers, the Speysiders were struggling to deal with the City attack and both McGrath and Scott were desperately unlucky not to connect with McDonald’s low cross which flashed across the face of goal.
McDonald was central to almost all of City’s attacks in the first half – he laid the ball off for McGrath inside the box and the top-scorer moved the ball onto his left foot to get a shot away which was comfortably saved by Mackenzie. On 19 minutes McDonald tried his luck himself from range but his effort flew narrowly over the bar.
At the other end Aidan Wilson, who has caused problems for City in previous encounters, flashed a shot just wide of the post from the edge of the box.
Ten minutes before the break MacLeod collected a pass inside the box but his strike was deflected for a corner. The corner was cleared and resulted in a Rothes break which saw Gary Kerr go one-on-one with Lenny Wilson but the City keeper spread himself well to block the shot.
After picking up an injury shortly before the break, it perhaps came as a surprise to City fans when Euan Spark came back out for the second half in some discomfort, with the defender opting to play through the pain barrier for his side.
Ten minutes into the second half, McDonald was unlucky to see his powerful strike deflected over by the head of a Rothes defender and from the resulting corner, an unmarked Cooney volleyed over at the back post when it seemed easier to score.
With City starting to toil, the home side enjoyed a bit more possession although they were unable to test Wilson in goal.
Midway through the half, Scott had a vicious strike from range which dipped just over the crossbar whilst a free kick on the edge of the box from McGrath flashed just over.
With just ten minutes remaining, City got the all important goal. BOTTI BIABI timed his run to perfection to latch on to a ball over the top from Scott and the in-form striker squeezed a low shot through the legs of McKenzie to break the deadlock.
Rothes looked to get themselves back level late on with Jake Thomson screwing a shot wide from range whilst fellow substitute Matheus Machado was denied by Wilson at his near post.
City held out for a vital 3 points ahead of other tough fixture at home to Fraserburgh next weekend. Credit must go to the players for again battling right to the end and a particular mention to Euan Spark who, despite carrying an injury, superbly marshalled the City rearguard.
Other Results - Breedon Highland League
Brora Rangers 6 Keith 1
Deveronvale 2 Fraserburgh 3
Formartine United 5 Lossiemouth 0
Forres Mechanics 8 Strathspey Thistle 1
Huntly 2 Turriff United 0
Inverurie Locos 2 Clachnacuddin 4
Nairn County 3 Banks O' Dee 0
Wick Academy 0 Buckie Thistle 1