Brora Rangers 4
Inverurie Locos 1
Brora Rangers deservedly went through to the next stage of the Breedon Aggregates Highland League Cup on Saturday, albeit via a scoreline that flattered and was harsh upon the depleted visitors.
Talismanic skipper Neil McLean was banned following a red card in last season’s campaign, as was his midfield mate Scott Begg, serving out the second of his two-game ban for an ordering off against Rothes.
Also suspended was big in-form defensive pivot Kieran Adams, again as a result of the fiery and chaotic end to the Station Park tie a day short of being exactly a year ago.
Several of the starting XI were either nursing an injury or making their way back from being in the sick bay, so all of this, added to the additional unavailable player list, was always going to make this a tough assignment.
Both sides only listed four substitutes apiece, with the Locos starting line-up showing four changes from the one that exited the MMT Aberdeenshire Shield at Fraserburgh last week.
Locos settled well and Andy Hunter had a shot saved in four minutes. They continued to give as good they got in the early exchanges, surprising the league champions and competing well.
Greg Mitchell was unlucky to pick up a yellow as the tackles were being made with vigour but without any malice. Colin Williamson was fortunate as he raised a flailing arm off the ball that was out of the sight of referee Baxter and perhaps also not seen by the stand-side assistant referee.
Martin Laing was left floored but was able to continue. Locos then went close twice in the same goalmouth melee but couldn’t force the ball over the line as they attacked the Social Club End.
A Ross Anderson handball in the Brora box was seen by all apart from the officials and Locos were then denied two somewhat obvious corners.
Through no fault of any Brora player, Marc Young then suffered a leg break, being left in considerable distress inside his own box. Play was finally halted and Marc was stretchered from the field, with 18-year- old Ryan Keir entering the fray.
Brora then went close in 35 minutes and had their first shot on target a minute later. Substitute Keir had a great chance to test Joe Malin but blazed over. Things were to worsen further for Locos as a returning Martin Bavidge pulled up a minute later, David Ross making his first competitive appearance in nearly four months.
The Cattachs shot over a minute before the interval before a pivotal moment in the tie went right against the visitors.
The ball clearly came off a Brora attacker for a routine award of a Locos goal-kick as the game was deep into first half injury time. The referee hadn’t seen this and glanced over to his assistant on the terracing side for help. As he was on the wrong side of the park to see the incident no help could be given.
The subsequent award of the corner shocked both sides but bizarre as the decision was, it offered no rationale for the poor Locos defending which allowed Dale Gillespie to bundle home. 1-0 to Brora and incredibly harsh upon Locos.
Inverurie were very much still in this tie, against all the odds, and David Ross displayed his usual excellent touch despite his lay-off. He had the second half’s first shot on target. Anderson then picked up a yellow for dissent.
Andy Hunter appears to be a stranger to the tap-in and once again produced a long-range wonder goal which was still rising as it rasped past the best keeper in the league and into the Rangers net.
Nothing less that the side had deserved. This strike was Hunter’s first career goal in the League Cup and made him the fourth Loco to net, in a single season, in the League, League Cup, two County competitions and Scottish Cup. (Neil Gauld, Dean Donaldson and Bavidge remarkably all managed this two seasons ago).
Failing to make this period of parity longer than three minutes was to sink the Locos and Brora were back in front on 50 minutes through Andrew Greig.
Again Locos defending and communication could have been better. However they never gave up and Ross again went close before a break from Michael Selfridge into the box caused panic. The attacker’s honesty in staying up removing any requirement for a difficult call from the official.
Laing then went close on 64 minutes and Souter then had to make a goal-line block three minutes later. Brora went 3-1 up midway through the half through Zander Sutherland.
Selfridge continued to trouble the homesters but Brora could have added a fourth in 77 minutes, hitting the bar.
John McLeod came on in 83 minutes for Gillespie and netted with his first touch for 4-1, in a goal that locals advised later was probably offside. This was immaterial and Brora ran out deserved winners.
Locos - Mathieson, Souter, Maitland, Young (Keir 34), Jeffrey, Anderson, Laing, Mitchell, Hunter, Bavidge (Ross 38), Selfridge. Substitutes not used - Robertson and McCabe.
The result means there will be no silverware success for Kenny Coull and Scott Buchan’s team this season They were extremely unlucky to go out of the Morrison Motors Turriff Aberdeenshire Shield semi-final to Fraserburgh after extra time and penalties last Tuesday night
In a topsy-turvy tie Willie West put the Bellslea side ahead in the first half before quickfire goals from John Maitland and in-form Andy Hunter netted to change the whole complexion of the game.
Full back Ryan Cowie then found the necessary equaliser to put the game into extra time of a bitterly cold night. Hunter again won the Man of the Match plaudits by firing home what appeared to be the winner before a last-gasp free kick deflected off Maitland made it 3-3 at the end of 120 minutes.
4-3 to the Broch on penalties sees them through to the Shield final against Cove Rangers or Formartine Utd.
This Saturday Locos travel to Victoria Park, Buckie, in the league. Kick-off is 3pm.