Fifth place appears the best Inverurie Locos can now achieve this sesason but even that position may be under threat after a lacklustre showing saw them crash to a shock defeat by Allan Hale’s Keith at Harlaw Park on Saturday.
The Maroons set out their stall early by testing Scott Mathieson through a low shot from Craig Cormack from the edge of the box. The match then got bogged down in midfield with neither side in control of the game.
Neil McLean worked the ball into the visiting Keith box, only to be barged off by a sturdy defence. As the Locos players claimed for a penalty, Keith quickly capitalised as they raced up the pitch.
Donald Fraser, the ex-Turriff left winger, picked up a pass from midfield and as Mathieson came off his line, he calmly slotted the ball into the far corner of the goal.
Locos took some time to regroup, Martin Laing receiving the ball wide on the right flank before cutting in along the edge of huge box. Laing fired in a dipping shot, with ex-Locos keeper Daniel Bell plucking the ball out of the air
Keith were unlucky not to double their advantage as Michael Ewen advanced through from midfield and away from the Locos defence.
With just Mathieson to beat, Ewen curled his shot wide of goal, hitting the side netting.
The visitors moved two up with their first attacking effort after the break.
Ryan Spink did well to open up the Locos defence as he sprinted down the left flank before crossing that ball low towards the penalty spot where Craig Cormack slotted it past the scrambling Mathieson.
At the other end Stephen Jeffrey’s back post header off a Martin Laing cross had too much height, as the looping ball struck the cross bar before going out. This chance came ahead of Greig Mitchell and David Ross coming into the fray.
New man Ross reduced the lead to just one within minutes of coming on.
McLean’s corner had appeared to be over hit as it evaded the crowded box, but Ross was able to drop off the defence and drive the ball back low across goal and into the far corner.
The game now swung between the teams as both sides generated chances, Ewen’s pacey run drew Mathieson off his line, only for his shot to be blocked by the towering keeper, with Fraser blasting the rebound well over.
Locos should have heeded this warning, as Ewen’s next visit to the box saw Keith restore their two-goal advantage.
Coming off a throw in, Ewan used his strength well to hold up the ball, then quickly turned to shoot past a stretching Mathieson.
A frustrated Mark Souter saw red for a second bookable offence as he committed a clumsy challenge while on his final warning.
A final spark looked to ignite when Michael Selfridge produced an incredible solo run to evade several Keith defenders. He then produced the perfect chip to place the ball over Bell from 15 yards.
However, instead of getting a dramatic equaliser the final nail in the coffin came two minutes into injury time.
The ideal long ball into the box and the Locos defence gave away possession to Ewen, who gleefully picked up the ball and drove towards goal. Taking time to compose himself, he slotted the ball in from the edge of the box to wrap up the three points.
Locos: Mathieson, Jeffrey, Robertson, Begg, Adams, Souter, Laing, McLean, Hunter, Selfridge, Maitland. Substitutes used Mitchell, Ross, Charlesworth.
Keith: Bell, Hutcheon, Spink, Milne, Ralton, Raffell, Cormack, Fraser, Barbour, Ritchie. Substitutes used Duncan, Stewart, Clark.
This Saturday Locos play host to another former league winner in the past decade, Deveronvale. Another home defeat is unthinkable for Jekyll and Hyde Locos.