Two games and two wins in a week against Rothes and Wick at the beginning of October softened the blow for September’s disappointment. The win against Rothes was the most pleasing considering we suffered a 7-0 defeat at home by them last season. From our first session in Pre-season, we have been trying to stress the importance of improving on last season’s performances on a game-by-game basis and to turn such a hefty defeat into a win – which was a little more comfortable than the score line would suggest – was a huge bonus for us.
That said, the boys were given a stern talking to after conceding a last-minute goal when we should have seen the game out and we feel it is important for them to learn the importance of managing games. These wins were followed by a defeat away at Formartine in a game where we gave the opposition too much respect in the first half which ultimately cost us the opportunity to take something from the game. We spent the half time team talk highlighting how very little there was between the sides and showing the boys how we were causing them problems. The second half performance was very encouraging after this, despite being unable to get anything out of the game. I firmly believe that this time last season we would have conceded a few more goals in this type of game.
We are delighted with the quality that we have in our squad but the next step in their development is helping them believe we can compete with the top teams in the league. Our home victory against Deveronvale brought further positives; three successive four goal hauls at home (Rothes, Wick & Vale) and a third hat-trick of the season, this time for Ben Barron to take his tally to 8 for the season. A fantastic return so far for his first full season in the Highland League. Ben has been a huge positive for us this season and he is playing the role of the main striker very well. He is a fantastic trainer, studies other strikers closely and is always open to coaching points that could improve his game. Ben has recently signed an extension to his contract, and we were delighted that he was so keen to do so.
A 4-1 defeat at Brora began a run where we will face the team’s sitting 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th in the table over a five-week period. This will be a demanding challenge but one which we will welcome and the boys will learn a lot from. As I mentioned previously our task going into these games is to give the players the confidence that they can compete with these teams in head to head fixtures. We were pleased that they did this against a very fluid Brora team and while we were second best at times in this game, the boys stayed in the match despite being 2-0 down at half time. After seeing out the opening spell of the 2nd half we changed our shape and tried to attack their back four to get back into the game and we had a 15-minute spell where we pegged them back and managed to create a couple of chances before Craig Mackenzie scored a great goal from just outside the box to make it 2-1 with fifteen minutes to play. Craig – who has been fantastic for us since signing a couple of months ago – can consider himself unlucky to collect a 2nd yellow card in the build up to Brora’s third goal which saw him sent off and unfortunately unavailable for our trip to Buckie. A fourth goal followed in the final ten minutes which put a slight dampener on what was a really positive performance against one of the best sides in the League. We were further encouraged with the performance, if not the result, against Buckie where we started the game well and were on top of the game before losing another soft goal from a set piece to go in 1-0 down at half time. We felt at 1-0 that they were lucky to escape a red card for a pull on Ben Barron when he was through on goal and if that had been the case we would have been set up well for the 2nd half. Again, we were competitive in the 2nd half but conceded again to lose 2-0. Overall October has been a good month for us. We have risen from 10th to 7th in a month where we have played two of the top six teams in the division (Formartine and Brora) and a further two (Rothes and Wick) who finished above us in the league last season. We are currently sitting 12 points better off than we were based on the corresponding fixtures from last season (Thanks to www.fitbanorth.com for providing this information). No team in the Highland League has a greater like for like improvement. November sees us playing Keith away in the Highland League Cup 1st round while also seeking our 8th league win of the season in fixtures against Fraserburgh (H), Brechin (A) and Nairn (H), to try and equal the total number of league wins we had from last season. This would be a considerable achievement after only approximately 50% of the season. We hope to see you there and to be reporting more positive news at the end of the month.