This season has been exciting with some surprises such as the tasty title race, the rise of a club and disappointing campaigns for others.
Cove Rangers grabbed a deservedly 5th Highland League title and can potentially get into the Football League with their first leg against Lowland League champions Edinburgh City taking place tomorrow at Harlaw Park in Inverurie.The season has almost ended.
Keith’s rise with Allan Hale
The Keith manager has had many highs since taking over from last November.
His side went on six straight league victories but sadly it ended against Formartine United who recovered to win 3-2 at the death.I was watching the game with Keith attacking from the word go and they could have won 5-0 against an extremely poor Formartine side but it wasn’t to be.
His side is well ready to compete for trophies and finish in the top ten. Hale arrived from junior side Maud.Players Luke Barbour and Donald Fraser followed Hale from Pleasure Park, while free agent Bruce Raffel returned to Keith following a spell at Banks o’ Dee. Barbour and Fraser have made an significant impact this season with their goals and brilliant creative play.
However the squad as a whole have performed brilliantly and have beaten sides like Inverurie Locos and Nairn County.
The recruitment strategy continues to focus on signing young players of potential and value. As Hale said after the Formartine defeat to me the only bit which is missing is experience but the youngsters will gain it as they get more games under their belt. The hunger, work rate and skill is certainly there.
Some questions gather around Hale when he was appointed. He has proved the doubters wrong in his first management job in the Highland League and created a team spirit that could beat any team on their day.It looks like a very bright future for Keith under Hale.
Cove Rangers triumph while Brora Ranger’s domination ends
Brora a side who in the last few seasons have dominated the Highland League with them walking the league title with ease. But this season it didn’t happen as they struggle to compete with Cove and Formartine.
Under Richard Britain they finished in 3rd which is very disappointing. The team haven’t got the fear factor that they use to have under Davie Kirkwood which has meant that opponents are more confident when playing against
But on the positive note they lifted the Highland League Cup for the first time by defeating Nairn County in a dramatic penalty shootout.
Britain has stepped down as the manager due to work and family commitments. Who will take over? There was a guy on twitter calling for Kirkwood to come back. Overall a quite disappointing season for Brora.
Cove Rangers represent another contrast, since they were given the Highland League trophy for the 5th time last Saturday at the Haughs after their 2-2 draw with Turriff United. It’s been a remarkable season for the club who never played a home game this season and managed to hold off Formartine and Brora to get into the playoffs with a chance on getting promoted to League Two.
John Sheran’s side have been fantastic this season with goal machine Daryl Nicol standing out especially. Sheran has a squad filled with young talent and plenty of experience.
Wick Academy won their first ever trophy as an SHFL club as they destroyed Nairn County to lift the North of Scotland Cup back in September in 2015. A first half Richard Macadie penalty and goals from Sam Mackay, Michael Stevens, Steven Anderson and Grant Campbell secured them silverware. While Allan Pollock and Sam Urquhart netted for the County which couldn’t prevent them from the heavy defeat.
County suffered cup final horror again in the Highland League Cup where they lost to Brora in a penalty shootout despite having many chances to win the cup.
Meanwhile in the Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup final Inverurie Locos lost 2-0 to Fraserburgh at Christie Park in Huntly.
Photographer Donald Cameron: photoboxgallery.com/noremacpix
Photographer Mashy: https://www.facebook.com/mashyphotography
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