ANY hopes of Inverurie Locos staying as outside contenders for the League now look dashed as they were very unfortunate to go down 2-1 to streetwise champions elect Brora Rangers who remain well clear at the top having only shed five points in the entire campaign
The highly experienced Ross Tokely was the unlikely person coming close to a goal in the opening minute with a speculative 25 yard effort which flew inches wide of the near post with the enclosure travelling support thinking the ball had hit the net.
That was to be the only early threat on the home goal as the Red and Blacks exerted control on the play. Slick passing allowed Martin Bavidge to set up forward partner Neil Gauld. Racing towards the box, Gauld twisted away from Scott Houston before firing in a powerful low shot which had to be expertly pushed wide of goal by Joe Malin.
Brora looked uncomfortable as a Neil McLean corner came in. Kieran Adams forced an on the line save from Brora defenders and in the ensuing melee Gauld stroked the ball goalwards, but his effort was pushed wide of goal.
However when on top against runaway leaders, taking your chances is a must. As they kept pressing, Locos were caught. Ritchie Hart picked up a loose ball in the centre of his own half, stroked it with the outside of the foot and it set away double title winner Zander SUTHERLAND. As Ryan Broadhurst made up ground on him, the former Buckie forward held the ball up, jinked on to his right foot, then fired at goal. Adams could only merely help the ball into the roof of the net.
The Cattachs now had their tails up, Sutherland teasing John Maitland before forcing Andy Reid to make a great diving save and push the ball wide of his right post.
At the other end Bavidge lobbed a ball high into the away box but Gauld’s header could not dip under the bar and Mallin watched it carefully go over the upright
Just as they had dominated the early stages of the opening half, Locos did the same in this new period but this time they gained the vital equaliser. Dean Donaldson had his heels clicked right in front of the dugout. Captain Neil McLean stepped up to curl the perfect free kick in from 35 yards which found a path through a number of players. Well placed at the back post, GAULD carefully sidefooted the ball across goal and into the net with Mallin in no man’s land.
Inside ten minutes, the visitors were back in front. Sub Steven Ross played an innocuous ball into the Locos box, Broadhurst slipping at the vital moment on the saturated surface. Sutherland followed its path and with his dangerous foot flicked the ball past an exposed Reid.
Frustration then got the better of home defender Adams who had seen Scott Begg and Donaldson unable to win the ball off Steven McKay. With both Adams and Mackay both going in for the 50/50 heavily, it was the ex Nairn player coming off worst, ref Andy Milne immediately giving the No 5 the red card and an early bath.
Then Donaldson caught Hart on the back of the knee in a far less obvious challenge, the former Caley Thistle stalwart requiring the stretcher due to a nasty injury, more caused by the way he fell.
From the resulting free kick, Grant Munro looked to have ended the match as a contest as his headed the ball into the net, only for the goal to be struck off for offside.
Locos continued to flourish with three at the back and with Jordan Leyden’s pace for Bavidge’s power posing a new threat, an equaliser looked on but it was the team destined to be champions who held out to win.
Inverurie Locos: Reid, McLean, Maitland, Begg, Adams, Broadhurst, D Ross, Mitchell, Gauld, Bavidge (Leyden 72), Donaldson
Subs: Still, Souter, Young, Mathieson
Brora Rangers: Malin, Houston, Hind (Watson 90), Tokely, Munro, Morrison, Maclean, Hart (Gillespie 75), Sutherland, Mackay, Greig (S Ross 62)
Subs: Watt, Allan
Referee: A MilneLea