FOLLOWING their impressive opening round win over Fraserburgh in the Breedon Aggregates Highland League Cup, the run for Inverurie Locos goes no further. It came to an abrupt end in Moray and in controversial circumstances as a combination of poor pitch conditions, refereeing decisions and inadequate form on the day ensured it was Lossiemouth and not the Locos who will travel to meet Cove Rangers in the quarter finals on April 7.
The match got off to a very quick start, with Locos almost scoring directly from kick-off. The ball had been played into Jack Strachan who, from a very tight angle, blasted into the side-netting.
Locos had most of the play up to the half’s midway point, but despite their dominance of possession, couldn’t create any tangible chances.
Lossiemouth created their first real opportunity when Nikki Smith crossed the ball into his strike partner, Stephen Bruce. With the ball not at a favourable height, Bruce was forced into performing a bicycle-kick. He caught this shot really well but it was straight at Locos stand in keeper Daniel Bell.
Lossie took the lead in 26 minutes. Nikki Smith was once again involved. The club top goal-scorer turned provider on this occasion, albeit in a rather unorthodox way. Smith had taken the ball past Keiran Adams, when they then clattered into each other. This left Martin MCMULLAN with a free route into the box. Taking the ball in his stride, McMullan galloped into the box and, using the inside of his foot, slotted the ball past Bell.
The lead was short-lived as some sloppy defending led to an equaliser. After a seemingly harmless lofted cross, the ball fell to John MAITLAND at the back post. From a very tight angle, Maitland lashed in a very impressive shot which found the bottom left hand corner
Locos then almost conceded straight after scoring. Tony Ross found Bruce in the box from a throw-in on the right. Bruce turned his defender and blasted a shot towards goal, his left-footed shot however, just fizzed over the bar.
With the match nearing half time, the away support within Grant Park erupted following a face-high challenge from Lossie’s Kevin Grant on Bell. Both players had had their eyes firmly on the ball but it was still a terrible challenge. Bell was lucky not to have been seriously hurt. The Locos fans were not happy when only a yellow card was shown to Grant.
The turning point in the match came 58 minutes in. Nikki Smith had taken a speculative shot from just outside the box which looked as if it would cause Bell no problems. However, just as it was about to reach him, the ball took a violent kick off a divot. Caught completely unawares, Bell, whether by accident or by design, managed to stop the ball from going in with his neck.
Kevin Grant reacted fastest to the loose ball, and tried to round the keeper. However, he was taken out by Bell before he was able to slot home. The result was a penalty, and a very contentious red card for Bell.
It was certainly ironic that Bell was being sent off for a challenge on Grant who perhaps should have been sent off for a challenge on the keeper in the first half. As a result of the sending off, Graeme Stewart came on for Jack Strachan to take over in goals. His first touch, though, was to kick the ball out of the net. Nikki SMITH had struck a fine penalty into the bottom left hand corner, beating Stewart despite the fact that he had dived the right way.
This controversial goal saw tempers rise even more, with Lossie’s Steven Sim squaring up to his opposite number, Clark Bain.
By the 82nd minute, the match had calmed down enough for some more football to be played. Craig Ross had a glorious opportunity for Locos when he found himself free in Lossie’s box. His volley, though, just cleared the crossbar.
The Coasters extended their lead just before full time. Colin Charlesworth propelled a fine cross-field ball to Stephen Bruce, who was unmarked on the left. Entirely free, Bruce was able to cut into the box and advance towards the goal. Despite the fact that he had Ross Archibald and Tony Ross up in support, Bruce chose to go it alone, slotting the ball past Stewart with the utmost of composure.
Less than a minute following this, the visitors almost pulled a goal back. A left foot shot from Neil Gauld from the left hand side of the box struck, and ricocheted down off, the crossbar, where there were no takers for a follow-up shot.
Neil GAULD was able to pull a goal back for Locos, though, deep into stoppage time. A throw-in from the left was knocked on from the front post to Gauld, who was lurking at the back post to tap home. The goal had come too late for any real chance at a comeback, though, as the referee blew for full time less than two minutes later.
Lossiemouth: McConnachie, T Ross, Milton, Sim, Flett, McMullan, L Archibald (Charlesworth 69), Macdonald, Smith (R Archibald 74), Bruce (Bagley 90), Grant
Subs: Urquhart, Stuart
Inverurie Locos: Bell, Michie, McLean, Bain (Wilson 79), Adams, Park, C Ross, Gordon (Young 72), Gauld, Strachan (Stewart 57), Maitland
Subs: Thomson, Begg
Referee: M McNab
An absolutely fuming Locos co-boss Scott Buchan said after the game, “I thought that, in all honesty, it was a horrible game. I thought both teams were poor, there was absolutely no quality whatsoever on either part. The pitch was probably conducive to that. It was shocking. Obviously it was the same for both teams but there was just no flow to the game whatsoever. We were just lumping it long every time. And an absolutely incredible, shocking decision from the referee puts us out of the cup.
“I certainly don’t criticise referees often but I thought that was one he got wrong, on a big scale. It’s cost us, our goalkeeper gets sent off, and this has cost us. We’re now out the cup. And that’s been the disappointing thing, it’s a referee’s decision that’s put us out. I’m sure there are arguments that we weren’t good enough or whatever but, at the end of the day, those decisions are costing goals and costing games.
Responding to the suggestion that Kevin Grant should have been sent off in the first half.
“Well, obviously it’s legal now for you to have your boot and kick the goalkeeper in the face. So, that’s fine, if that’s legal, that’s OK, we’ll get on with it”.
“And for the penalty itself, the guy [Nikki Smith] has had a shot, a trundler of a shot, and it’s hit one of the whole-hundred divots that’s on the pitch. It’s then hit Daniel Bell in the face
“That just gives you a degree of the jump it’s taken. It’s scandalous. And the guy Kevin Grant had a touch which is almost hitting the corner flag. To say it was a goal-scoring opportunity is just absolutely scandalous. And he sent poor Daniel off for it.”
With the short League Cup run now at an end, League business is now the sole priority. To have any hopes of winning the League, following the home game against Keith, the match away to Nairn County this Saturday are must win. Saturday’s Kick off is at 3pm.