HIGHLAND League action finally returned to Harlaw Park on Saturday, (February 11), although the game against Brora Rangers had to survive a 7.30am inspection before going ahead. Inverurie Locos desperately needed to follow up fine away displays at Forres and Cove to stay in the chasing pack, on the tails of the leading two.
The Locos intention to press the game was apparent from the start as Brora Rangers were never allowed to settle on the ball. Instead, the away side was forced to chase the game, which led to inevitable mistakes which were to punished by a clinical Locos counter attack in the sixth minute of the match.
Nicky Gordon drove down the right side of the pitch before playing the ball to Neil Gauld inside the box. Gauld held the ball up for the advancing Steven PARK who produced an excellent curling strike with the outside of his boot to beat Brora keeper Sean McCarthy.
Neil McLean was caught in possession by Gary Kerr deep in the Locos half and driving goalwards, Kerr swung a deep cross into the box, only for the stretching Liam Baxter to come inches short of connecting with the ball at the back post.
As the half continued, the home side looked comfortable with the ball and continued to create half chances. Nicky Gordon used his pace well to put the Brora defence on the back foot and should have put Locos two up. Running just off the shoulder of a Gauld counter attack, Gordon was fed the ball as he approached the box only to guide his strike past McCarthy and wide of the far post.
It then seemed as though Gordon had made up for this error after slamming in a close range shot after a goal mouth scramble. However, referee Andy Milne signalled a foul was committed seconds before the ball hit the net.
Eventually, Inverurie were rewarded for their constant pressure in the opposition half as John Maitland produced an excellent curled shot from the edge of the box after a failed corner. Neil Gauld did the hard work to create a space for MAITLAND before rolling the ball back to the winger who picked his spot and gave McCarthy no chance.
The half could have ended on a slightly different tone had Liam Baxter been able to beat Andy Reid at his near post. After finding himself unmarked in the Locos box, Baxter controlled a deep cross before firing the ball towards goal, only to see Reid tip the ball round the post for a corner.
Minutes before half time, the match was put beyond doubt after Neil Gauld converted the ultimate poachers goal. A deep cross from Maitland seemed to have been covered by Sean Munro, however, the heavy pitch created an awkward bounce, leading to a fresh air kick from Munro, which allowed GAULD to tap the ball in at the back post.
Starting the second half at the same rate of intensity, it didn’t take Inverurie long to add to their tally. Half time substitute Keith Thomson used his fresh legs to power down the right wing to the by-line before crossing deep to an unmarked Neil GAULD, who directed his bullet header past McCarthy from six yards.
The away side continued to search for a goal., and with McCarthy at times acting as a sweeper, Neil Gauld almost grabbed his hat trick with a chip from distance after catching the keeper off his line, only to see the ball fall just over the cross bar.
Seconds later, Brora were to be rewarded for all their efforts with a penalty after Ryan Broadhurst was penalised for holding Gary Kerr as a free kick was launched into the box. Liam BAXTER stepped forward and coolly drove the ball past Reid into the bottom left corner to reduce the deficit.
Two goals in two minutes stamped the Locos authority on the match, rewarding Neil Gauld with a much deserved hat trick. Mark Young provided the short cross to the near post, however, GAULD put the perfect amount of spin on his deft header to rise above McCarthy’s grasp and dip under the cross bar.
A sloppy loss of possession from the kick-off allowed Gordon to advance down the right flank and find Mark YOUNG with enough space in the box to receive the low cross and curl the ball past the keeper and into the net.
After the match Locos co manager Kenny Coull said, “We’re delighted to come away with that scoreline. It’s what we’ve been doing, playing well but not scoring goals. We’re a bit rusty, we didn’t press them enough in the first half. We spoke about that at half time, and in the second half we closed them down quickly
“It’s been a sticky time for Neil Gauld, he’s had to bide his time due to other guys taking their chances. He was sharp, looking happy with himself, so its a good sign for us”
Inverurie Locos: Reid, Park (Thomson 46), McLean, Bain, Broadhurst, Adams, Ross (Young 57), Begg (Michie 65), Gauld, Gordon, Maitland
Subs: Scott, Low
Brora Rangers: McCarthy, Finlayson, Mackay, Mackintosh, Gibb, Munro, Lawrie, Moir (Cunningham 86), Kerr, MacLean (Campbell 86), Baxter
Subs: MacDonald, Taylor, Martin
Referee: A Milne
This Saturday sees a mouthwatering clash of giants in Banff as Deveronvale entertain Locos at Princess Royal Park. Kick off is at 3pm.