INVERURIE Locos were forced to dig deep in order to overcome a stubborn Fort William at Harlaw Park on Saturday, (February 25), as three late goals secured the victory.
Stewart Gray frustrated Inverurie in the Fort William goals with several impressive saves in the first half, but could do nothing as Gauld fired home from the spot twice before Ross finished up the scoring.
Catching the Fort William defence sleeping in the first minutes of the match, Ryan Broadhurst produced the first scoring opportunity for Inverurie as he chipped the ball deep into the box and into the path of Nikki Gordon, only for the resulting shot to stopped by Stewart Gray, a continuing theme throughout the first half.
Flooding the defensive lines when Inverurie turned the ball over, Fort William made it clear that the Locos were going to have to work hard to open the scoring. The sharp eyes of Mark Young spotted the space in the defensive flank to slot the ball through to Neil Gauld, only for Gray to smother the eventual low shot.
Having shown his shot stopping abilities, Gauld once again tested Gray after being fed by Young, only for the keeper to block the shot with his feet. With deliberate attacking moves coming to nothing, Neil McLean turned opportunist as he found a yard of space deep into the Fort William half before whipping a pacey shot at goal, with Gray at full stretch to brilliantly tip the ball over for a corner.
Not to be deterred, McLean continued to stalk the midfield and forced an error from Mark Gillespie after charging down the ball, only for Gauld to aim his searching cross along the box directly at Stewart.
With the aid of goal line technology, the visitors could have appealed Gordon McCarroll’s free kick, as his shot came close to crossing the line after striking the cross bar and rocketing downwards.
This missed opportunity proved to be vital as within minutes, Inverurie opened the scoring, having been aided greatly Lewis Campbell’s clumsy push on Neil Gauld inside the box. Taking on the responsibility, GAULD stepped up to convert the spot-kick, burying the ball into the bottom right corner.
With 15 minutes of the match remaining, Inverurie’s nerves had settled as patience returned to their attack. This increased confidence was to produce yet another penalty as another clumsy foul in the Fort William box was punished by the referee. Taking on the responsibilities once again, GAULD drove the ball into the same spot past Gray.
With the match now all but over as a contest, first half substitute Craig Ross used his relatively fresh legs to advance down the right flank through the deflated Fort William defence. Feigning a chance to cross, ROSS instead drove the ball at the keepers near post from close range to round off the scoring.
Inverurie Locos: Bell, Thomson, McLean, Bain, Adams (Scott 46), Broadhurst, Young (Ross 26), Begg, Gauld, Gordon (Low 64), Maitland
Subs: Michie, Reid
Fort William: Gray, Grant, Campbell, Gillespie (Browett 86), Foggo, Gillespie, Mackintosh (Laing 84), Quigg, Maclellan (MacRae 76), Barker, McCarroll
Subs: Voicey, Lewandowski
Ref: G Beaton
After the match Locos co boss Kenny Coull said, “The result on paper shows we won convincingly but it was far from that. They closed us down, made it tough for us to get behind the ball. We didn’t play to the standards we expect
“Neil Gauld hit the target a few times, but their keeper’s been brilliant. Billy (Stewart Gray) is a very good goalkeeper and shot stopper. You have to take your hat off to him.
“The Cup ties against Fraserburgh take us away from League business, a different kettle of fish. No disrespect to Fort but if we turn up like that against the Broch we’ll be out of the Cup very quickly.”