Brora Rangers close on Highland League title after Brindle's late strike against Fraserburgh
Written by Eddie Macrae
In a game that was much anticipated between two well matched teams vying for the Highland League title, it was the visitors who left Bellslea Park with all three points in a late show that was a massive step towards the title.
Nobody at Brora is ready to celebrate whilst they can still be mathematically caught and the Cattachs' players and staff are focussing on the seven remaining fixtures.
Midfielder Dale Gillespie’s view was: “There’s a lot of football left this season, but we’re delighted with the win. It’s up to ourselves to get the job done and we’ll keep trying to win every game.”
Manager Steve Mackay, too, was not over effusive: “This game was never going to define the season, but it would go a long way to deciding what the outcome would be. We’ve taken another step forward and another step towards the title, but we’ve still got a lot of challenging games.”
This was a match Fraserburgh simply had to win to cut the gap on their visitors. As Broch manager Mark Cowie said: “We had to win so we pushed for it and they got us on the break with the second goal. We couldn’t afford to draw so we went for it and got caught and I can’t complain about that.”
The weather conditions were better than forecast with the pitch bathed in winter sunshine and in firm condition. There was a fairly bracing wind but it was mainly a cross wind that was slightly at Brora’s backs in the first-half but it was not strong enough either to move stationary balls or prevent goal kicks going the normal distance. Brora had a setback before kick-off when Ally MacDonald injured his calf in the warm-up and was replaced by Tom Kelly off the bench with the versatile John Pickles moving to the left-back berth.
The first half was eminently forgettable and this was not entirely unexpected with what was at stake. It was cagey fare with safety first being the order of the day and neither side taking too many chances. Brora’s best chance come after five minutes when Gillespie’s 25-yard free kick was driven over Broch keeper Paul Leask’s right-hand junction. Broch’s most telling threat was a 12-yard shot from Paul Young on 27 minutes after he was played through on the left by Sean Butcher but Joe Malin held his low shot at the far post.
The home side upped the tempo of the game in the second half, pressing the visitors, and they duly went ahead three minutes after the interval when the Cattachs defence failed to adequately clear after Scott Barbour’s initial shot was blocked and a weak header fell to Sean Butcher on the right and he had time to drive across Malin and into the far corner to give Fraserburgh the lead. This goal stung Brora who responded well and, for the first time in the game, began to break free of the Broch’s high pressing.
Four minutes after going behind, Brora drew level from the spot. Paul Brindle ran at the Fraserburgh defence on the left and, as he cut into the penalty box, he was brought down by Owen Cairns. Gillespie sent Leask the wrong way as he tucked the penalty low into the bottom right corner. This quick equaliser changed the momentum of the game somewhat. Fraserburgh found it more difficult to do it all again and break though Brora’s organised defence.
With parity restored, Brora got more expansive as Broch committed more men forward as they sought the win they desperately needed and in the 81st minute they were caught on the break when Brora substitute James Wallace was through one on one but shot straight at Leask.
The home side came close a couple of minutes later when Scott Barbour’s left-sided low drive was parried to safety by Malin at his near post. Just as everyone settled for a draw, Brora snatched victory two minutes into stoppage time. Greg Morrison’s through ball found Brindle in space on the left. He advanced into the box and slotted the decisive goal beyond Leask.