Turriff United and Brora Rangers were 3rd and 4th respectively in the Highland League table before today’s match at Dudgeon Park and they couldn’t be separated when the final whistle blew.
Given that Brora played for over 50 minutes with 10 men after centre back Colin Williamson received a 2nd yellow card 5 minutes before half, Brora player-manager Richie Brittain was happier with a point than his opposite number Ross Jack.
The Brora boss said, “It was a big point for us today, especially after going down to 10 men. When you go down to 10 men, it can sometimes galvanise you and it certainly did us. It was important to get in at half-time at 0-0 and we certainly rode our luck at times in the second half but you’ve got to do that and it’s a hard-earned point for us today. I thought there were a few harsh cards today but that’s what happens in football – the referee calls it as he sees it and that’s what he did today.” When asked about his equalising free kick he said, “I just tried to keep it on target and fortunately, it went in. I hit one in the first half as well but their keeper saved it.
Even when playing with 10 men, the Cattachs kept up their attacking intent getting men forward in numbers whenever possible. Richie Brittain added, “Yes, we tweaked things a wee bit and maybe surprised Turriff by pushing forward as we did. We brought fresh attackers on to the park with the intention of trying to win the game despite being down to 10 men, it’s credit to the boys that we dug in for a well-earned point.”
Not surprisingly, Ross Jack was disappointed with the draw. “That was 2 points dropped rather than a point gained. As long as it remained only 1-0 to us they always had a chance. When they went down to 10 men it upset our rhythm for a little while. We had a couple of chances in the second half but we just couldn’t kill them off. That gave them a little bit of hope and they punished us with a great free kick by their player-manager. It shows how far we’ve come that we’re disappointed not to have won here at the home of the champions but we’ll kick on from this and now our attention focuses on Fraserburgh on Wednesday.”
Although Turriff were last season’s runners-up, I asked whether he was in any way surprised to be sitting third in the league at this stage given how other sides had strengthened during the summer. “Yes, we’re the only side who haven’t bought anybody – other teams have spent a fortune bringing players in. We’re happy with the players we’ve got, they’re a good squad and we’ll carry on as we are.”
The opening exchanges were fought out largely in midfield with an even first 15 minutes. Turriff opened brightly and Andrew MacAskill had an early shot that went wide whilst for Brora Paul Brindle headed well over the bar from Andrew Greig’s left wing cross and then Richie Britain had a well-struck free kick from the left well held at the near post by Turriff keeper Kevin Main, who signed for Turriff after making more than 400 appearances for Buckie Thistle.
The game got a little heated on 21 minutes when an off the ball incident between Turriff’s Gary McGowan and Brora’s Colin Williamson resulted in a yellow card being shown to the Cattach’s no.5. Brora felt aggrieved at the outcome and some feisty challenges ensued on both sides.
Martin MacLean had a stinging low drive pushed aside by Kevin Main on 35 minutes. Grant Munro was then booked for what seemed an innocuous challenge on the edge of the Brora box and a couple of minutes later Colin Williamson received a second yellow and Brora were reduced to 10 men 5 minutes before half time. Richie Brittain responded to this by withdrawing frontman Paul Brindle and replacing him with Dale Gillespie.
The second half started off in much the same manner as the first until the 53rd minute when Turriff took the lead, with Nick Gray steering a header from a right-wing cross back across the goal and in off Joe Mallin’s far post.
This lifted Turriff and they dominated the match for a 15 minute spell and they should have gone further ahead on 66 minutes when Brora left back Ally MacDonald played a back pass straight into the path of Gary McGowan. Turriff’s Nick Gray was by himself in the Brora box and perfectly placed for a tap in but rather than square the ball McGowan opted to shoot at the near post and found the side netting.
This let-off for Brora was to prove costly in the 78th minute when Richie Brittain struck a beautiful left sided free kick from 25 yards into the far corner of Main’s goal for the equaliser.
Turriff replaced the hard-working Gray with the fresh legs of Allen MacKenzie on 80 minutes and Brora replaced Steven MacKay and Andrew Greig with Scott Graham and Scott Houston but the game ended with honours even.