Wick Academy aim to tighten their grip on eighth place in the Highland League as Nairn visits Harmsworth Park
Wick Academy player/manager Gary Manson believes a win against Nairn County on Saturday would almost guarantee a place in the top eight of the Highland League.
Nairn, who will visit Harmsworth Park for the first time in almost three years, is one place below the Scorries but 11 points separate the teams – although Wick has played three games more.
Manson’s side will be looking to build on last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Brora when they led twice against the champions only to be caught by a header that didn’t look like it crossed the line and a equalizer in stoppage time.
“We go into every game looking to win, and certainly in our home games against teams that are below us in the table we should be looking to get three points,” Manson said.
“But we are under no illusions. We only managed a draw with Nairn there earlier in the season and they have strengthened their squad since then so it will be a tough game.
“They are just below us in the league. If we reduced this gap to 14 points, it would not be inconceivable but it would be extremely surprising if they recovered it.
“So that’s the incentive for the boys on Saturday. If we win, it will almost guarantee us an eighth place.
“It will be a different kind of test, I imagine, than what we faced against Brora. We’ll just have to adapt and try to get the better of them.
Andy Hardwick is set to return, while fellow defender Danny Mackay is still set to miss through injury.
“I think Saturday might come too early for Danny but Andy is back available,” Manson said.
When the teams met at Station Park in October, County led twice thanks to a brace from Ciaran Young, but the Academy responded with goals from Steven Anderson and Gordon MacNab and it finished 2-2.
“The game could have gone either way that day,” Manson recalled. “A draw was probably a fair result – it was two teams tied.”
Saturday’s match will be Nairn’s first visit to Harmsworth Park since a midweek clash in March 2019 when Marc Macgregor and Sam Mackay scored in a 2-0 win for Wick.
Nairn coach Ronnie Sharp said: “It’s a tough place to go at all times, but they’re playing particularly well. They’re probably one of the best teams in the league, if you take out the top two or three.
“We play quite well ourselves. Recently we got beat up by Buckie [4-1] and Inveruria [3-2] but we played well in both games. We just have to eliminate the mistakes we made.
“Everywhere has its challenges, but Wick is still good at home.”
An under-strength Brora side reached the last four of the Highland League Cup with a 2-0 away win against Brechin City on Wednesday.
Dale Gillespie (penalty) and Jordan MacRae scored the goals for the Cattachs, who were stripped to the bare essentials with no substitutes available. They brought in goalkeeper Josh Gorton from Lochee United on emergency loan.
The other three quarter-finals were postponed due to waterlogged pitches, as was the league match between Keith and Fort William.
Forres Mechanics or Clachnacuddin will face Buckie Thistle or Inverurie Locos in the semi-finals on March 12, while Brora will be out for the winners of the Rothes/Fraserburgh encounter.
Highland League matches for Saturday February 26: Deveronvale vs. Forres Mechanics; Formartine United v Lossiemouth; Fort William against Clachnacuddin; Fraserburgh v Turriff United; Huntly v Brechin City; Inverurie Locos vs. Buckie Thistle; Rothes versus Keith; Strathspey Thistle v Brora Rangers; Wick Academy v County Nairn.