Home » Mark Cowie thinks Highland League top-three finish is ‘up for grabs’ for Fraserburgh

Mark Cowie thinks Highland League top-three finish is ‘up for grabs’ for Fraserburgh

Fraserburgh manager Mark Cowie thinks the Breedon Highland League top three is back on for his side.

Although the champions’ title race is run, Cowie thinks fourth-placed Brora Rangers’ 2-0 defeat to leaders Buckie Thistle in midweek has opened the door to the Broch finishing third this term.

Fraserburgh are fifth on 57 points after 26 games, with fourth-placed Brora just one point better off – although the Cattachs have only played 25 league matches.

Formartine United currently occupy third spot with 62 points, but have played two more games than the Broch, and three more than Brora. 

Having had last weekend off due to the weather, Cowie’s side – who won 6-0 at Wick Academy the Saturday prior – return to action on Saturday when they host Banks o’ Dee, and the Bellslea gaffer said: “We’ve to finish the season strongly.

“We had a blip in the Turriff game (3-2 home defeat) which we kind of put right against Wick, where we were good. We want that to continue.

“It’s been stop-start the last couple of weeks, but we’ve got eight games left and want to do as well as we can in every one of them.

“After Wednesday’s result (Brora’s defeat to Buckie), the top three is up for grabs. We were maybe out of it, but I think now it’s possible, so it’s something we need to aim for because we wanted to challenge (for the title), we fell away a lot sooner than we’d have hoped, so we need to finish strong to hopefully kick us on into next season.

“That starts on Saturday.”

The stop-start nature of the recent weeks has had its benefits for the Broch – allowing Cowie and his staff the chance to get goalkeeper Joe Barbour back to full fitness after injury.

Fraserburgh goalkeeper Joe Barbour, left. Image: Duncan Brown.

Fraserburgh have been able to secure facilities to train right through the recent wintery weather in the north-east, with the manager saying his players are now “itching” to tackle a “busy period with a few Wednesday games to throw into the mix as well”.

‘Dee games have been close’

They’ve played Saturday’s visitors Banks o’ Dee three times this season, a 1-1 league draw at Spain Park on October 14 coming after the Broch knocked the Aberdeen outfit out of both Aberdeenshire competitions in the first round.

Three days before the league stalemate, Fraserburgh beat holders Dee 5-4 on penalties in the Morrison Motors (Turriff) Aberdeenshire Shield after a blockbuster 3-3 draw at Bellslea, before going on to win the competition in the months since.

They’d already ended Dee’s defence of the Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup at the same venue, and gone on to claim that trophy.

Banks o’ Dee v Fraserburgh in the Breedon Highland League at Spain Park. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson

All three of the encounters between Fraserburgh and Dee have been tight – and Cowie, who will be missing Lewis Davidson and Jamie Beagrie due to work commitements – expects the same on Saturday.

He said: “They’ve been close games between us and Banks o’ Dee – one of the games went to penalties, and had the points situation not happened (Dee’s heavy deduction for fielding an ineligible player in several matches early in the season), I think they’d have been pretty much neck and neck with us at this stage.

“They’re under new management – they’ve got (ex-Formartine boss) Paul (Lawson) in, who’ve I’ve gone head to head with before, and (co-manager) Josh (Winton) as well.

“They’re squad’s full of good players, but so is ours, so it should be a closely-fought game.

“I don’t think there will be too much (in the way of changes in how Dee play).

“When you’ve got the calibre of players they’ve got at their disposal, you don’t have to tweak it too much.

“They’ve had a lot of success of the last couple of years in the Aberdeenshire competitions competing with us.

“We’re familiar enough to know who they’re danger players are. And if they turn up, on their day, they’re capable of beating any side in the league – including the Buckies and Brechins of the world.”

Dee looking to bounce back

Banks o’ Dee co-manager Paul Lawson is hoping for a response from his players following last weekend’s 3-1 home defeat against Buckie Thistle.

Dee are in the midst of a difficult stretch of games with their back-to-back matches against the Jags followed by this weekend’s trip to the Broch before a midweek meeting with Formartine and next Saturday’s home game against Brora Rangers.

Banks o’ Dee lost 3-1 against Buckie Thistle last weekend. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

He said: “We are in a run of tough games but they are the ones you look forward to and want to be involved in.

“After a defeat you are always looking for a response from the players.

“We know we didn’t play as well as we can last weekend.

“We were missing a couple of boys, some were carrying knocks and others were playing out of position.

“We know we can do better and we have had a good week’s training.

“It will be difficult at Fraserburgh but we want to be competing with these teams.

“We have shown we can do it in the past but we want to do it on a regular basis.”

Dee will be returning to Bellslea Park next month for the Highland League Cup final against Inverurie Locos on April 8.

Lawson said: “We have been up there twice earlier this season so it is nothing new to the players.

“The players might be interested to get a feel for the surface but we’re really not looking to that cup game yet.

“We want to take care of the league games we have in front of us first.”

Kane Winton misses out through suspension while long-term absentees Marc Young Neale Allan and Kyle Willox remain sidelined.

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[Mark Cowie thinks Highland League top-three finish is ‘up for grabs’ for Fraserburgh]