This frustrating season for Locos will be brightened by a cup final appearance after an excellent performance saw the Railwaymen defeat Brechin City in the GPH Builders Merchants Highland League Cup to set up a showdown with Bank o’ Dee next month.
Andy Low said earlier this week that he was looking for more intensity and that’s exactly what he got from his players. After the opening few minutes, Locos looked comfortable against the title hopefuls, limiting opportunities for the visitors while showing an attacking prowess that has been so little in evidence this season.
An early Jamie Michie free kick was fired into the wall before the Hedgemen broke up field and forced a number of defensive blocks as there was a bit of a scramble in the Locos box. That was as good as it got for the Hedgemen in the first half, with Locos keeping them at arm’s length. Sam Burnett was first to threaten at the other end, his shot from the edge of the box narrowly off target after 8 minutes. Kevin McHattie tried his luck from distance but his low effort went harmlessly wide before Sam Robertson put Locos in front with a little more than 20 minutes on the clock. The forward took advantage of some hesitancy between goalkeeper Lenny Wilson and his defence to finish with a perfectly executed lob from outside the area.
Locos then enjoyed a good spell of pressure, moving the ball quickly and getting it into the penalty area on several occasions without troubling Wilson further. Robertson found space for a shot shortly before the half hour mark but shot tamely at Wilson before a quick free kick by Michie released Robert Ward only for Wilson to snatch the ball from his feet as he tried to round the keeper.
Brechin were struggling to trouble the home defence at this point but Botti Biabi did get a shot away that was blocked by Tam Reid before running harmlessly through to Andy Reid. Shortly before half-time, City skipper Jamie Bain was perhaps a little fortunate to avoid a second yellow card after catching Mark Souter with a flailing arm leaving the defender bloodied.
The slender lead was no more than Locos deserved at half-time but the large crowd inside Harlaw Park, including an excellent away contingent, were no doubt expecting a reaction from Brechin after the break. That reaction never came and it was Locos who extended their lead six minutes into the second period. Michie’s ball into the box was only cleared as far as Greg Mitchell and he headed it back in to Burnett who controlled before firing a left foot volley beyond Wilson.
Brechin made changes in an attempt to get back into the game but Locos worked tirelessly to starve their front men of service. When opportunities did arise, there was a determination to protect Andy Reid, the keeper only really having one save to make, blocking at close range following a free kick delivery. At the other end, Wilson produced a wonderful stop to keep out a Calum Dingwall effort that looked destined for the top corner. With five minutes to go, Dingwall had an even better opportunity to add a third from the penalty spot after Mitchell had been caught by Wilson. Dingwall appeared to slip as he took the kick though and, although the ball did bobble into the net, he had touched the ball twice and the goal was ruled out. That miss was of little significance as Locos comfortably held on for an excellent result.
As news filtered through after the final whistle of a Banks o’ Dee penalty shootout victory at Buckie Thistle, supporters were already looking forward to the final at Bellslea Park on 8th April.
Locos: A Reid, T Reid, Mitchell, Dingwall, Souter, Ward, S Robertson (Halliday), Burnett, Wilson, Michie, Meres Unused Subs: Petermann, B Smith, L Robertson, Shingler
Brechin City: Wilson, Bain, McHattie, Koutsimouka (McLeod), Scott, McGrath (McDonald), Inglis, Cruickshank (Cooney), Loudon, Biabi, Northcott Unused Subs: Thomson, McArthur, Ferguson, Easton