There was a familiar feeling to the new year at Harlaw Park as Locos suffered defeat at the hands of Clachnacuddin. Not for the first time this season, The Railwaymen were unable to turn their possession into meaningful chances until the game was lost. By contrast, the visitors from Inverness carried a threat every time they went forward. That late pressure from Locos got them right back in the game but as they looked for an unlikely equaliser Clach broke up field and Connor Bunce made certain of the points by bagging his hat-trick from the edge of the box.
After a quiet opening, The visitors took the lead in slightly unfortunate fashion. Lewis Mackenzie cut in from the right side and Thomas Reid stuck out a leg to block his low ball across the box only for the ball to loop over Andy Reid and drop in the net.
Locos went in search of a quick equalizer but Nathan Meres couldn’t keep his shot down. The home team were now dominating territory and possession but chances were few and far between. Fergus Alberts put wide from a Meres cut back and Mark Souter headed over from a corner.
Martin Mackinnon in the away goal comfortably dealt with a Calum Dingwall free kick before a smart turn by Robert Ward allowed him to get a shot away but it was well blocked by a defender. At the other end Reid had to be alert to turn away a Mackenzie effort.
In the dying seconds of the half, Dingwall’s corner found the net at the near post but the referee ruled it out for a foul that only he had seen. Despite struggling to test Mackinnon, Locos were still very much in the game at half time. Meres and Ward were causing the visiting defence problems down the flanks and a bit more quality with the final ball would surely create opportunities.
Ward had the first effort of the second half, firing straight at Mackinnon, before Clach doubled the lead. The men in yellow broke forward in numbers and Bunce was released in a central position before rounding Reid to finish. With goals hard to come by this season it was now an uphill struggle – both literally and figuratively – for Locos to get anything from the game.
The away side were full of confidence now and looking dangerous with every attack. The third goal could have been almost immediate but Kieran Chalmers put his effort well over the bar after a flowing attacking move. Ward then tried his luck with two volleys, slicing the first and putting the second too close to Mackinnon. The Lilywhites keeper then did well to tip a Dingwall drive over the bar as Loco finally began to ask a few questions. With a little over 20 minutes remaining though, it was the visitors who added to the scoring. Another surge forward saw Bunce again on hand to finish calmly.
To their credit, Locos continued searching for a lifeline and it came from another Ward volley, this time getting enough power on it to beat Mackinnon despite the keeper getting both hands to it.
Meres tested Mackinnon before Ward scored again with a low effort to give those home fans who had not already left Harlaw Park some hope that a point may be salvaged in the final 10 minutes. It wasn’t to be though. Mackinnon saved another Dingwall free kick before Bunce put the icing on the cake for the visitors to claim the match ball.
The lack of a cutting edge has plagued Locos all season but of late they have also looked vulnerable at the other end and that is something that Richie Hastings will want to address quickly, starting with another home game next week against Deveronvale.
Locos: A Reid, T Reid (Robertson), Mitchell, Dingwall, Souter, Johnstone, Ward, Alberts, Wood, Thain (Smith), Meres Unused Subs: Petermann, Farquhar
Clachnacuddin: Mackinnon, Sutherland, Riddle, Morrison, Warren, Gillies, Mackenzie (Lawrie), Callum, Anderson (Syrjanan), Bunce, Chalmers (Cooper) Unused Subs: Lewis, Quate, Urquhart, Rae