A late Robert Ward strike gave Locos a share of the spoils as Strathspey secured their first point against the Railwaymen since they joined the Highland League. Locos pushed hard for a winner but were left to rue a first half in which they couldn’t turn dominance into chances that allowed the hosts to turn it around after the break.
After a cagey opening quarter of an hour, Locos took the lead when Jay Halliday put a low cross in from the right that was helped on by Garry Wood for Fergus Alberts to tap home. That was the first opportunity of the game and Locos looked like they would take a grip of the match for a while, with Halliday and Jamie Michie – making his first start of the season – proving influential. They would have expected to add further goals against a team who started the day at the foot of league table but the hosts dug in deep and limited the chances as Locos laboured to craft an opening. An Alberts effort that was cleared from the line and a Calum Dingwall free kick that rattled the crossbar were the closest they came to extending their lead.
The half was coming to a close by the time Strathspey had their first opportunities, with Owen Loveland heading wide before calling Andy Reid into action with a shot from 20 yards. Those chances, coupled with limiting Locos to just one goal, buoyed the Jags going into half time and they came out full of intent at the start of the second half. Captain James McShane fired narrowly wide before the equaliser came just before the hour mark. Jack Davidson was able to run across the edge of the penalty area from the right before hitting a low left-footed shot beyond Reid.
Thistle now had the initiative and for a while Locos struggled to retain possession. They came back into it and threatened again though as Logan Johnstone – sporting a face mask following his clash of heads at Fraserburgh a few weeks ago – forced a good stop from Oliver Kelly at his near post. The game was becoming quite stretched as both teams sought a winner and it was the home team who took the lead for the first time in the game with little more than 15 minutes remaining. A corner from the right went beyond the far post and was headed back into the six yard box where substitute Liam Taylor gleefully lashed the ball into the roof of the net.
Locos responded well and a few minutes later were adamant they shouldhave had a penalty. A good move down the right resulted in Greg Mitchellsurging into the box. He got to the ball first before appearing to be felled bya defender. Locos were furious and Strathspey relieved as the referee wavedaway the appeals for a spot kick. Mark Souter was now augmenting thevisitors’ attack and he had a couple of headed chances before the equalizercame. Again Halliday delivered a low cross from the right that reachedWard who tapped home. Locos felt they could still take all three points butthe closest they came was another Dingwall free kick, this time flyingnarrowly over the bar.
This was undoubtedly a missed opportunity for Locos who failed to impose themselves having taken the early lead. With ten minutes remaining, however, most of the travelling fans would have taken an draw. Richie Hastings will be looking for a reaction in Tuesday’s Aberdeenshire Shield tie at Keith before early Highland League pacesetters Brechin City visit Harlaw Park next weekend.