‘Noisy neighbours’ take the spoils in first Lochaber derby

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Fort William 1 – 2 South Lochaber Thistle AFC

South Lochaber Thistle AFC earned bragging rights last week as they pulled off a shock victory over Lochaber rivals Fort William FC in the first meeting between the two clubs.

A bumper crowd gathered at Claggan Park last Wednesday, July 18, as the amateur Jags attempted to stake their claim as the best side in the area against their new-look Highland League neighbours in what was one of the most anticipated football matches in Lochaber in recent years.

With this being a preseason fixture, both sides looked quite unfamiliar as preparations are well under way for the start of their respective league campaigns in the next month.

Fort William, in particular, had a number of new names in the starting line-up, some of which were playing with their new team mates for the first time.

Meanwhile, Thistle were missing six members of their squad through injury and holidays, but were able to field a strong starting 11.

Thistle started the brighter of the two teams as the sun shone on Claggan Park and their doggedness in midfield meant that the Fort were not able to settle on the ball.

In the opening exchanges, much of the play was focused in the wide areas of the pitch and Thistle’s wingers were beginning to play a big part in the game. The break through came after the home side’s number seven, Martin Munro, beat his marker on the wing before cutting in and passing to Danny Mackintosh who fired the ball into the bottom corner past debutant Fort goalkeeper, Paul MacLennan.

Thistle began to dominate proceedings, in particular the centre of the park, with Andrew Mclean hitting the post and Martin Munro narrowly missing.

This, however, seemed to spark Fort William into life who were to get the next goal and even up the scores after a well-placed from the wide area was headed into the net by trialist striker Josh Knowles just before half-time.

The second half was a more even affair and the addition of Michael Gillespie into the Fort midfield gave the home team added impetus. Liam Taylor and John Treasurer both had half chances although both were foiled by the Jags’ defence.

However, a goalkeeping error gifted a chance to Thistle forward Sean Noble who duly slotted the ball past the stranded MacLennan, much to the disappointment of the Fort support.

By this point, Fort William ramped up the pressure. However, Thistle were able to quell the threat posed by the Fort attackers and brought on Shaun Hendrie who slotted into the centre of the park and calmed down the team.

After a full six minutes of injury time, SLT were able to hold on to their lead and see out the victory. As the referee blew for full time there were jubilant scenes as the Thistle players celebrated one of their biggest victories in the short history of the club.