Four-goal Locos beat Fort in front of bumper Claggan crowd

FORT V LOCOS Fort’s Donald Morrison in the air with Thomas Reid . PICTURE IAIN FERGUSON, THE WRITE IMAGE

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Fort William 1 – 4 Inverurie Loco Works

Highland League

All the right signs of improvement are there, according to Fort manager Russell MacMorran, despite his side’s home defeat to Inverurie Locos on Saturday at a packed Claggan Park.

With the sun splitting the sky and temperatures around 26 degrees, there was a renewed buzz of optimism around the ground, something which has been missing from the club for some time.

The club has enjoyed a remarkable two weeks, which saw them star in their own BBC documentary, win their first match in more than two years in the North of Scotland Cup and cause the ensuing national media storm. As a result, a bumper crowd turned out with fans, new and old, hoping to witness the Fort’s first league win since April 2017.

However, a well-drilled Inverurie Locos side, unfazed by the reinvigorated Fort, made sure the home fans were left disappointed.

A spectacular save from Fort goalkeeper Martin MacKinnon, who put in an impressive performance between the posts. Photo: Iain Ferguson, NO F32 Fort Locos 01

With eight of the nine new Inverness Caledonian Thistle development squad loan signings starting due to some injuries to key players, manager Russell MacMorran was intent on getting a positive result from the game.

Unfortunately for him, though, Locos were in good form and had an early goal disallowed for offside. They were denied soon after by Fort goalkeeper Martin MacKinnon, who spectacularly saved a penalty low to his left. MacKinnon soon became the thorn in the side of Locos who were growing frustrated by his impressive shot stopping.

Aiden Taylor flicks the ball past Loco’s captain, Eric Watson. Photo: Iain Ferguson, NO F32 Fort Locos 03

The breakthrough eventually came through Andy Hunter on 38 minutes, leaving the score at 1-0 at half-time.

Two water breaks, one in each half, were called for by the referee as the heat began to take its toll on the players.

Seven minutes after the break, Locos doubled their lead through Neil Gauld.

Mark Rydings and Russell MacMorran watch on Locos lead their Fort side. Photo: Iain Ferguson, NO F32 Fort Locos 04

The Fort were thrown a lifeline, however, when the ref blew for a penalty. Roddy Kennedy stepped up and coolly put it past the keeper and the match was back in the balance.

The home side continued to push for an equaliser but the opportunity just would not come. Inverurie got a third goal on 69 minutes to all but seal the win, but not before grabbing a late fourth in the 89th minute as the Fort legs began to tire.

Although manager MacMorran was disappointed with the result he was pleased by the clear signs of improvement.

‘It was disappointing for the lads, they put in a great effort,’ he told the Lochaber Times. ‘But at the end of the day, that was our third game in seven days and the young boys were feeling it. It just didn’t click today, but all the positive signs are there. Fair play to Locos who came down, played well and did their job.’

When asked about what difference the new loan signings have made, MacMorran said: ‘The new boys have made a massive difference in terms of an injection of enthusiasm and positivity. With them being young they have no fear and haven’t experiences what the boys did last year. The players from last year are benefiting from that. In fact, we’ve probably got more lads coming back to training because of it.

‘Despite what people may think, we have free reign on the new lads on when and where we play them. They are young lads with no experience so it’s a lot of pressure people are putting on them.

‘Some of our lads have not been fully available so we will continue to mix it up until we get the right balance. My job is to put the best team on the pitch.’

MacMorran also said that the new signings will bring quality to training sessions which will only help the future generation of Fort William players.

‘We’re trying to align the youth development side with the senior team. We have to rely on them in the future and can’t keep looking to loan players. What we did with these signings is secure the future of the team for this season. It was not an overnight decision and we were speaking with Caley, and other clubs, last season.

‘We’re not out of the woods financially so it’s a huge help. Any other Highland League club would take this chance if they got it.’

The Fort take are away to Strathspey Thistle this Saturday in what is usually billed as a bottom of the table clash but with the Fort in fine fettle, hopes are high that an elusive league win may be in the offing.

Coverage of the Fort’s historic cup win last Wednesday can be found inside.