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Advantage to Aviemore Thistle in race for Strathspey & Badenoch Welfare League title

By Gavin Musgrove

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Aviemore Thistle have opened up a gap at the top of the league after beating their biggest rivals Grantown United.
Aviemore Thistle have opened up a gap at the top of the league after beating their biggest rivals Grantown United.

Aviemore Thistle have moved clear in the race for the title after beating closest rivals Grantown United 4-1.

With the sides going neck and neck for most of the season so far, this was a proverbial six-pointer.

The Jags wasted little time in opening the scoring when within two minutes a shot from Rory Mackinnon was spilled and Ross Peters raced in to smack home the rebound.

The referee was being kept busy by a series of meaty challenges and free kicks.

With 15 minutes of the half remaining United pulled themselves level with a thumping low drive from 20 yards into the corner by Damian Paluga.

The sides went into the break level pegging which was a fair reflection on the opening 45 minutes.

The second half began just as tightly as the first had with neither side giving much away for the first 20 minutes.

But then a well-worked ball from Ross Peters fell to Rory Mackinnon and he despatched it well into the corner for 2-1.

Aviemore then made it 3-1 with an almost carbon copy of their second goal, only this time it was David Ross who delivered the final tap-in.

However a rush of blood to the head during his goal celebration lead to a second yellow card, followed by a verbal exchange with the referee, and Aviemore were down to 10 men.

United could have rallied with the numerical advantage but failed to do so.

Instead Mackinnon collected a long ball over the defence and lobbed the keeper with a perfect volley from 25 yards to make it 4-1.

United threw everything at Thistle’s for the last 10 minutes but could not get past the red and black wall.

The victory now leaves Aviemore six points ahead with a possible 12 left to play for and their title defence is well on course.

Grantown Rovers 2-7 FC Abernethy

Abernethy were out for revenge following their defeat in the same fixture in the McCook Cup semi-final on Friday.

They started well and played some nice football, creating a few early chances.

Nethy deservedly took the lead when Andrew Lehane rose to meet a whipped Tom Devereux corner and flick it into the far corner.

It was soon 2-0, again from a corner.

This time, Jack Ward curled a lovely ball in and Ben Buckler jumped with the Rovers keeper. As the ball fell, Freddie Kaye was on hand to poke it into the net.

Abernethy continued in the same vein after half time and were rewarded with another goal when Jules Orsi flashed a fantastic driven shot low into the net.

The game was disrupted when a clash of heads saw Abernethy stalwart Jack Ward have to leave the pitch with a nasty looking gash on his cheek.

This seemed to upset Abernethy’s rhythm and Rovers roared back into the game with two fantastic strikes.

Rhys Stewart grabbed the first with a powerful drive into the top corner.

It was followed by Kyle Scott singeing the other corner with an equally thumping strike two minutes later.

But Nethy rallied and restored their two-goal advantage when a great corner from Charlie Speedie found Ben Buckler who finished superbly.

And they weren’t done yet.

Another corner from Speedie caused havoc in the Rovers box and Connor Jordan-Collins got the last, vital touch for his first ever goal for the side.

Abernethy were back in control now and continued to cause problems.

As Rovers attacked, Calum Guy in the Nethy goal claimed a high cross and hastily dispatched the ball to Ben Buckler.

His quick turn and neat pass slipped Jules Orsi in, and he finished emphatically into the bottom corner.

Nethy made it seven when yet another Speedie corner was met by Buckler who smashed a header past the Rovers keeper.

The weekend sees a break from domestic football as Aviemore and Grantown United set out on the next stages of their national cup journeys.

On Saturday, Aviemore head to Inverallochy, to the east of Fraserburgh, where they take on Invercairn United from the North East Welfare FA in the second round of the Highland Cup.

Grantown United then head south the following day where they will meet Belleaire from Greenock in the third round of the Scottish Cup.

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