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Andrew MacAskill admits there were times when he thought Buckie Thistle had blown their title chance – but that only makes him more determined to win the Breedon Highland League tomorrow.

At the end of a hugely dramatic season the Jags, who face Keith at Victoria Park, are in pole position to win the championship.

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With Brechin City and Fraserburgh also in contention, it is the first time since the Second World War three sides have all been able to win the league on the last day of the season and have all played their final match on the same day.

Big effort from Jags

Due to a fixture backlog, Buckie have been playing catch-up on their rivals in recent months and have coped with a gruelling schedule which has culminated in playing their last six league fixtures in 13 days.

They moved to the top of the table – ahead of Brechin by two on goal difference – by beating Strathspey Thistle 7-0 on Wednesday.

The Jags are also ahead on goals scored. That means if they beat Keith, Brechin would need to defeat Brora Rangers by at least three goals more than Thistle manage against the Maroons.

Midfielder MacAskill, 31, said: “It’s been an incredible effort from the players both physically and mentally to get to this position.

“To be in a position where it’s in our hands on the last day is an amazing effort.

“The last couple of weeks particularly the boys have been brilliant and there’s still one step to go. We’ve not done anything yet and we need to perform again.

Andrew MacAskill in action for Buckie.

“There probably have been points where we thought we’d thrown it away.

“I’ve tried to be calm throughout, but after the Deveronvale game (0-0 on March 30), I did feel that we’d put ourselves in a really difficult position.

“We’ve tried to be level-headed, but there have been a couple of Saturday nights where we were wondering if we’d let the opportunity slip away.

“We’ve worked hard and showed a good attitude to get back into a position where we can potentially win the league – hopefully we can finish off well.”

Wait could be over for MacAskill

In six-and-a-half years with Buckie, MacAskill has yet to win anything.

The Jags have missed out on the title on the last day in the past two seasons and have also been defeated in three cup finals in recent years.

MacAskill added: “It would be really special to win it.

“The effort the boys have put in over the last few months would make it extra special, because it’s been a phenomenal effort to get to this point.

“I think it would have been easy after the last two seasons for the disappointment to linger and for it to have an impact on the following season.

“But the belief we can do it has remained throughout. We’ve tried to channel those experiences and use it as a positive thing.”

Lewis Coull, right, in action for Keith against Buckie.

Meanwhile, Lewis Coull says Keith have the belief they could cause an upset at Victoria Park, particularly after playing well and only narrowly losing to Brechin 1-0 on Tuesday.

The Maroons are 12th in the table, and the 19-year-old defender said: “Tuesday gives us confidence.

“We feel we can frustrate Buckie and hopefully if we get chances we’ll take them and take something out of the game.

“We’ve got to embrace the occasion and enjoy it, but we have to focus on ourselves and our performance.”

McHattie and Brechin have sole focus

Although their fate isn’t in their own hands, Brechin’s Kevin McHattie believes their job is pretty simple: try to beat Brora as impressively as they can.

The defender’s focus is on ensuring the Hedgemen win tomorrow afternoon – and revealed he doesn’t want to find out what has happened elsewhere until full-time.

The fixture is being played at Golspie’s King George V Park with Dudgeon Park undergoing drainage improvements.

McHattie, 30, said: “I don’t want to know the other scores. We just focus on ourselves and see where we’re at come full-time.

“We want to win the game and make sure we do our job as best we can.

“It’s the joys of football that we’ve got three teams trying to win the league on the last day of the season.

Brechin’s Kevin McHattie, right.

“We need to go there and perform and try to score the goals we need. But we know it will be difficult and Brora won’t want that to happen.

“It would mean everything if we could do it. We’ve got to give it our best to win our game and see what happens.”

A win for Brora would ensure they finish sixth, and Cattachs winger Tony Dingwall would prefer not to have to witness a title party.

The 29-year-old added: “I’m sure the celebrations would be wild if Brechin were to win the league.

“You don’t want other teams celebrating on your patch. We’ll turn up and do our best, as we do every game, and see if we can get a result.

“We’ll need to defend well, but if they’ve got to come and score a few goals then it might suit us trying to catch them on the counter-attack.”

Fraserburgh will be kept up to speed

They are the outsiders to win the title, but Scott Barbour is sure Fraserburgh will be kept abreast of their chances of being crowned Breedon Highland League champions.

The Broch face Strathspey Thistle at Bellslea tomorrow trailing the top two, Buckie Thistle and Brechin City, by three points.

Fraserburgh are also nine behind the Jags on goal difference and seven worse off than the Hedgemen.

To win the league, the Broch need Buckie and Brechin to lose and to win their game against Strathspey by a wide margin.

Barbour has no great expectations, but is sure the fans inside Bellslea will let the players know what is happening elsewhere.

Fraserburgh’s Scott Barbour.

The 32-year-old striker said: “It depends what’s happening – it might be good to know what’s going on elsewhere.

“But as long as we look after ourselves, that’s the most important thing.

“If things are going our way, I’m sure the fans will be quick enough to let us know. We’ll try to do our job and see what happens.

“You can’t really think about racking up goals. We went 1-0 up early on last week against Strathspey, but it still wasn’t easy to score (Fraserburgh eventually won 5-1).

“Strathspey will be out to make it difficult for us, but we’ll have to go for it and see what happens.

“We can only look after ourselves. We’ve got an outside chance, but we’ll give it a go.”

Last hurrah for Broch legend

Meanwhile, Fraserburgh defender Ryan Cowie will retire following tomorrows’s game after 12 years with the club.

The 32-year-old is hanging up his boots because of a knee injury. If he features against Strathspey, it will be his 346th appearance for the Broch, during which time he has scored 30 goals.

Cowie helped Fraserburgh win the Highland League in 2022 and has played in three Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup final victories and three Morrison Motors (Turriff) Aberdeenshire Shield final triumphs. Last summer, he received a testimonial against Aberdeen.

Meanwhile, following their defeat to Fraserburgh last weekend, bottom of the table Strathspey were beaten 6-1 and 7-0 by Buckie during the week.

But the Grantown Jags did get some good news in midweek after receiving confirmation they will remain in the Highland League next season.

The last remaining side eligible for a promotion play-off, Lochee United, are now unable to win the Midlands League.

Tomorrow’s game is likely to be interim manager Michael Rae’s last in charge of Strathspey.

Strathspey interim manager Michael Rae.

He said: “I am delighted for the club that it remains in the Highland League next season.

“There is a challenge ahead now and there will be a lot of changes happening.

“Fraserburgh will put us under pressure, but we spoke about it after Wednesday’s game and we’ve got nothing to lose.

“We will have a go at Fraserburgh and see what happens. The effort the boys have put in this season has been great.”

Where will the trophy be?

Breedon Highland League secretary John Campbell will make a frantic journey tomorrow to present the champions with the trophy.

With Buckie Thistle, Brechin City and Fraserburgh all in with a chance of winning the championship, Campbell will be stationed in Inverness.

Once the action has unfolded he will drive to Victoria Park in Buckie, King George V Park in Golspie – where Brechin face Brora Rangers – or Fraserburgh’s Bellslea to present the champions with the silverware.

At higher levels, helicopters have been used to transport trophies from one ground to another, but Campbell and the Highland League don’t have that luxury.

He said: “I’m going to be based in Inverness and will view how things progress during the afternoon.

Highland League secretary John Campbell.

“We appreciate it will take a bit of time to get to any of the venues with the trophy.

“If the Buckie and Brechin games go to the wire, it’s likely the championship presentation will be at 6pm, given the time it will take to get from Inverness to Buckie or Inverness to Golspie.

“Fraserburgh is furthest away, so in the event they are the champions, the presentation will be made at Bellslea at 7pm.

“The perfect scenario would have been having a helicopter – but unfortunately our resources don’t stretch to that!

“There is an acceptance and understanding from all the clubs involved that it will take a period of time for the trophy to get to their ground.

“Hopefully the supporters of the clubs appreciate that.

“We would rather do this and ensure the trophy is presented on the day, rather than having hold back and present it at a later date.”

News from elsewhere in the Highland League

The battle for fourth spot in the Breedon Highland League and a place in next season’s Challenge Cup will also be settled tomorrow.

If Banks o’ Dee beat Wick Academy at Harmsworth Park, they will finish fourth. However, the Aberdeen outfit will be missing Daniel Hoban, Ally Stark, Kane Winton and Darryn Kelly.

The Scorries welcome back Owen Rendall and Ross Gunn following their midweek loss to Forres Mechanics.

Formartine United play Deveronvale at Princess Royal Park and can finish fourth if they win and Dee slip up.

Paul Campbell, Johnny Crawford, Daniel Park and Rhys Thomas are out for the Pitmedden side. Innes McKay and Rogan Read are absent for the Banffers.

Forres finish their season with Turriff United visiting Mosset Park. Andrew Skinner is back for the Can-Cans, but Lee Fraser and Calum Frame are still missing.

Connor Grant, Callan Gray, Keir Smith, Owen Kinsella and James Chalmers are unavailable for Turra.

Clachnacuddin and Lossiemouth finish their season in a 2pm kick-off at Grant Street Park. Rorie Macleod, Dylan Mackenzie, Finlay Mackenzie, Kieran Chalmers, James Anderson and Martin MacKinnon are out for the Lilywhites.

The Coasters are denied the services of Henry Jordan, Ryan Farquhar, Baylee Campbell and Ross Elliott.

Watch: Highland League Weekly EXTRA – Highlights of Fraserburgh v Brora Rangers



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