North of Scotland Cup Senior Boys Semi Final Nicolson Institute 3 Buckie High School 1
NATIONAL cup finals are a private gathering of the best, and the Nicolson Institute are becoming nonpareils. In recent seasons they have become regular winners and finalists at various age groups in national schools cup finals.
They have provided one of the best advertisements for producing quality teenage talent and a passing philosophy and now the Nicolson can add yet another honour to their footballing CV after their senior boys football team reached the North of Scotland Cup final.
A tepid first-half in which they found themselves trailing 1-0 was transformed by an energetic and vibrant second-45 in which they blew their Buckie visitors away.
Most of the home side reached the levels they are capable of in the second-half. Micheil Smith is the fulcrum of the school midfield, and has the kind of precision that makes him such a danger from the centre but he displayed a tendency to hold onto the ball a couple of seconds too long and taking the pace out of a break.
Gordon Maclennan was chief antagonist for the home side, the teenager making consistent raids down both flanks and through the centre with Innes Iain Morrison and Colin Maclean both ominously dangerous.
Moving further back and both Calum Morrison and Chris Dempster played well with the latter a calming, steady influence in defence. It bodes well for the final where the Nicolson will be charged with the task of bringing the trophy home across the sea.
Straight from kick-off and both sides signalled their intent to attack with opportunities at each end inside the opening 60-seconds.
A slack pass in front of the Buckie back four gifted possession to the charging Gordon Maclennan who skipped into space and let fly from the edge of the box, warming the palms of the Buckie No.1.
But Buckie instantly turned defence into attack and almost snatched the lead themselves with an end to end move which saw a cross come shot from the right touchline loop over Niccy keeper Jack Maclennan and cannon back off the angle of post and crossbar.
The following 20-minute spell of the match became bogged down in the midfield with neither side threatening their respective keepers until Maclennan was forced to react quickly to claw away a glancing near post header.
While the Nicolson were enjoying most of the ball they were failing to convert their possession into opportunities with one Maclennan sniff of goal aside – which he dragged wide from just inside the box – they never found a way through to goal.
Buckie had looked the more likely to find the net which they did with just two-minutes left to play in the first-half.
Finn Taylor halted an attack but heaped pressure on his back four by conceding a free kick in a dangerous position after being spotted with a fistful of a Buckie shirt as his opponent tried to wriggle clear.
The resulting freekick was fizzed in at Maclennan’s near post with both too much precision and pace to be kept out despite the keeper getting a glove on the ball.
A half-time gee up from team coach Willie Macaulay seemed to do the trick as the home schoolboys emerged for the second-half with a spring in their step which was missing for too long in the first-45.
It took less than 90-seconds for the Nicolson to draw level as a clearance up the field from Callum Vann morphed into an inch perfect, defence splitting pass for Maclennan, who to his enormous credit gambled on the ball bouncing all the way through and left his marker three yards in his wake, to open his foot up and steer the bouncing ball over the keeper from 12-yards.
From here it was all one-way traffic as the Nicolson turned the screw on their east coast guests. A series of half-chances were forged by the incessant waves of yellow shirted starlets with the best falling for Maclennan who couldn’t quite stretch his studs long enough to poke in a whipped ball across the six-yard box from Innes Iain Morrison.
Colin Maclean was the next to spurn an opportunity as Morrison again laid a chance on for a team mate with Maclean dragging his effort from the inside right position wide of the far post.
The same two players combined moments later and this time Maclean made no mistake from an almost identical position. Morrison danced past two Buckie stoppers before producing a brilliant through ball to send Maclean in from the right flank.
The pass, and the Buckie keeper’s charge off his line, did not give Maclean much of the goal to aim at, but he somehow found enough space to prod the ball underneath the advancing keeper for the lead.
Maclean had a later chance to add to the tally but he was denied by the keeper who was playing well but still had to pick the ball out of the net one more time after Calum Morrison was left completely unmarked at the back post to power a header into the net from a late corner kick.