Locos 2 Ross County 2
Inverurie Locos ended their 2019/20 preseason schedule with an entertaining clash against a young but determined Ross County side on Monday night. Locos started the clash particularly well, mainly through Ryan Stott. The wide man looked keen to impress ahead of the Highland league curtain raiser against Buckie Thistle on Saturday. Despite the early pressure, it was the Staggies who first worked a shot at goal although Morgan Cook claimed it with ease. In the opening few minutes it looked like Locos had opened the scoring early in the encounter when Jamie Michie slashed a shot off the far post, the ball fell to the feet of Andy Hunter but it came at him at such a pace that he was unable to keep his effort down, instead it sailed over the bar much to the relief of County keeper Jamie Stephen. Soon after Stott was on the prowl again, this time sending a lovely ball through to Hunter, but he couldn’t quite manage to get it under control. After 15 minutes Locos had their first corner, it was that man Stott again whose effort took a touch off a County defender and rolled behind. He stepped up to the plate yet again, delivering an inch perfect dead ball that was attacked by Mark Souter, whose towering header was an unstoppable force, handing Loco the lead in the friendly. Locos continued to pile on the pressure, Neil Mclean this time trying his luck from distance, however it was blocked by the opposition defence. Just after the 20 minute mark Ross County had a chance to level the score, David Keillor-Dunn, Marcus Goodall and James Wallace linked up superbly and as Cook rushed out and dived to the feet of the attacker, the referee had no option but to give the spot kick. Morgan soon had redemption however, just like Andy Reid on Saturday he produced the goods at the crucial time, diving to his right and denying the Premiership side the equaliser they were so desperate for. Minutes later the Cook show continued, this time a Jack Grant dig from range required an outstanding diving stop. Unfortunately for Morgan he waved goodbye to his clean sheet with five minutes of the half left, Keillor-Dunn showed his quality with a sharp turn in the box followed by a smart finish in the corner. To the delight of Neil Cooper in the dugout Locos battled on, Ryan Broadhurst and Greg Mitchell both blocked two strong efforts at one end of the Harlaw Park turf, and in a matter of seconds Stott was up the other end driving towards goal, this time electing to play in Christopher Angus who made no mistake from close range. It was Barcelona style football from Locos who had County stunned on the stroke of half time. During the interval Locos made a host of changes, introducing Jonny Smith, Eric Watson, Jordan Cooper as well as the aptly named Calum Dingwall. Off came Andrew Watt, Mark Souter, Jamie Michie and Christopher Angus. Ross County came out firing on all cylinders, within minutes Josh Reid swung an inviting cross into Cook’s box, somehow there was no takers, instead if fell to Tom Kelly at the back post who’s first time effort was a long way off challenging Cook. The second half was dominated by County, even though they seemed to be creating chance after chance they couldn’t quite find another way to stick the ball past Morgan, who appeared to be saving everything chucked at him. Neil Cooper elected to make another couple of changes with just under an hour to go, this time it was Kyle Gordon and Craig Gill who entered the fray, replacing Angus and skipper Neil Mclean. Locos were soaking up the Dingwall outfits pressure really well in the second 45 and even found themselves going forward thanks to Kyle Gordon, who set up Smith, however he wasn’t quite able to convert and the score remained finely poised heading into the remaining 15 minutes of the encounter. Josh Bolton was brought on, replacing Greg Mitchell. It was Eric Watson, who had actually had an outstanding half on his Harlaw Park debut who gave away a free kick on the edge of the box, in a very dangerous position. Unfortunately for Locos Keillor-Dunn stepped up when needed, firing the ball into the top right hand corner leaving Cook unable to do anything but stand and watch. Minutes later it looked as if County would nab a winner through the exact same scenario, a free kick in the exact same area crashed off the post, falling perfectly to substitute Craig Mackenzie, although much like Hunters effort in the first half it came at him with such ferocity he couldn’t direct his effort goal bound. Much to the disappointment of everyone inside the ground, the enthralling game did in fact have to come to an end. Next up for Locos as mentioned is the beginning of their Highland league campaign on Saturday VS Buckie Thistle in Inverurie. Kick-off is at 3pm so if you can get along and back the boys as they begin their season!