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Forres Mechanics season review: Up-and-down campaign ends in the middle


By Jonathan Clark

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A YO-YO like Forres Mechanics season has ended with the club finishing just above mid-table.

With the coronavirus pandemic putting paid to the season on March 13, the only thing left to be decided at Mosset Park is whether Mechanics will finish seventh or eight.

That is largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things – although Forres fans would still love to finish above Nairn County – but will become clear at a later date when the Highland League decides which method it will use to determine league positions.

MORE: Keith season review.

After a pre-season which saw Ross MacPherson celebrate his testimonial season with a match against Ross County, the campaign started slowly at Mosset Park – albeit largely due to the combination of an unprecedented injury crisis and a fiendishly hard run of opening fixtures.

Charlie Rowley's team faced Rothes (fourth), Brora Rangers (champions) and Inverurie Loco Works (runners-up, as things stand) in the opening three match days, losing all three.

Rothes forward Steven Anderson forces a good save from Forres Mechanics' keeper Stuart Knight as Forres lose 4-1 at Rothes. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Rothes forward Steven Anderson forces a good save from Forres Mechanics' keeper Stuart Knight as Forres lose 4-1 at Rothes. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Forres briefly returned to winning ways with the back-to-back home thrashings of Strathspey Thistle (7-1) and Keith (4-0), but form dipped again as the Cans crashed out of the Scottish Cup in the first round against Banks O' Dee.

A first home loss to Deveronvale in 15 years was another low point, but that came in the midst of a super run of form, which saw Mechanics win seven of eight league matches in October and November.

Allan MacPhee scored in the 4-0 win over Keith at Mosset Park. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Allan MacPhee scored in the 4-0 win over Keith at Mosset Park. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

The return of striker Lee Fraser, who had been out for many months with a knee injury, pleased all at the club – although injuries throughout the squad continued to cause problems.

A 5-4 home win over Lossiemouth from 4-1 behind was thrilling, if very unconvincing, but the performance of the season came at rivals Nairn County – with Forres winning 3-0 at Station Park.

A goal-of-the-month-winning strike from Stuart Soane followed a low-hit from Robbie Duncanson, with Soane doubling his tally later on to seal the win.

Stuart Soane celebrates scoring the winner against Lossiemouth, much to the delight of some young fans. Picture: Eric Cormack
Stuart Soane celebrates scoring the winner against Lossiemouth, much to the delight of some young fans. Picture: Eric Cormack

Long-serving chairman Doc Anderson left the club in November, with new chairman Dave Macdonald taking over a few weeks later.

MORE: Huntly season review.

Dave Macdonald was announced as the new chairman of Forres Mechanics after the departure of the long-serving Doc Anderson.
Dave Macdonald was announced as the new chairman of Forres Mechanics after the departure of the long-serving Doc Anderson.

An unfortunate injury time loss to eventual champions Brora Rangers at Dudgeon Park set off a disappointing run of form over Christmas and New Year, as Mechanics lost four in a row.

It would later emerge that Mechanics players and coaching staff had accepted reduced-pay contracts across the board in the wake of the change of chairman.

Whether that influenced matters on the field or not is for fans to decide, but the loyalty the players showed the club in signing new contracts is unquestionable.

And the team pushed on to finish the season on a positive note – with 13 points from 15 possible. Four away wins, including a revenge mission at Deveronvale, were joined by a thrilling 2-2 home draw in the windiest imaginable conditions against Buckie Thistle – in which Forres ended with nine men.

MORE: Deveronvale season review.

When Stuart Soane saw red against Buckie Thistle on February 8, he wasn't expecting not to kick a competitive ball again for half a year. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
When Stuart Soane saw red against Buckie Thistle on February 8, he wasn't expecting not to kick a competitive ball again for half a year. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

The five remaining games were set to be a mixed bag for the Cans, with six points expected from ties against Lossiemouth and Turriff United but tough matches expected against Fraserburgh and Formartine United. The last was a derby clash at home to Nairn.

The decision to end the season was described by manager Charlie Rowley as easy, and ultimately hasn't caused the club much problem – at least on the park.

With 14 players signed up for next season, the aim for Mechanics is likely to be to get back into the league's top six, where they finished in 2018-19.

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