HAVING Donnie Munro back in action for Buckie Thistle is like making a big new signing, says boss Gary Hake.
The midfield stalwart returned to the hooped shirts last weekend after a four-month absence due to an ankle injury, and helped Jags to a 1-1 draw at title contenders Inverurie.
Hake threw Munro straight back into his starting line-up at Locos, and said the player made an even better impression than he was expecting.
“Considering he’s not played for so long, I thought Donnie had a great game,” said his manager. “We gave him 70 minutes and he lasted really well, which we weren’t sure he would manage.
“He had a chance to score on his comeback but their keeper had a great save from him in the first half. It’s like having another new signing and we’re delighted to have him back.”
Typical of the form they have shown this term, Buckie more than matched their higher ranked hosts and were eight minutes from pulling off a fine win when Locos struck an equaliser.
While Buckie have also fought out a series of close matches against leading outfits like Brora, Formartine and Nairn, they have surprisingly dropped points against basement sides, such as Fort William, Rothes and Lossiemouth.
And with second-bottom Strathspey Thistle paying a visit to Victoria Park this Saturday, Hake is keen to ensure his team does not slip on another banana skin.
He was satisfied with his team’s display at Inverurie, an impressive response to their previous outing, a shock 3-3 draw at Fort.
With skipper Lewis Mackinnon and striker Liam Baxter also back in Saturday’s line-up, Jags opened well and Baxter fired them ahead in the early minutes.
They dominated for long stretches of the first half, and looked favourites to win when Inverurie had a player sent off early in the second half.
However, Hake said he felt the red card had a galvanising effect on Locos, who proceeded to take the game to the visitors and grab an equaliser through former Jag Dean Donaldson.
Buckie could still have snatched all three points at the very end, but ex-Locos man Andy Low fired wide with the goal at his mercy.
“It came from a free kick which we felt should have been ours,” Hake said.
“Chris Angus actually got a forearm smash as he was running with the ball and for some strange reason, the decision went to Locos instead.
“We were gutted not to win, though a draw was probably a fair result in the end due to Locos’ second-half performance.
“In the last minute, Chris Angus was clean through and squared to Andy. All he had to do was tap it in but he’s hit it past the post.
“Overall, it was a vastly improved performance from the Fort game, and progress from last season when we only took one point off Locos.
“This year we’ve taken four, and we’re disappointed it’s not six.”
Ahead of Saturday’s Strathspey game, manager Hake is not only conscious of his team’s poor record against struggling teams, but also wary that the Grantown outfit held title-chasing Nairn to a scoreless draw last weekend.
“We’ve shown how well we can compete against the top sides, and our worst problems have been against the teams not near the top. I said after Saturday’s game that our mentality has got to be correct every game.
“As if we didn’t know already, Strathspey’s result last week showed its not going to be easy for us on Saturday.
“We need to get them on the back foot and hopefully get a goal early on, so we can settle down and play some of the same stuff we produced at Locos.”
Defender Bob Duncan limped off with a nasty ankle injury which will keep him out against Strathspey, while Graham Stewart is also a doubt.
However Neil Davidson returns from offshore and will be in the squad.
Jags have also loaned out transfer-listed striker Nikki Smith to junior neighbours Buckie Rovers.