A GREEN and white army will march into North Lodge Park this weekend expecting Buckie Thistle to clinch the Highland League title.
Jags’ magnificent 5-2 win at Fraserburgh on Wednesday night and a slip up by strongest rivals Cove means the Moray coast men are almost there.
If they win at Formartine United on Saturday they will be champions, not mathematically but as certain as anyone needs to be.
Even a Buckie point would probably be enough, though not in the eyes of manager Graeme ‘Spider’ Stewart.
Ahead of what he said was the most important game of his career, Stewart warned his players still have work to do against one of the league’s biggest spending sides.
“I don’t think anyone can afford to think that a point is enough. If you think that way then it comes back to get you,” he said. “Formartine are on a good run and they won’t want us to almost win it on their ground. They will be doing everything they can to stop us.
“We know if we do the business on Saturday, the chances are we are going to win the league.
“We’d still have to win the following week as well (against bottom side Strathspey Thistle) but if we win on Saturday we are pretty much there. So it’s the biggest game I’ve been involved in.”
The manager rated his team’s midweek success at Fraserburgh as one of their results of the season, quite a claim given some of their impressive wins to date.
Stunned by Michael Rae’s spectacular opener for the Buchan men on 14 minutes, Jags responded swiftly and clinically.
Chris Angus slotted home a John McLeod pass four minutes later, and popped in his second via a post before the interval.
Fraserburgh struck the bar in the second half but were soon on the back foot again, and McLeod made it 3-1 from a Lewis Mackinnon pass.
Skipper Mackinnon scored the fourth himself from a free kick and even though Ryan Christie pulled it back to 4-2, the last say came from the deadly McLeod with his 43rd goal of the campaign.
“The boys were brilliant to be honest,” said Stewart. “It’s probably as good as we’ve played all season when you take into account it was a midweek game, with a lot of the boys coming through from Inverness.
“After going one-nil down, great spirit and character and quality took us back to win.
“Even Fraserburgh’s goals, one of them was a thirty-yard worldy which someone caught on the volley into the top corner. Their second one was a free kick so that was quite pleasing as well because it wasn’t like they cut us open or created many chances.”
Only goal difference separates Buckie from second-placed Brora, who have played a game more and are nine goals worse off than Jags.
Realistically only Cove can catch the Victoria Park boys, and they would need Buckie to lose on Saturday and defeat Lossiemouth twice in their remaining two games to retain their crown.
Fourth-placed Formartine won’t be easy opponents for Jags and Stewart sees Saturday’s game as more as a cup final or a local derby encounter.
“A lot of our boys are from Aberdeen, like theirs, so I’m sure there will be a bit of rivalry. It’s almost like a bit of a derby, as we’ve played them so often in the last couple of years.
“But they are a very good team and trust me, they are not going to want us to be celebrating on their pitch. “They are going to be up for it and it’s going to be a tough game.”
With a big travelling support expected, Stewart hopes the fans’ army can shout the Jags to victory.
“The fans have been class all season. That’s one of the best things, I know how good the fans can be at Buckie.
“When things weren’t going so well at the club the fans felt it and they stopped coming to games. Now we’ve got a great board, the management speak to the board all the time, everyone is working well together and it’s showing on and off the park.”
Buckie will be without injured full back Craig Dorrat, while Craig Cowie is a serious doubt due to a knock picked up on Wednesday. Sam Urquhart and Ceiran McLean also have niggles, but should play.
“They’ve got two games to go now and they will give it their all. I’m sure they will play half-fit which isn’t ideal but I know the character of them and they will go out and give the best they’ve got, and hopefully it’s enough.
“It’s in our own hands and we’ll be ready for it.”