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Highland League review: Saturday, July 30th, 2016 The HFL season kicked off with eight goal-filled games across the north of Scotland. 

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Recent two-time champions Brora Rangers were amongst the goals at a new look Nairn County. With most of Nairn’s players choosing to abandon ship in the close season following the departure of the club’s financial backers and the first team manager, those that chose to remain were expected to suffer a heavy defeat at the hands of a still potent Brora.

A goal in the opening minutes from Steven Mackay was the only breach of the patched up Nairn defence in the opening hour, before Zander Sutherland, James Ross and Paul Brindle all scored to ensure Brora ended the day at the top of the table. 
 
Buckie Thistle matched Brora’s win to finish the day in second place. Goals from Andy Low and Ceiran McLean had Buckie in command and a goal in either half from summer signing John McLeod finished off the Inverness side. Clachnacuddin offered little and were lucky to escape Victoria Park having conceded just the four goals, and look to be set for a difficult season once again.
 
Title favourites Formartine United opened their campaign with a win at last season’s most improved side Keith. Goals from Neil Gauld and Ryan Keir saw the sides reach the break with the score level, but after the interval Formartine found another gear and new signings Derek Young and Conor Gethins added to the tally as Formartine followed up their Aberdeenshire Cup victory in midweek with another win.  

Pic: Kevin McKenzie

Pic: Kevin McKenzie

 
With Cove Rangers in Dingwall playing – and losing – the last of their Betfred League Cup group games, the chance was there for the other sides to make a grab for spots at the top end of the table. Fraserburgh brushed aside the challenge of Strathspey Thistle to leave themselves outside of the top three on goal difference, with Marc Lawrence scoring the opening goal of the new season after just sixty seconds. The Broch are ahead of Deveronvale who took all three points from their meeting with Fort William, despite falling behind to a first-half penalty. 
 
Wick Academy got off to a winning start in the league, overcoming Turriff United for the first time in five league meetings. Steven Anderson scored in the opening minutes and Richard Macadie sealed the win close to half time.

Lossiemouth were also victorious, and carved out a repeat of their 2-0 win against Rothes at Mackessack from late last season. Shawn Scott and Harry Noble scored in either half to give Lossie their first opening day win in six seasons, while condemning last season’s wooden spoon winners to yet another home loss.
 
The only draw of the day occurred at Mosset Park, where likely mid-table sides Forres Mechanics and Inverurie Loco Works scored once each to make sure of a point apiece. 
 
Last season’s top four take part in the Irn-Bru Challenge Cup this coming midweek, with Formartine United’s home tie against Aberdeen U20’s the pick of the ties, ahead of another full card of league fixtures on Saturday, when the champions begin their title defence away to Inverurie Locos.
 
PRESS AND JOURNAL HIGHLAND LEAGUE
 
Buckie Thistle 4-0 Clachnacuddin
Deveronvale 4-2 Fort William
Forres Mechanics 1-1 Inverurie Locos
Fraserburgh 3-0 Strathspey Thistle
Keith 1-4 Formartine United
Nairn County 0-4 Brora Rangers
Rothes 0-2 Lossiemouth 
Wick Academy 2-0 Turriff United
 
BETFRED LEAGUE CUP GROUP D
 
Ross County 7-0 Cove Rangers

IRN-BRU CHALLENGE CUP

Cove Rangers v Dundee U20’s (Station Park, Forfar)
Formartine United v Aberdeen U20’s
Ross County U20’s v Brora Rangers
St Johnstone U20’s v Turriff United

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