3 - 2
3 - 2
David Allan (1)
Sam Mackay (43)
Sam Mackay (55)
Kyle Scott (65)
Ross MacPherson (87)
Stewart Ross for Stevie Cunningham (74)
Gary Weir for Richard Macadie (82)
Matthew Davidson for Garry Tweedie (46)
Scott Moore for Neil Whyte (82)
Sam Mackay (55)
Gary Manson (55)
Ross Allan (68)
Stewart Ross (90)
Ross MacPherson (63)
Matthew Davidson (83)
Stuart Knight (90)
Billy Baxter (Referee)
Academy manager Davie Kirkwood hailed Sam Mackay as Premier League quality after the midfielder inspired the Scorries to a thrilling victory over title-chasing Forres Mechanics today at a wintry Harmsworth Park.
Mackay hit a well-taken double as Academy stormed into a 3-0 lead before the Can-Cans pulled back a couple of goals to set up a nervy finale for the home fans.
Mackay's midfield masterclass made him an obvious choice as sponsors' man of the match and Kirkwood was full of praise for the former Brora and Deveronvale player.
"Sam should have been playing on a higher stage," the manager said. "He should have been playing Premier League. That performance today shows what Sam Mackay can do - but he needs to prove that every single week.
"He's been a loss to the game at the professional level - I'd have loved to have played like that.
"I'm not decrying the standard of Premier League players, but Sam is 22 and on that showing he's as good as anybody. He ran the show."
Academy went into the match buoyed by the impressive 3-1 win at Fraserburgh the previous weekend, whereas Forres had seen their championship hopes suffer a setback with a 4-2 loss at Huntly.
This was the Scorries' first home game in two months and they made up for lost time by taking the lead inside the first minute.
There were just 56 seconds on the clock when Ross Allan swept in a low cross from wide on the left and his brother Davie touched it into the net from close range for his 14th goal of the campaign.
Two minutes later Richard Macadie slipped the ball through to Mackay, who was in the clear. He appeared to be held back by a defender but referee Billy Baxter saw nothing amiss.
Then Mackay found Stevie Cunningham in space just inside the box but the midfielder's shot was blocked.
The frequent sleety showers meant conditions were hardly conducive to flowing football, yet Academy were playing some bright and inventive stuff in the middle of the park. Mackay was at the heart of it, ably supported by Macadie and Cunningham.
The home side came close to doubling their lead when Gary Manson advanced down the left and cut the ball back to Macadie, whose first-time shot flashed narrowly past.
Macadie then sliced wide after working a short corner routine with Davie Allan.
Academy's number nine was turning in a typically livewire performance and he embarked on a solo run only to be halted - legitimately, in the eyes of the referee - by the combined efforts of Kyle Scott and Graham Grant.
It took until the 36th minute for Forres to have their first shot on target - a speculative effort from Gary Tweedie that trickled into the arms of Michael Gray.
Academy gave themselves a two-goal cushion a couple of minutes before half-time. Davie Allan showed great determination to retain possession on the edge of the box before laying the ball off to Mackay, who took a touch before firing it inside Stuart Knight's left-hand post.
Charlie Rowley's half-time team talk seemed to have the desired effect as Forres had a lot more of the ball in the early stages of the second period. Scott had a shot saved by Gray, then Matty Davidson - brought on as a half-time substitute for Tweedie - was also denied by the Academy keeper. Kevin Duguid was next to threaten, only to see his shot fly wide of the post.
Academy regained their composure and in 53 minutes Craig Shearer saw a shot come off the base of a post after a good move up the right.
The third goal was delayed only by a matter of seconds, though. Grant Steven delivered a fine pass to Mackay, who raced through to beat Knight with a cool finish.
The Can-Cans pulled one back on 66 minutes when Neil Whyte set up an opening for Scott, who burst through the inside-right channel and drilled the ball beyond Gray.
Substitutes Steven Ross and Matty Davidson then linked up only for the latter to knock the ball over the bar.
Davie Allan ran half the length of the park before slipping the ball to Macadie, whose effort was blocked by Knight. The Can-Cans' keeper was called into action again to tip over a shot from Macadie after a brilliant set-up by Mackay.
At the bottom end, dangerman Davidson was sent through on goal but Gray stood up well to it.
Simon Allan was well off target with a long-range effort before Forres grabbed a second goal on 88 minutes. Ross MacPherson found himself in space 25 yards out and he despatched a superb 25-yard shot past the diving Gray.
There were some tense moments as Forres piled on the pressure in the closing stages, and Mackay was well placed on the goal-line to clear a Nathan Sharp header from a corner.
Sharp came even closer to grabbing a dramatic equaliser in the fourth minute of stoppage time with another headed effort which this time came off the top of the crossbar.
But the Scorries held on to make it eight wins from their last 12 games as they moved up to eighth in the table.
There were bookings for the Forres trio of Ross MacPherson, Matty Davidson and Simon Allan and for Academy's Ross Allan, Gary Manson and Stewart Ross.
Manager Kirkwood was a relieved man at the final whistle.
"It was a dream to be 3-0 up but you know what Forres are like, they're a big physical side," he said. "We combated their aerial power and we picked up second ball, but it was the second ball that caused the two goals and that put us under a wee bit of pressure.
"We know about their aerial bombardment, but they also try to play the game a little bit. But the boys held on - it would have been easy to crumble from a three-goal lead to 3-2, then panic at the back and go to three each, but they stood up to it."
Match report written by Alan Henry
|Michael Gray (GK)||-||9||-||14||-|
|Stewart Ross (sub)||-||16||-||177||17|
|Gary Weir (sub)||14||20||9||260||89|