Published: 06/05/2017 20:35 - Updated: 06/05/2017 21:27

Play-off dream ends for Buckie Thistle

Written byChris Saunderson at K-Park East Kilbride

HIGHLAND League champions Buckie Thistle could not keep their SPFL dream alive at the K-Park.

The Buckie players leave the field after saying thank-you to their fans at K-Park.
The Buckie players leave the field after saying thank-you to their fans at K-Park.

Their Lowland League counterparts, East Kilbride, won 2-1 to win through by a 4-3 aggregate.

They will play Cowdenbeath in a two-legged League Two play-off final, with the first leg at the K-Park next Saturday.

Buckie got off to a poor start when Sean Winter blasted home the opener in the sixth minute.

Kilby started the game on the front foot and the Jags were struggling to get a foothold in the match.

The home side doubled the lead in the 22nd minute when the lively Joao Victoria turned on the edge of the box and fired home a terrific shot beyond Daniel Bell.

Paul Woods was cautioned for a crude challenge on Kevin Fraser three minutes later and just past the half hour Chris Angus was shown a yellow card for a late tackle on full-back Fabio Capuano. The pair had clashed in the first leg when Capuano conceded a penalty for a foul on the Buckie striker who later accused him of spitting on him.

Buckie were not in the game but got a lifeline in the 32nd minute when former Caley Thistle defender David Proctor's flighted back pass looped over the head of keeper Matt McGinley, who was at the edge of his box.

Shaun Carrol produced a good block to deny Victoria and then Drew Copeland was booked for a heavy challenge on Kieran Gibbons in the 39th minute.

Copeland was shown a second yellow just moments before half-time for a silly tug on Winter at the edge of the box.

Buckie boss Graeme Stewart has seen his side average more than six goals a game so far in the league.
Proud: Buckie boss Graeme Stewart.

The ten men Buckie actually started the second half on the front foot and skipper Kevin Fraser volleyed wide from close range after John McLeod had flicked the ball on from an Angus cross.

East Kilbride missed two big chances in the space of a minute to kill the game, first when Winter just failed to connect with a good cross by Adam Strachan and then Winter again fired a shot just wide.

Buckie replaced 46-goal striker John McLeod with Kai Ross in the 65th minute and two minutes later Angus tried an ambitious overhead kick which was comfortably held by Matt McGinley.

Within a minute Lewis MacKinnon headed just wide from a Carrol free-kick as Buckie tried to find their way back on to level terms.

In the 71st minute Sam Urquhart  put an inviting ball across the six yard box but there no-one there to take advantage.

Capuano was yellow carded 13 minutes from the end for simulation as he tried to win a free kick outside the Buckie box.

With 10 minutes remaining, Angus had a half chance but fluffed a shot from 10 yards.

A minute later the Jags found themselves down to nine men when Angus looked to burst beyond Proctor in the EK box and went down. No contact said the defender; penalty claimed the Buckie players and fans.

The referee deemed that Angus had dived to win a penalty and showed him a second yellow card.

East Kilbride cruised to the final whistle and Buckie keeper Daniel Bell made a smart save to deny sub Russell McLean and then MacKinnon had to look lively to divert a McLean cross over his own bar.

Buckie boss Graeme Stewart said: "I am disappointed but very proud. I wouldn't go as far as to say we were the best team over the two games because that might be unfair.

"Having two players sent off, we showed the spirit we have done all year. In the second half I think we were the better team with ten men and created the better chances.

"We went down to nine men but I didn't really think there was a bad foul in the game. If he (Chris) has dived then he deserved to go but I think it was a bit harsh to send him off.

"I thought we were poor in the first half. We changed the formation to 3-5-2 because we had four right backs missing but I thought we played too high and they were getting in behind us.

"We gave away two really poor goals and need to make teams work harder.

"Our aim at the beginning of the season was top six. We have won a cup and a double, and we are miles ahead of where we should be.

"I think we showed we can more than match teams at this level.

"Our aim now is to win the league next year and have another go. Maybe we have to beef up the squad a little bit."

East Kilbride manager Martin Lauchlan praised his team for their fightback.
EK boss Martin Lauchlan believes his team deserved it over the two legs.

East Kilbride boss Martin Lauchlan said: "We knew they had a bit of a problem in the central defensive area. I thought they were a wee bit sluggish and we could get at them and that was the team talk, to get the ball in behind them and I think Joao caused mayhem in the first half and probably should have scored more.

"They got a fluke with their goal but defensively I thought we were solid and didn't really look like losing anything.

"At 2-1 and down to nine men they could still get something from a set piece and we were a wee bit iffy with our passes.

"I said to their manager and the fourth official, the number 10 (Angus), the next time he is in the box he is hitting the floor, he is diving and ten minutes later he does it, and the guy (Buckie manager) just started laughing. I think that's a tactic that they use.

"There has been a lot of talk in the week about our players but I think two red cards for Buckie, the manager sent off (in the first game) and the manager spoken to again, and I think we see who is causing all the trouble."

Buckie skipper Kevin Fraser said: "We are disappointed. We didn't start the first half very well and were sloppy. Our heads were up in the second half but when we lost Chris that was it to be honest.

"I thought Chris got clipped. The boy said he never clipped him and then another of their boys said he did get clipped. Chris was in and had a chance at goal so I don't think he would go down.

"I think we could have done better in the first game to keep the 2-0 lead. We sat back and gave them a little too much respect."

Buckie: Bell, Copeland, MacKinnon, Munro, Carrol, McLean, K Fraser, Urquhart (J Fraser 88), Angus, McLeod (Ross 65), Taylor. Not used: Sim, Milne, Wood.

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