WATCH: Highland League returns at Buckie Thistle but Covid-19 still casts a shadow on sunny day
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THE fans were back, the sun was shining but it still wasn't a completely normal afternoon at the fitba.
The Breedon Highland League roared back into action on Saturday after two Covid-impacted seasons - the latter lasting just three games.
Victoria Park, Buckie was drenched in sunshine and supporters of home side Buckie Thistle and visitors Lossiemouth were there in good numbers to enjoy the long-awaited return.
We are still in the grip of a pandemic that has turned the world as we know it upside down.
Temperature checks, hand sanitizer and face coverings were the order of the day as the punters entered the stadium.
It was easy to socially distance in the wide open spaces of Victoria Park and the fans were able to spread out and enjoy the warm afternoon.
Clubs have had to put in place a plethora of Covid protocalls to ensure the season could kick off, and these are likely to remain in place for some time.
The Buckie players' dressing room was the Ace Winches hospitality lounge, while Lossie occupied both the home and away dressing rooms under the main stand to ensure they could remain at least one metre apart.
Players were discouraged from exchanging hand shakes after the game; a hand sanitizer station was placed close to the pitch.
Players are still not permitted to shower after games, such is the risk of potentially spreading the virus, which is not ideal after 90 minutes running about in a 21 degrees celsius heat. Buckie keeper Kevin Main lives two minutes down the road, so he was better placed than most for a cooling shower after the game.
There was a minute's silence before the game for all those fans who have sadly died during the last 15 months whern football has largely been in abeyance at this level, and all those who have lost their lives to Covid-19.
It felt good to be back at the football on a Saturday afternoon, but it didn't feel normal - far from it.
The long, hard winter of a Highland League season will undoubtedly come under pressure with little sign of Covid being kicked into touch any time soon.
The more people who are doubled jabbed the better things should be, but with new strains and still high levels of infection across the country, this will be surely be a season of disruption at various points.
Still, it was good to see people enjoying the football on a sunny afternoon. Long may it continue.