Praise from Deveronvale manager Craig Stewart for goalscoring centre back Innes McKay who has scored six goals in his Highland League debut season
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DEVERONVALE rustiness was evident in their first match of 2022 as the Banff side went down 4-3 at home to on-form Wick Academy.
While the Caithness side have played every week throughout the winter, Vale were in action for only the third time since the end of November, and manager Craig Stewart said it showed.
He was pleased with a late rally from 4-1 down to almost steal a point, which he admitted might have been harsh on a Wick side who deserved their win.
“Very rusty is how I would describe our performance,” he said. “Part of that is to be expected but as the game went on we got better.
“With Wick playing regularly, they are also a team full of confidence having been on a good run so that was the most evident thing.
“They are playing games week in, week out and they are flying. We are a team that’s not played for four weeks and training has been patchy during that time with Covid and other things.
“We had several players missing which we can’t afford to have.
“The positive was that we didn’t give up and that is something we have seen a few times this season.
“We could even have nicked a draw with the last kick of the game, whether we would have deserved it is another thing. Wick did deserve their win in the end.
“Defensively we were quite poor. I put that down to a lack of game time and that was some of the lads playing their first game since the impact of Covid.”
A Steven Anderson goal early on and a Kyle Willox own goal had the visitors 2-0 up at the break.
Anderson made it 3-0 before Vale sub trialist Kyle MacKillop-Hall pulled one back. Davie Allan’s fourth for Wick seemed to kill the contest off but a late show saw Innes McKay and Dane Ballard both net to give a glimmer of hope to the home challenge, which eventually ran out of time.
Stewart was able to hand a debut to new signing Caiden Imbert-Thomas, brought in from Huntly last week on a two-and-a-half year deal.
Caiden did well and I think he might be a good signing for us. The style of play we adopt suits his game and he worked hard and fitted in well.
“He has pace and a great build for a football player, and he’s a strong lad. Once he gets used to our play he will do just fine for us.”
Stewart was also pleased for centre back McKay who again revelled in an emergency striker’s role to score his sixth goal of the season.
“Innes has been excellent. He is still young and learning but it’s been a great first season and if he continues to progress as he is then he will be an asset. Although he is now knocking on my door asking to play up front!
“His stats speak for themselves and it is times when he has been pushed up front that he has been scoring.
“He is a bit old school in terms of his attitude and his will to do well and his desire. It’s refreshing to see.”
Next up for Vale is a trip to Grantown to take on a Strathspey Thistle side they beat 3-0 in their first meeting at Princess Royal Park.