Moray welfare football: New boys Craigellachie lose debut match at Hopeman while Aberlour Villa and FC Fochabers get off to a winning start
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FRIDAY saw the six-team Moray welfare league kick off with new boys Craigellachie taking their bow in the competition.
But it was a tough start for the Speyside outfit against a Hopeman side which only missed out on last year's title in a play-off to Buckie United - who aren't competing this year.
Hopeman will be one of the main challengers this season and their 5-2 victory represented a good start to the campaign.
Visiting side Craigellachie almost conceded a goal in the first minute of their first match, as Ryan Fiske intercepted a passback and rounded keeper David Gilmore but defender Aaron Anderson scampered back to clear off the line.
The away side's first chance saw Dale Mctavish fire past, but Hopeman took the lead on 16 minutes.
Gilmore saved from Chris Cooper's deflected free kick but veteran Iain Lunan was on hand to tap in the rebound.
The home side's second goal was spectacular, with Cooper launching a free kick from five yards inside the opposition half and watching it soar into the top corner of the net.
Cooper was having a barrel of fun, as yet another free-kick from 25 yards out on the right side of the pitch was headed for the same top corner and Gilmore made a brilliant one-handed save to deny him a two-minute setpiece double.
The Craig keeper was playing well, denying Fiske on 35 minutes but five minutes later he was beaten by an inswinging Connor McArthur corner that sailed directly into the net.
Three-up at the break, Hopeman kept chasing goals in the second half and were rewarded with a fourth early on.
Chris Greene slid a pass through for Gary Burr, whose shot was well-saved by Gilmore but this time Jack Ure was well-placed to stroke home the loose ball.
Reece McLean fired just wide for Craigellachie while Mctavish forced a good save out of home keeper Robert Brown.
But history was made on 68 minutes when Kris McIntosh netted Craigellachie's first Moray welfare goal, showing good footwork on the edge of the box before scoring with a low shot.
But Cooper had yet more free kick joy on 81 minutes, belting home another stunner from 25 yards to make it 5-1.
The visitors refused to give in and Brown was forced into saves from Colin Coutts and McLean, before they got a consolation when David Ssozi's shot struck the post and hit keeper Brown before rebounding in for an own goal.
Aberlour Villa played host to RAF Lossiemouth and scored first on the half hour when Ross Low's cutback was smashed high into the net by David Blackhall.
It was 2-0 at half time as Blackhall glided past the defender and goalkeeper to roll into the net.
Early in the second half James Johnston pounced to pull back a goal for the airmen.
There were plenty of chances over the remainder of the game but no more goals, with Lossie having a player sent off for dissent in the later stages while Villa hung on for victory.
FC Fochabers proved too strong for a young Cullen side, winning 5-1 at Logie Park.
George Duncan, Gary Burchell, Jordi Mackie, John Leggat and John Gerrard were on target for the away side with Kieran Ferguson netting Cullen's only strike.
Friday's fixtures, 7.30pm kick-offs:
Aberlour v Craigellachie
Cullen v RAF Lossiemouth
Hopeman v FC Fochabers