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Will Clark – Highland League sprint rather than marathon still deserved a winner


By Will Clark

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Well done to Brora Rangers for retaining the Highland League title after an epic campaign which saw them win the championship after an arduous three games.

Picture - Ken Macpherson, Inverness. Scottish Cup. Brora Rangers(2) v Hearts(1). 23.03.21. Brora’s Jordon Macrae celebrates his goal.
Picture - Ken Macpherson, Inverness. Scottish Cup. Brora Rangers(2) v Hearts(1). 23.03.21. Brora’s Jordon Macrae celebrates his goal.

Some might consider it ridiculous that league champions have been crowned with so few matches played.

But I have no problem with the decision whatsoever, the Highland League has fulfilled its obligation of crowning champions that are eligible to take part in the League Two play-offs for a right to enter the national divisions.

And frankly, anyone that does have a problem with the decision, grow up.

Last season, the Cattachs, as well as Lowland League champions Kelty Hearts, were wrongly denied, I would go as far as robbed of the chance of promotion, whether through a play-off or league reconstruction.

If the Highland League ruled this season null and void, no team would have been eligible to take part in the play-offs. Some may argue that as last season’s champions, Brora Rangers could have been put forward anyway. But there was no confidence that would have been allowed by the SPFL.

So the Highland League took no chances to allow one of its clubs to progress and I take my hat off to them.

I thought with only three games played, officials may have struggled to make any other decision than null and void.

But the SHFL have forced the SPFL’s hand to ensure they give non-league clubs the chance of entering national competition.

The decision is made less controversial with the fact Brora Rangers were declared champions again. Yes, they were level on points with Fraserburgh and only ahead due to scoring four more goals. But the league was united that Brora deserved their chance to go up after being denied it last season.

Brora Rangers will face Lowland League champions Kelty Hearts, who almost managed to get halfway through their season before it was called, in a two legged semi final play-off on April 24 and May 1.

They will be two outstanding matches between two excellent teams who would both not look out of place in League Two. I can’t call who would win that match but it will be spectacular viewing. But whoever does, I would make them favourites to beat the side bottom of League Two, who at the moment look like Brechin City.

Under current rules, Brechin, which is north of the Tay river, would be relegated to the Highland League. But on an live interview on Radio Scotland during the summer, Lowland League chairman George Fraser claimed they were pressured by the SPFL to accommodate Brechin if they were relegated as they did not want to play in the Highland League.

Well more fool them if they don’t want to play in the Highland League, Wick is lovely in December and well worth the 10 hour 430 mile round trip. Pre-Covid it was anyway, haven’t visited since the first lockdown.

Brora Rangers’ victory over Hearts in the Scottish Cup showed they could be competitive in League Two.

But after being knocked out of the third round last weekend by League Two Stranraer, who also knocked out Lowland League champions Kelty Hearts in the second round, showed whoever gets promoted will face a step up in level of quality.

But both teams deserve that chance.


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