Evening Express

Full steam ahead as Locos look to get off to a flyer in opener against Buckie

Inverurie Locos manager Neil Cooper

Inverurie Locos boss Neil Cooper is looking forward to the start of the new Highland League season tomorrow but knows his team won’t have it easy.

Locos, who finished third in the table last term – one point behind Formartine United – begin their campaign at Victoria Park against Buckie Thistle.

Last season, the Railwaymen scored three goals home and away against the injury-plagued Buckie Jags on their way to two league wins. They only conceded once, in the away game.

However, Cooper knows Buckie will be a different prospect this term as the champions of two seasons ago attempt to improve on a title defence which saw them finish seventh.

Cooper said: “There are no easy games in the Highland League. Unless you go about your business properly and efficiently and go two or three goals up (you can be punished).

“The teams at the bottom end of the league will sit behind the ball, so you’ve got to break them down and break their resolve.

“Buckie last year had a lot of injuries. They’ll have regrouped this year and it’ll be a hard game.

“They’re at home, so we need to show the same sort of effort and same sort of quality as last year and when we’ve not got the ball we’ve got to try to win it back.

“We know it’ll be a hard game to get a result.”

Locos were the form team at points last season and only conceded 37 goals – the best defensive record behind champions Cove Rangers.

They were also third highest scorers and Cooper wants more of the same.

He has brought the versatile Jamie Michie back to his hometown club, but has yet to secure more signings, although Cove have stated on social media a deal to bring attacker Jonny Smith to Harlaw Park is in the works.

Cooper has been looking over players from Locos’ youth teams during pre-season to give them a chance at making the first-team squad, with a decision to be made imminently.

He said: “We’ve only taken in quality. And I’ve said to the squad I’m happy with the players we’ve got. It’s a small squad, but there’s no point adding numbers for the sake of adding.

“I think we’ve done that with the players who have come in over my time here.”

Cooper has been pleased with what he’s seen from his team in their pre-season games, including a 3-2 defeat at home to an Aberdeen XI earlier this week.

He said: “We’re just disappointed that we’ve created a lot of chances and scored a few goals in a couple of games, but some of the goals we’ve given away – we need to make sure we don’t do that when the real stuff starts.”

Stuart Duff and Joe McCabe are suspended for tomorrow’s game, while Chris Herd is out due to work commitments.

Andy Hunter is still recovering from problems with his knees, so will also miss the match at Victoria Park.