Buckie Thistle 2 - 2 East Kilbride: Still all to play for

Former Hearts striker Russell McLean grabbed the equaliser. Picture: Lisa McPhillips
Former Hearts striker Russell McLean grabbed the equaliser. Picture: Lisa McPhillips
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There was no love lost between the winners of the Highland and Lowland Leagues in the play-off battle with an SPFL place up for grabs. South champs East Kilbride fought back from 2-0 down to grab a draw in a niggly encounter spoiled by a number of off-the-ball incidents.

There was also accusations of spitting by visiting players and claims that one of the match officials was struck by something thrown from the crowd.

Jags manager Graeme Stewart was sent off in stoppage time following an incident with East Kilbride defender Fabio Capuano which he described as “laughable”.

“Their right back who caused trouble the whole game tried to grab the ball and I’ve tried to get it back and he’s grabbed my arm and fell over, and I fell down with him. It was laughable.”

East Kilbride boss Martin Laughlan accused Buckie of some “terrible” tackles, but said he is confident his team will finish the job at the K Park in the second leg.

“A lot of people said that the Highland team does not really care if they go up or not,” he said. “It didn’t look like that to me today.

“But on our own surface we’ve not lost many games so I’m always confident at home.”

East Kilbride came out with all guns blazing and nearly scored on five minutes when Sean Winter crashed an effort off the bar. The loose ball fell to Joao Vitoria who was denied by keeper Daniel Bell.

Four minutes later Buckie took the lead when Sam Urquhart found space on the right to cross for Chris Angus, who controlled on his chest and swept a volley home.

After a spell of scrappy play Jags were awarded a penalty on 32 minutes for Capuano’s foul on Angus. Up stepped Urquhart to slot home, sending Matt McGinley the wrong way.

The visitors needed to find a way back into the contest and a minute before half time Bell charged out to try and intercept a through ball to Vitoria but the striker got there first and found Paul Woods who stroked into an empty net and throw East Kilbride a lifeline.

Four minutes after the break a Winter back-heel set Adam Strachan up at the back post but Bell dashed out to save superbly. Jags continued to chase a third goal and Kevin Fraser was inches away from Stuart Taylor’s chip across goal.

Kilby brought on giant former Hearts striker Russell McLean and the move paid off when he grabbed an equaliser on 84 minutes.

Barry Russell’s long throw tempted Bell to come for it but he failed to gather and McLean nodded it into the net.