TWO quick-fire goals early in the second half sunk Clach as they bowed out of the AJG Parcels North of Scotland Cup on Wednesday at home to Wick Academy, who won 3-1.
The Lilywhites played for 65 minutes with 10 men after Scott Graham’s off-the-ball challenge was spotted by the referee’s assistant and he was given his marching orders.
This sweeping victory, however, from the far north side was clinical when it mattered and Davie Kirkwood’s side earned their place in the semi-finals against Brora Rangers.
Wick were the first to attack and Davie Allan blazed a shot over the bar after cashing in on a defensive error.
The hosts responded swiftly and attacking midfielder Chris Ross watched his deflected drive being gathered by keeper Michael Gray.
In a lively opening spell, Richard MacAdie was then picked out by powerful Pole Lukasz Geruzel, but screwed his shot past the post.
At the other end, Brian Macleod’s effort whizzed wide before Scott Graham’s header was clutched by Gray.
The opening goal, however, came on 26 minutes when Wick’s MacKay beat the offside trap and hooked a high shot over keeper John Campbell into the net.
The main flashpoint of the first half came nine minutes later when referee Graham Fraser stopped play to have a word with his far side assistant and swiftly issued a red card out of the blue to Graham.
It was not clear what happened, but an off-the-ball swipe by the Clach midfielder saw his sent for an early shower. He made no appeal and walked off without argument.
An already tough tie had just become that bit harder for Iain Polworth’s troops.
But, just two minutes after the interval, the tie was all but out of their reach.
Straight from the re-start, Academy went up the park and Geruzel finished with style to make it 2-0.
Moments after the Clach restart, the visitors broke again and this time Mackay was the scorer to leave the Inverness side floored.
To their credit, they regrouped and kept the confident Academy side at bay.
On 63 minutes, Ross steered a fine swerving shot through a ruck of bodies into the net to give the Merkinchers hope.
However, they could not get another to set up a grandstand finish and their agony was compounded when Colin Williamson was sent off in stoppage time for a lunging challenge.
Clach will be looking to bounce back in the Highland League this Saturday when Inverurie Locos come calling.
Clach: Campbell, Finnis, Tatters, Ally MacLeod, Williamson, Brian Macleod, Ross, Pollock, Brindle, Graham, Lawrie. Subs: Kennedy, Harrison, Davidson, Macdonald, Morrison.
Wick Academy: Gray, Cunningham, Ross Allan, Farquhar, Steven, Mackay, Manson, Pickles, Geruzel, MacAdie, Davie Allan.
Referee: Graham Fraser.