McLean hails Wick team spirit after making step up to Highland League
Rob McLean has been a tower of strength at the back since joining Wick Academy in the summer – and now he has shown the impact he can have at the other end of the park as well.
The 26-year-old central defender was "buzzing" after his stoppage-time header secured a 2-1 win against Inverurie Locos at Harmsworth Park on Saturday, the Scorries' third victory of the season in the Highland League.
McLean signed a two-year deal with Academy after impressing with Thurso in the North Caledonian League and for High Ormlie Hotspur in the county league and he is enjoying the challenge of playing at a higher level.
He has been forming a solid defensive partnership with Owen Harrold, another of the summer recruits brought in by manager Gary Manson.
"It's a big change from the North Caley," McLean said after the Inverurie match. "I really enjoyed my time at Thurso but the games are so physical and so intense, and the level of physical fitness is completely different.
"Coupled with that you've got a lot more quality to try and put up with, especially in the forward areas – there are some fast, athletic, dangerous guys that you've obviously got to try and deal with.
"But I think over time we're starting to solidify our relationships on the pitch. Me and Owen are starting to gel. We've not played that much before, but you saw today how resilient we were.
"And not just me and Owen – over the whole back four and the two sitters in front we worked so well and kept them to very little, although they had a lot of the ball.
"The team spirit was excellent and that's what got us over the line. It wasn't me with my goal."
Marc Macgregor put Academy in front after 34 minutes. They held that lead until Thomas Reid's 82nd-minute equaliser, then came the late drama as Wick keeper Graeme Williamson brilliantly saved Myles Gaffney's penalty with three minutes of the 90 remaining before McLean got on the end of a corner to seal the win for the Scorries.
"We had a little plan for set-plays," McLean said. "Gary said at half-time there's more than one way to win a game, and at the end of the day some things force your hand and you've got to dig in.
"Normally I'd be at the back post with that one but I just thought I'd go and attack it and luckily I managed to lose my man, uncharacteristically of myself, got the jump on the goalie and managed to bundle it in. I'm buzzing with the result.
"It was me that gave the penalty away, although it was never a foul. The referee deemed that I was pulling a man back but actually the striker had his hands on me. Sometimes those decisions are given.
"It was a fantastic save. The boy struck it well but Graeme managed to get himself over. He deserved it, he was excellent."
Manson said: "Rob has started every game and has settled in really well with the group of boys. I'm delighted for him and that'll do him the world of good."