Tain Thistle are preparing to head into two back-to-back home meetings with Alness Athletic in the next five days. The latter meeting will on be on Wednesday evening on league business but first and foremost, the teams will meet in the Ross-shire Welfare League Cup semi final this Saturday afternoon.<br /><br />For Tain, they seem to have found their bogey team in Alness Athletic, having lost three times in four of the meetings between the sides in 2009. They lost first of all in a friendly, losing 3-2 at Grant Park before leveling the playing field in a league game with a 2-1 win. Tain's further matches with Athletic (both in visits to Alness) ended in defeat, first with a 4-3 loss thanks to a last minute Jordan Greig strike and secondly, in a game which followed Thistle's clinching of the Ross-shire Welfare league championship; Alness making easy work of a tired Thistle in a 3-0 win to reach the Seaboard Cup final.<br /><br /><img border="0" align="none" alt="" src="http://www.tainthistle.co.uk/news/data/upimages/037.JPG"><br /><i>(Last season's Ross-shire Welfare League Cup winners, Alness Athletic)</i><br /><br />Defending cup holders Alness will go into Saturday's game having beaten Dingwall's Ross-shire Club by an outstanding 8 goals to 2 at Jubilee Park in the first round. Striker Stuart Murray opened his account for Athletic with a hat-trick in that game and despite defeat on Wednesday evening (to Balintore), the forward was able to add to his tally with a brace making him the league's top goalscorer thus far. Flanked by prolific scorers of last season, Jamie Macdonald and James Cochrane, Alness are sure to be a threat going forward. Alness manager Terry Stirling is looking forward to a good display from both sides.<br /><br /><i>"If both teams play football and play the passing game we know both teams can play, fair but tough, then it should make for a good semi final"</i><br /><br />Thistle however will be determined to get a result at the weekend having seen a chance to get off the mark on Wednesday vanish following the abandonment of their game against rivals Inver. Full back Ryan Cowie is expected to be back in action for Tain, having impressed against the Social Club in Tain's first round win while Michael Brand is likely to remain on the sidelines due to injury, possibly to be joined by top scorer and winger Darran Goller, who picked up a number of knocks in the club's unfulfilled midweek fixture.
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