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  • Thistle win Merrythought Cup

    Tain Thistle have won the Merrythought Cup having defeated Alness United in a tense and closely contested affair at Fortrose's King George V Park. After a goalless first half, it took until the 74th minute for Tain to open the scoring through David Macgruer, before top scorer Mark Lamont doubled the Jags' lead five minutes later to secure the victory.<br /><br />Joined by assistant Tony Farquhar in the dugout, manager Daniel Cormack welcomed Liam Rostock back into the fold after toe injury concerns, while Dave Macgruer also returned in place of the absent Ryan Day, who is holidaying in the southern village of Glasgow.<br /><br />Close to 200 spectators turned out for the highly anticipated match at Fortrose, with both sidelines well represented. Any likelihood that the match may be a dull affair was quickly quashed when an Arron Christie free kick from out wide offered Tain their first hope of an opener just five minutes into the game - his curling effort hitting the upright. Neither side offered a shot on target until John Allan was forced to block a Chris Graham chance with his legs half an hour into the game. Not long after, Darran Goller forced Andrew Maitland into a reaction save with a powerful strike at the other end, the United custodian palming the effort away for a corner.<br /><br /><img class="imgleft" width=400 src="http://www.tainthistle.co.uk/news/data/upimages/merry_cup_1.jpg">While Alness continued to look threatening from set pieces, Tain were defending well and pushing higher up the park as the half progressed - although neither side produced another shot on target, despite some close calls at either end. Five minutes from time, the first yellow card was issued to Thistle's Dave Murray for a mistimed challenge. Former Tain Thistle Committee Player of the Year Craig Munro, a midfield first pick last season for the champions, took up the centre half position for his hometown side and looked comfortable against whatever threat Tain could offer. It wasn't surprising that at half time the scoreboard remained blank and Alness looked marginally the more determined of the two sides.<br /><br />It took both teams a while to gain a foothold in the second half with the midfield continuing to be the main battleground. Mark Lamont, who had suffered an injury scare during the first period, came into the game more as it progressed and began to look like Thistle's major threat as he became the first offer a shot on target upon the restart, handled easily by Maitland. John Allan was the subject of an injury scare of his own after 55 minutes when he was felled during a goalmouth exchange, clutching his shoulder. After some attention, the stopper carried on. <br /><br />Midway through the second half, Jack Hudson forced Maitland into action again with a stunning strike, the Alness man tipping his former teammate's effort over the bar. Just moments later, Alan Duff was unlucky not to score for Tain with a header from close range which cannoned off the bar. It took just another ten minutes for the breakthrough to arrive though, and it came from the imposing Dave Macgruer. Arriving at the back post, Macgruer made the most of a superb cross from Alan Duff, powering a header past Maitland from six yards out. The goal changed the entire complexion of the game as the Tain sideline felt a weight of nervousness instantly lifted. <br /><br /><img width=95% src="http://www.tainthistle.co.uk/news/data/upimages/merry_cup_2.jpg"><br /><br />A flurry of substitutions followed for Alness as they began their search for an equaliser. Their efforts were short lived, though, as just five minutes after the opener, a break on goal saw two of the Tain front men combine to double the lead. The on rushing Daniel Christie did well to advance into the box before making way for Lamont to send the ball through both Munro and Symonds and beyond the reach of Maitland to send the Thistle touch line into raptures!<br /><br />With just ten minutes remaining on the clock, Thistle defended resolutely, and could have added to their tally; Liam Rostock missing a chance late on before being denied a penalty claim after appearing to be shoved to ground in the box. Four minutes of added time were played to compensate for the injury stoppage for Allan - but the extra spell came to nothing for Alness as they eventually succumbed to defeat. Tain Thistle had won the Merrythought Cup - the first team to do so under the auspices of the Ross-shire Welfare FA.<br /><br />Post match, captain Daniel Christie was presented with the impressive trophy by sponsor's representative and RSWFA chairperson Lee Williams, before both teams convened at the Plough Inn in Rosemarkie.<br /><br /><img width=95% src="http://www.tainthistle.co.uk/news/data/upimages/merry_cup_3.jpg"><br /><br /><b>Team:</b> Allan, Duff, Macgruer, A Christie, Murray, Mailley, Mackintosh (M Farquhar 52), Hudson, Lamont, D Christie, Goller (Rostock 67). Subs not used: Durrand, Mackay<br /><br />The victory caps off a brilliant start to the 2016 season for Daniel Cormack and his squad, who have won all four of their games so far this season - the only team in the association with a 100% record. The Jags will have just four days to shake off the cup final hangovers though before they return to Fortrose on league action next Wednesday, hoping to make it six points from six in the league.<br /><br /><img width=95% src="http://www.tainthistle.co.uk/news/data/upimages/merry_cup_4.jpg">

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    Team Pld GD Pts
    Brora Wandrs 0 0 0
    Golspie Stafford 0 0 0
    Helmsdale Utd 0 0 0
    Lairg Rovers 0 0 0
    Lochinver 0 0 0
    Tain Thistle 0 0 0

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