As has too often been the case, Tain Thistle found themselves fighting to claw back a heavy deficit in the opening quarter hour of their 200 mile round trip to Thurso. Despite many chances, and domination of a second half of play, the Jags slumped to a 4-1 defeat.
With the huge advantage of a blustering wind blowing in their favour, Thurso took a 6th minute lead, courtesy of a simple Michael Petrie header. Before Thistle could regain their composure, the momentum of the wind single handedly carried a Lee MacDougal drive past Barry Nimmons on the 11th minute, to put the St Georges Park men 2-0 ahead.
Thurso went 3-0 up just after the quarter hour mark, with Andrew Cummings heading home a corner. The goal was contested by the Thistle bench, as Thurso winger Martin Sinclair sat in an offside position when the set piece was taken, but the protests were waved off by referee Bob Gunn.
Just as it seemed things couldn’t get worse, in-form Thistle defender Gordon Duff was forced to leave the field of play with a suspected hamstring strain, leaving manager Robbie Ross with a formation shuffling nightmare. Late call offs and work commitments had forced the Jags manager to make no fewer than three key changes to the side that defeated Alness United, with hometown boys Michael Brand, Martyn Farquhar and Paul Cowie coming in to the side.
Thistle assumed a reasonable shape for the remainder of the first half, managing to cope with the wind-assisted attacks of Thurso when required. Despite some increased pressure applied by the visitors, their luck just would not turn, with top scorer Colin Burry coming off with only half an hour played, complaining of nausea.
A drastically rearranged Thistle side emerged for the second half with goals in mind. Now with the wind on their side, Tain pushed forward, with midfielder Chris Mailley switching with Michael Brand up front. Thurso keeper Asa Sinclair dealt with a number of Thistle efforts; most notably a Scott Innes long range effort which cannoned off the chest of Sinclair, only to fall into defender Grant Steven’s path for a clearance.
Approaching the hour mark, Thurso broke against the sustained pressure of the away side to go two-on-one. In textbook fashion, Martin Sinclair finished a well worked counter attack to put the home side 4-0 ahead. Dejected, Thistle’s fervor turned to frustration as Christie brothers, Arron and Daniel, both saw yellow for dissent.
Christie the Elder produced a moment of hope for Tain as they struggled for a consolation, when his mazey run ended with a shot deflected off of Sinclair’s right hand post. The consolation finally came in the 85th minute however, when Michael Brand’s long range curling effort was blown into the top corner, in the classiest of the afternoon’s five goals.
Defeat at Thurso leaves Thistle at the bottom of the table, despite a chance to leap above local rivals Bonar Bridge, who along with Alness vs Halkirk, had their visit to Helmsdale postponed due to adverse weather. Defeat for Invergordon at home to Muir of Ord leaves Thistle within 4 points of Invergordon and Alness, while the Jags now sit 6 points behind Thurso.
The fixture between Tain Thistle and Golspie Sutherland, originally scheduled for January 24th, has been pulled forward to take place on November 1st, at Grant Park with a 2pm kick off.
The return fixture, to be played in Golspie, will now take place on January 24th.
Tain Thistle battled their way to their first points and more importantly, their first victory of the 2008/09 North Caledonian league campaign, with a 4-3 home win over Tommy Regan’s young Alness United side.
Jags’ boss Robbie Ross made two changes to the previous week’s side, with towering debut man Scottie Innes coming in for Andy Durrand, and Daniel Christie, returning from suspension, to replace Darran Goller.
Thistle began the game with the same fervor and determination that had seen them take a 2nd minute lead in Helmsdale the week prior. Right-winger for the day, Colin Burry, came closest to opening the scoring in the first few minutes of the game, as his looping shot hit the top corner of Grant Robertson’s right-hand post and fell past.
But it was a seemingly all-to-typical lapse in the home side’s concentration which led to the opening goal, with Alness’s Jamie MacDonald slotting home a fallen cross within the 6 yard box.
Undeterred, Thistle continued their push for a goal, coming closest with an Arron Christie free kick on the half hour mark. The trio of Gordie Oman, Paul Austin and Chris Mailley bossed the midfield as they had done against Bunillidh, but it was Colin Burry who cemented his contribution with the equalizer. Cutting in from the right, the stalwart launched a 30-yard screamer past Robertson to make it 1-1 just over five minutes from half time.
The second half started slowly, with Thistle having lost some of their first half momentum, and again, a geared up Alness found the net, with David Manson reaching a through-ball to place his shot past Barry Nimmons.
2-1 down, Thistle continued to battle, reacting as they had in the first half by pushing forward; the combined attacking efforts of Daniel Christie and Scott Morrison putting the Alness defence under pressure with regularity, winning numerous corners.
Indeed, it was after a corner when Tain equalized once more, as the ball fell to a host of feet for a goalmouth scramble. Debut man Scottie Innes pounced on the loose ball to coast it along the goal line off the far post, bringing the scores level at 2-2 just before the hour mark.
Rattled, the Alness defence began to struggle to contain the attacking force of the home side, as they pushed with a renewed venom and desire to take the lead. Already with a goal under his belt, centre half Scottie Innes looked to score again, as his bullet long range effort cannoned off an unsuspecting Steven MacLean for a corner.
But Alness’s frustration was soon to be their undoing as the away side’s keeper ploughed through Tain’s Gordie Oman to concede a penalty, picking up a booking in the process. Calm and composed, winger Daniel Christie placed the ball to Robertson’s left to put Thistle 3-2 up, sending the club’s supporters into a frenzy.
Alness could do little to break Tain’s momentum, as they watched pacey substitute Darran Goller add further misery to their afternoon, pulling the United defence wide and exposed. Taking advantage of the freedom of space once again, it was man of the match Colin Burry who cemented the win with another tremendous goal. In a near carbon copy of his unsuccessful first half effort, Burry looped a shot round Robertson from distance, to this time dip the ball past the tired keeper into the far top corner, to make it 4-2.
A nervous remaining half hour provided few goal scoring opportunities but plenty of drama, as both Thistle’s Paul Austin and United’s Johnny Bremner picked up bookings. The drama culminated in an 85th penalty awarded to Alness, following a Gordon Duff tackle which the home side believed to have been a yard outside the box. Calmly, Alness midfielder Craig Munro scored the penalty to give Tain a nervous five minute finale.
Despite a couple of chances for the visitors, the strong and committed Tain Thistle dealt with the pressure of the final minutes to take the victory and their first three points of the season.
In other action this weekend, Thurso defeated Invergordon by four goals to nil, Golspie Sutherland issued Bunillidh with yet another heavy defeat and Balintore overcame the high flying Halkirk United by a single goal.
In the only league game of the day (due to the Port Services Cup 1st Round), it took a 90th minute goal to beat a rejuvenated Tain Thistle. In their best performance of the season so far, Tain were 2-1 up with 25 minutes remaining, but two errors led to the Helmsdale side stealing a win, giving the Jags their 5th consecutive defeat.
With the first half wind on their side, Tain took the lead after only 2 minutes, through a low driven free kick by Arron Christie, giving the left back his first goal of the season. 1-0 up, Tain kept the pressure on, but a controversial penalty allowed Bunillidh back into the game just before the quarter hour.
The decision did not affect Thistle's intent however, and following a series of attacks the visitors were able to take the lead again, this time with a header, scored by centre half Gordon Duff, putting Tain 2-1 ahead.
Starting the second half in the lead, Tain kept the pressure on, using the runs of Colin Burry and Darran Goller when possible. Just after the hour mark, disaster struck. A miscommunication at the back led to an opportunistic effort from the home side, which saw the ball loop over the head of goalkeeper Barry Nimmons to make it 2-2.
With everything to play for, Tain fought the game to the end only for disaster to strike in the final minute of the game. A killer through ball carried by the Helmsdale wind gave Bunillidh's Ron MacDonald a chance that he couldn't miss, and he casually slotted the ball home with ease, to give the home side a 3-2 win.
The unfortunate defeat leaves Tain at the bottom of the table, still in search of their first points of the campaign.