Tain Thistle made history last night by beating Invergordon Social Club by 5 goals to nil to win the Ross-shire Welfare League Championship.
Manager Arron Christie becomes the first Thistle boss to secure the league, leading a welfare side who have made a habit out of setting new club records this season. Christie recalled Calum Macdonald who stepped in to partner Robbie Ross up front, while Andy Durrand made way for James Rice at left back in the only other significant change to the side.
A nervy starting eleven and a raucous sideline were settled with the first goal after eight minutes, in the most unlikely fashion. The Jags scored when Social goalkeeper Scott MacGruer gifted Liam Rostock the opening goal, believing the winger's shot to be going wide. The ball trickled across the face of goal before nestling in the far corner, much to the amazement of MacGruer and the crowd.
At 1-0, Thistle looked radiant, and before long the attacking force of Rostock was once again too much for the Social Club. Referee Matty MacLelland awarded a penalty to Thistle for a foul on the inside of the eighteen yard box and top scorer Robert Ross made no mistake with the spot kick. After 15 minutes, Tain were cruising at 2-0.
Michael Brand was unlucky not to have scored on a number of occasions in the first half, as his aerial prowess twice found him heading goalward only for Social to clear the ball off the goal line.
The third goal came from clever play from Calum Macdonald who shot at goal; only to see his effort deflected into the path of Daniel Christie, who finished expertly.
A good tempered second half saw Thistle playing some of the best football they have played all season, Ross and Rostock both getting on the score sheet once more to make it 5-0; the latter producing the finest of chips over MacGruer to cap off a brilliant team performance.
The win crowns Thistle as the 2009 Ross-shire Welfare League champions -- the first time the club has ever won the prestigious competition.
Club chairman Niall Harkiss reserved thanks for everyone connected with the club.
"I've spoken to many people over the past week who have a connection with this wonderful club. People who play or have been players in the past, current and former committee members and spectators like myself. Today has been the result of the hard work of all those people, and to see the genuine delight on all of their faces makes what we do here extremely worthwhile. Tonight's victory is as much for our current playing staff and committee as it is for those have served the club in years gone by."
Post match, Railway Hotel manager Alan Nimmons was the perfect host, providing food, entertainment and a venue for the jubilant players and committee.
Thistle will now contest the Charity Shield against Ross-shire Club on August 15th, at Grant Park.
Martin, Brand, Rice (Oliver), A Christie, Dingwall, Goller, Rostock, D Christie, Farquhar, Macdonald (Reid), Ross (McGaw)
Subs not used:
Rostock 8, 77
Ross pen 13, 56
D Christie 42
Man of the Match:
Nobody, they are all brilliant!
Once again, Tain Thistle will be fully featured in Sports Interactive's multi million selling game Football Manager, as FM 2010 is prepared for release. The Thistle data team will be working directly, over the coming weeks, to edit and update the team for the upcoming 2009/10 season.
Thistle hit the national headlines last year when the North Caledonian league club were introduced to Football Manager for the first time, with every signed player and staff member represented in the game.
Thistle hit the headlines in November 2008
Robert Ross is no stranger to pressure. He has had his fair share of footballing ups and downs since he first pulled a Tain Thistle shirt on over ten years ago. The stalwart striker is expected to take the field for Thistle this Wednesday at Grant Park, against season long rivals, Invergordon Social Club in a game which could see Tain Thistle win the Ross-shire Welfare League title for the first time in the club's thirteen year history.
Thistle were handed a last day league decider against the Social Club when Terry Stirling's Alness Athletic side drew 1-1 with Dingwall's Ross-shire Club. For Robert Ross, the news was bitter sweet as he netted against Cromarty to push Tain closer to the title. Only a week prior, the powerful forward had watched the title race split open when Stephen Macallum's 95th minute strike denied Thistle a three point lead. At full time the participants cleared -- all but one, as a devastated Ross slumped to the ground, powerless to accept that the glorious chance to win had just passed his side by.
But Ross is ever the optimist.
"It was a really hard one to take. Everyone put in so much effort and to see it disappear in a split second was difficult to accept. Luckily it's in our hands again and I just hope that we are up to the task."
As one of the club's all-time goalscorers, Ross first netted for the club eleven years ago, at the age of only 16, scoring his first goal of many in May 1998, as Gordon Burry's Tain Thistle were handed an 8-1 defeat to the Morven. Ross has gone on to score over 60 goals for the club, second only to Garry Perks in Thistle colours. Despite prolific scoring and a successful spell at Portmahomack between 2004 and 2006, one thing has eluded Ross throughout his storied career - a league winner's medal.
"A league medal would mean a lot to me. I've never won a league with any team. It's going to be a hard game, but I think we can do it. To get a goal and to win a medal would be a perfect way for me to bow out, in what could be my last game."
A candid Ross never gives too much away, and as his future remains uncertain beyond the current Welfare football season, rumours of a move to North Caledonian rivals Invergordon are sure to add a twist to this Wednesday's game against Invergordon's famous Social.
Thistle have enjoyed good league form against their Invergordon counterparts, beating Social 5-0 at the Recreation Grounds, but high stakes Cup encounters hae seen a penalty shoot-out loss and a last gasp 3-2 win for Tain both home and away.
For the Jags' faithful supporters however, the game is not about the future of any player within it, nor the season-long rivalry between the sides. For the club, Wednesday adds the finishing touch to a fairy tale unmatched in the history of Welfare football in Ross-shire.
The same Tain Thistle that conceded 100 goals in 16 games in 1998 finishing with only one point have evolved to become the best team in Ross-shire. Through over a decade of hard work from leaders such as Gordon Burry, Billy Russell and now Arron Christie and Steven Martin, Thistle need only 3 points to remain two points ahead of their Dingwall rivals, Ross-shire Club, to secure the Ross-shire Welfare Football Association's greatest prize - the league championship.
The all important game takes place this Wednesday evening, at Grant Park with a 7.30pm kick off. With Ross-shire Club fully expected to take 3 points at home against Inver, all eyes will be on Tain. Now, only time will tell.
Despite an under-par performance, a flying Tain Thistle side dropped Cromarty in a 9-0 win at Victoria Park tonight, as Alness Athletic recorded a draw at home to Ross Club.
Missing Reid, Macdonald and Oliver from the regular setup, Arron Christie reintroduced Andy Durrand, allowing James Rice to move to the right wing, playing Liam Rostock and Robbie Ross together as a striking pairing for the first time this season. The move proved a masterstroke as both Rice and Rostock netted hat-tricks, with Ross also notching a goal during the blitz.
The inexperienced Cromarty side got off to a decent start, playing some good football in spells but had no reply to an early James Rice strike, who turned and volleyed home an effort inside the six yard box.
Robbie Ross was quick to extend the lead, finishing at the near post of young goalkeeper Craig Maclean who was helpless in his attempt to prevent the rabid forward from scoring his 10th of the season.
A fifteen minute reprieve was all that Cromarty could muster as the pace and determination of Liam Rostock and Darran Goller took its toll; the former netting two goals in quick succession to make it 4-0 by the half hour mark.
Cromarty were undeterred however and a number of clever plays from Calum Mackay and Philip Macdonald saw the Croms come close to netting a consolation.
Nevertheless, the storm remained unweathered until half time, and upon the restart a rampant Thistle picked up the pace again. James Rice was again the hero, this time netting from distance before leaping on a tap in opportunity to net his first ever hat trick for Thistle, making it 6-0.
Thistle introduced Craig Nimmons, former Croms man Brian Cameron and Bob Swann late on and it was Nimmons who scored next, dribbling close into Maclean before rattling an effort past him at his near post to make it 7-0.
Rostock, playing on after Rice had been replaced was not to be outdone - matching the winger's contribution by recording the second hat trick of the night.
At 8-0, it looked like the game was up, but a vibrant Craig Nimmons was to offer more, dribbling past the final line of defence, passing up an opportunity to square to a screaming Swann, before walking the ball into the net to make it 9-0.
The goal capped off an average performance, but a tremendous result for a Tain Thistle team still chasing Ross-shire Welfare League glory. News from Alness came through close to the full time whistle that Dingwall's Ross-shire Club had managed only a draw against Terry Stirling's Alness Athletic, putting the Jags two points clear in the race, with only a game to play. Manager Arron Christie extended his thanks to Terry after the game.
The Sutor Inn's withdrawl from the RWFA means that Thistle will have no game at the weekend (receiving a bye to the semi final of the Coronation Cup). Thistle's next game will be the title decider against Invergordon Social Club. A win for Thistle will guarantee them the Ross-shire Welfare League title.
In other action, Balintore recorded a 4-3 win over the Social Club.
Martin, Brand, Durrand, A Christie, Dingwall, Farquhar (Cameron), D Christie, Goller (Swann), Rice (Nimmons), Rostock, Ross
Rice 6, 50, 56, Ross 12, Rostock 21, 27, 76, Nimmons 65, 89
Men of the Match:
Liam Rostock, James Rice & Craig Nimmons
It was honours even as the Ross-shire Welfare league's two top clubs met at Grant Park last night. Tied on points at the top of the table, Tain Thistle and Dingwall's Ross-shire Club were looking for an edge as the league fixtures move into their final fortnight.
Thistle were missing only Mark Reid from the club's regular eleven, making way for an express shipment of a fresh Calum Macdonald; the prolific striker dashing northward from Comrie at the last minute. James Rice also returned to the starting line-up to replace Andy Durrand, who had impressed when he stood in for the gendarme left-back.
The game began with a frenetic pace, as it had in Dingwall several weeks prior. Ross keeper Tommy Wilson avoided a scare in the opening minutes when Darran Goller's strength and clever play down the left allowed him to cross a ball over the advancing stopper; Robbie Ross and Macdonald however, unable to head towards the open goal.
The breakthrough came at the other end however, when Steven Macallum struck the ball across the face of Thistle's goal to beat Steven Martin at his far post. The chance had come from persistent attacks down the middle of the park, putting Dingwall and Christie to the test at the back.
Ross-shire enjoyed only ten minutes of their lead as Thistle hit back. Liam Rostock, quick as a cat, opened up the Ross-shire flanks with regularity and having failed to find a man with a cross only minutes earlier, the winger found the head of Calum Macdonald to make it 1-1; the forward nodding through the body of Wilson, in the same way he had in Dingwall against David Mitchell.
Thistle pushed for a second before half time, but despite a number of headed attempts and a Michael Brand strike from outside the box, the score remained locked at 1-1.
Ross-shire came out of the traps a different hound in the second half; Wilson leading well from the back with a number of long kicks which proved tricky for the Thistle defence in a clustered eighteen yard box.
At the other end, Goller and Rostock continued their attacks, and created a number of chances for Ross and Macdonald, the latter forcing Wilson to make a cat like save before Ross had a header cleared off the line.
Goller was finally the hero as he found himself clean through on goal. It appeared that his effort had been saved by Wilson in the far corner, but the shot had trundled in beyond the outreached hand of the Ross stopper, and Thistle were 2-1 up.
A final quarter hour passed as Thistle and Ross Club moved into stoppage time -- not without scares at either end, but the score remained the same. Referee Keith Middleton stunned onlookers by adding a ferocious five minutes over and above the ninety. It was on the fifth minute, that Steven Macallum popped up to shock the Tain crowd, with the most stunning of strikes, from 30 yards. Struck well, the shot flew with precision into the top left hand corner of Martin's goal; leaving the Thistle keeper helpless.
The devastating climax for Thistle leaves them locked in first place with their Dingwall rivals, after a grueling match which supporters argue may have been the best of the season.
In the only other result of the evening, Inver dumped Balintore by 3 goals to 2, giving the Port side a lifeline in the title race. News from Invergordon suggests that the Sutor Inn have withdrawn from the RWFA, but later reports suggest this may not be the case. Also, in a bizarre twist, Cromarty, who were scheduled to play Alness away, assumed the game was in Cromarty and as a result their game was not played.
Martin, Brand, Rice, Dingwall, A Christie, Farquhar, D Christie, Macdonald, Ross, Goller (Cameron), Rostock
Subs not used:
Nimmons, Swann, McGaw, Durrand
Macdonald 40, Goller 73
Man of the Match:
Tain Thistle will conduct a joint training session between both Ross-shire Welfare and North Caledonian teams this Monday night (July 13th), with representative managers Arron Christie and John Oliver handling coaching.
Players keen on North Caledonian involvement are encouraged to come along to Grant Park for 7pm.
A combination of bad luck in front of goal and questionable officiating cost Tain Thistle three valuable points at Seaboard Park tonight.
Having gone 1-0 up through Mark Reid, Thistle's hopes of keeping their first place spot intact took a tumble in the second half as the appointed referee handed Balintore lifelines in abundance. Balintore pulled two goals back after two controversial penalty awards to win the game with minutes remaining, to put Thistle's title hopes in the balance.
Manager Arron Christie named a strong team, missing only Darran Goller from their regular lineup. James Rice returned to take a bench spot, with unlucky squad members Bob Swann and Davie Matheson falling just short of a place.
Tain started brightly, dominating the opening stages of the game and could have gone 1-0 ahead when Robbie Ross rattled both the crossbar and the post with a shot that looked goal bound, but the ball sensationally deflected out and Balintore cleared.
Mark Reid came close also when Kyle Oliver's excellent break down the left saw the striker clean through on Shearer's goal before he swerved a shot over the bar.
The goal came from a corner on 26 minutes however, when Reid connected at the far post to beat Shearer. At 1-0, Thistle looked confident going in at half time.
But a bizarre show of officiating in the second half saw the game take an unexpected turn. The referee seemed to halt play with regularity, with several calls going against Thistle, for a series of challenges and exchanges. A period of constant interruption saw Balintore back in the game just past the hour, when the referee awarded the home side a penalty.
Keith Dingwall, who was struck with the ball from point blank range in the 18 yard box was adjudged to have deliberately handled the ball, and the resultant penalty award saw Gavin Mackenzie finish well to make it 1-1. An absolutely furious Thistle bench were only further aggravated by dubious decisions that were to follow.
Thistle, appreciated for their clever passing football all season, were not allowed to play their game as Liam Rostock and Robbie Ross were hauled down when through on goal, which produced neither a booking nor even a free kick for the visitors.
A horrendous injury for Kyle Oliver was only barely averted also, when goalkeeper Shearer sent himself through the advancing midfielder with both feet to prevent a goalscoring opportunity, taking the man and ball with him -- resulting in only a throw in.
The game took its final ugly turn when the referee awarded Balintore a further penalty with minutes remaining, for a foul on Martin Mackay. Mackenzie again scored the resultant spot kick to make it 2-1. While the penalty was the correct award on the second occasion, the Thistle supporters and players will feel deeply aggrieved at several other decisions made during the evening's affairs, which undoubtedly hampered their efforts -- so much so that Rostock, Farquhar and unused substitute Craig Nimmons were all booked for their protests.
The defeat, Thistle's second in the league, has allowed Ross-shire Club to level them on points, after they humiliated Sutor Inn in Dingwall with a 10-1 win. In other action, Social Club beat Cromarty and the Inver were beaten 6-3 at home by Alness.
Martin, Brand, Durrand (Rice), Dingwall, A Christie, Oliver, D Christie, Rostock, Reid, Ross, Farquhar
Subs not used:
Rice, McGaw, Nimmons, Cameron
Farquhar, Rostock, Nimmons
Man of the Match:
An organised Inver were the better side on Gala day, as a depleted and lifeless Tain Thistle side were beaten 3-1 in the 1st Round of the Seaboard Cup.
Absence was the word of the day, as Thistle were missing no fewer than EIGHT first team regulars with Arron Christie, James Rice, Calum Macdonald, Mark Reid, Robbie Ross, Paul Cowie, Darran Goller and Gary Austin all otherwise engaged, injured or on holiday, leaving assistant manager Steven Martin with no other choice but to bring in extra players.
Full back Ryan Cowie returned to the side for the first time in almost a year, while 15 year old forward Stephen McGaw (brother of Darren), who has been playing well for Alness Under 17s, was drafted in. The weakness in numbers meant that a recovering Andy Murray had to be recalled, while Darren McGaw was again the target man up front, making only his third start of the campaign.
Inver, welcoming back Christopher Mailley to their side, looked organised from the get-go, testing the Thistle defence with a number of high balls. The opener came in fifteen minutes, when the humungous Scott Innes connected with a cross to nod past Martin. Flat footed, Thistle were yet to start, as Inver went 1-0 up.
Thistle may have been close to a second string, but they still had the pace of frontman Liam Rostock, and as the tempo increased, the winger became more involved. Rostock found Darren McGaw on a couple of occasions but the striker fell short on positioning.
As the first half went on, Thistle looked more like the side who are challenging for the league, coming close on a couple of occasions to find a leveller. Michael Brand couldn't believe his poor luck on the half hour mark, when his shot rifled off the post and back into goalkeeper Henderson's hands.
Thistle's equalizer finally came on 38 minutes, when McGaw found himself clean through on Henderson. Showing his natural ability in front of goal for the second time in only 4 days, McGaw expertly placed the ball past Henderson to make it 1-1.
The players and crowd were in for a surprise only minutes later however when referee Mike Stankie blew his whistle to call an end to proceedings -- six minutes short of half time! The referee later admitted his gaff, and restarted the game -- citing his involvement in an Under 15s game earlier that week as the reason for his confusion!
Any momentum to be had from their equalizer was soon killed, when defensive frailty was again shown. A ball across the face of Martin's goal only need the slightest of touches from David Calderwood, who was successful in getting the back of his leg onto it. At 2-1, Inver slipped into cruise control.
Thistle went on to replace Liam Rostock, who was feeling the effects of Thistle's recent schedule, having contributed greatly to the Thistle cause over the past ten days.
Despite free kick opportunities for Daniel Christie and a headed effort on goal by Keith Dingwall, the game was all said and done with the misjudgement of a ball into the six yard box. Goalkeeper Martin made the shout but was undone by the aerial ability of Inver's attack, first knocking the ball on, before nodding a ball over the advancing Martin.
At 3-1, a calm and careful Inver side were never going to throw away their lead, and the resultant win was one they thoroughly deserved.
Thistle now look forward to a consecutive run of league games, which, within their own power, could see them win the Ross-shire Welfare league. Supporters will be concerned about the side's recent loss of form, but the imminent return of Rice, Goller, Christie and Ross will hopefully boost the side for their league clash with Balintore on Wednesday.
Martin, Murray (S McGaw), R Cowie, Farquhar, Dingwall, Brand, Oliver, Durrand, Rostock (Nimmons), D McGaw, D Christie
Subs not used:
D McGaw 38
Man of the Match:
Tain Juniors' Under 17 side took a tumble at Alness last night, as the home side took a 3-1 win, to put a dent in Tain's hopes of lifting the SWL Ross-shire league trophy.
Jordan Greig, who also scored against Thistle on Wednesday, opened the scoring for Alness, before Tain's recalled Martin Smith pulled one back. But in the second half, Alness went 2-1 up through Stephen McGaw, before Nick Bowes knocked in a decisive third to make it 3-1.
Allan, Gordon, Matheson, Johnston, Sutherland, Shearer, Stewart, Mein, Smith, Maclellan, Allison
McKenna, Philips, Robertson, Bell
Terry Stirling hit the jackpot tonight, as he became the first manager to pick the lock on Tain Thistle's league form this season, with a last ditch 4-3 win for his Alness Athletic, thanks to a Jordan Greig scramble in the final minutes of the game.
In the absense of manager Arron Christie, assistant Steve Martin made three changes to the side who won the Cordiner Cup on Saturday. Returning for the first time in several weeks, Gary Austin replaced Michael Brand at right back, with the latter coming into the midfield. Farquhar made way for Brand, replacing the absent Christie at centre half. In the final change, Darren McGaw was recalled to the starting eleven, replacing Mark Reid.
Thistle looked sharp from the get go; Goller and Rostock producing their usual spirited wing play to frighten the Alness defence, but all too quickly the game took a surprise turn. Rostock was dispossessed deep into his own half, and the result was a goal for Alness, as the Thistle defence were caught flat footed, much to the anger of Thistle keeper Martin.
Only minutes later, a Dingwall ball played back into Martin's 18 yard box resulted in further disaster, when a quick footed Jamie McDonald lept onto the ball for his second.
At 2-0, Thistle were a shambles, and a quick re-organisation of the side saw Kyle Oliver replace Austin, fitness-short and unable to continue. Before long, Darran Goller was to join the casualty list, pulling up with a hamstring complaint - and was replaced by Mark Reid, who switched the right side.
Striker Darren McGaw gave Thistle some first half hope when was played through on Andrew Maitland's goal. The nimble forward placed the ball past Maitland with ease, notching his second of the season, to pull the score back to 1-2.
Alness were not done however, and soon McDonald had notched his hat trick, with a splendid shot from outside the box, which looped past Martin. The shot was tremendously well struck, and goalkeeper Martin could have done very little to prevent it.
At 3-1, a bedraggled Tain looked a shadow of their former selves, lacking inspiration and shape.
The second half proved different however, as Liam Rostock began to command the wing, working with Andy Durrand, who was resilient as a full back. Rostock was instrumental in Thistle's second to pull the score back to 2-3, as his looping cross was met by an oncoming Robbie Ross, who bulleted a header beyond Maitland.
Rostock continued to dominate, and cleverly tricked former Thistle man Colin Burry on the flank with a turn. Burry's retaliation, a kick to the leg of Rostock only merited a yellow card in the book of referee John Nicolson -- much to the anger of the Thistle touchline.
Alness looked to have taken the foot of the pedal at the wrong moment with ten minutes remaining, as Thistle soon found a third to level. Rostock, turning and twisting the defence once more was able to break free 20 yards from goal before striking a beautiful shot into the top corner of Maitland's net! The Thistle goal will easily be a candidate for goal of the season.
At 3-3, it appeared that only one team could win, but the temper of the game had taken an ill turn following the Rostock/Burry incident. In the end, a goalmouth scramble which saw Martin exposed provided substitute Jordan Greig with an opportunity to score, which he took with ease, much to the delight of the home side.
The 4-3 defeat leaves Thistle pointless in July, but still on 23 points at the top of the Ross-shire Welfare league. Ross Club's win at home to Balintore pushes them to within three points of Thistle a fortnight ahead of their Tain meeting, while Inver climbed higher with a 6-0 win over Social Club. In other action, Cromarty beat a resilient Sutor Inn 4-3.
Martin, Austin (Oliver), Durrand, Dingwall, Farquhar, D Christie, Brand, Goller (Reid), Rostock, Ross, McGaw
Subs not used:
Swann, Nimmons, Matheson
McGaw 23, Ross 74, Rostock 81
Man of the Match: