Tain Thistle may have been out of action this weekend due to Golspie Sutherland's involvement in the Scottish Cup, but the four other league fixtures to be played this weekend went ahead and resulted in very little movement at the top of the table.
In Dingwall, new boys Thistle failed to take advantage of a table climbing opportunity by drawing 2-2 with challengers Thurso, while in Halkirk only a last minute Mark Reynolds goal for Muir of Ord prevented the same score; Muir narrowly beating Halkirk 3-2 up in Caithness. In two bottom half clashes, Invergordon recorded their first point in a 1-1 draw with visitors Balintore, while Bonar Bridge got off the mark with a 2-1 win down at Fort William. The results see Thurso moved to the top of the table, while Tain Thistle remain unmoved in 4th.
Finally, in Scottish Cup action, Golspie were eliminated by Nairn County, their two goals no match for Nairn's five.
Tain Thistle have been issued a fine by the Scottish Football Association for a poor disciplinary record during their last 2008/09 North Caledonian league season.
The action follows an accumulated 132 points in 18 games across the season with 37 cautions and 3 red cards, averaging 7.33 points per game, making Thistle the second worst disciplined club in the league -- just ahead of the now absent Alness United.
Set to begin in October, Thistle supporters wishing to join the Tain Thistle Supporters Trust can do so by contacting the club through the website for information on how to join.
Members of the supporters trust can look forward to an exclusive printed monthly newsletter sent direct to their door, an annual free gift, members access to the club photo gallery (from November) and guaranteed invitation to club dinners and events.
Following Tain Thistle's exit from the Lindsays of Golspie North Caledonian Cup today, fixtures secretary Rod Houston has arranged for the following fixture, Tain Thistle vs Golspie Sutherland, to be played on October 3rd - the same day as the semi finals.
The Tain/Golspie fixture was originally scheduled to be played on September 26th, but due to Golspie's involvement in the Homecoming Scottish Cup, the tie had been postponed.
The game will now go ahead on October 3rd with a 3pm kick off at Thistle's Grant Park.
Tain Thistle suffered heartbreak in their first ever North Caledonian Cup match today as they fell 3-2 to a resilient and hard working Thurso at Sir Georges this afternoon, after being 2-0 up at the half way mark.
Depleted following a number of call offs and players being unavailable, manager John Oliver named a starting eleven which saw Andy Durrand make his first start, while Kyle Oliver, Daniel Christie and Robbie Ross were all recalled to the first team after playing from the bench against Bonar Bridge. Darran Goller dropped to the bench following wisdom tooth treatment.
A brilliant goalkeeping display from young Ali Matheson in the first half saw Thistle hold off a strong Thurso attack, before a combination of events before the break saw Thistle take a half time lead.
The delayed goal followed moments of opportunity for both sides, with Arron Christie hitting a free kick just over the bar, while Matheson between the sticks performed heroics to thwart a number of chances for the home side.
A mistimed challenge from Arron Christie saw the Jags concede a penalty just before the break but Thurso’s Mark Nichol failed to find the target with the spot kick, placing his shot wide of the post, and the events that followed saw Thistle go 1-0 up on the stroke of half time. The goal kick that followed led to some clever exchanges between Paul Austin and Daniel Christie, before Daniel’s brother Arron fed a looping cross into the path of Ashley Mills, who drilled the ball beyond Michael Gray for the opener.
Chris Mailley extended Tain’s lead almost instantly after the restart, with a carefully placed free kick outside the box to stun Sir Georges Park. The goal gave Thistle a deserved 2-0 lead but a resilient Thurso fought back after the hour mark to pull a goal back.
Despite a number of chances either end, it was Thurso who scored the fourth goal of the afternoon, making it 2-2 in the final ten minutes of the game, after a stramash in the six yard box saw Matheson beaten.
Thistle battled hard to retake the lead but a goal in the most heart breaking of circumstances ended the tie on 90 minutes, when defender Robbie Ross netted in his goal, lobbing the ball beyond Matheson to give Thurso a last minute cup victory.
Despite the defeat, Thistle can holds their heads high, in particular goalkeeper Ali Matheson, whose outstanding goalkeeping performance saw him draw praise, deservedly, from his team mates and the travelling Thistle support.
Thurso will now travel to neighbouring Halkirk, after their Caithness counterparts took care of Bonar Bridge, by 4 goals to 1, at Recreation Park. The other cup results saw Dingwall record a comfortable 3-0 win over Golspie, while Invergordon were trounced by Muir of Ord.
Matheson, Durrand, Oliver, Morrison, Ross, Austin, Mailley, Mills, D Christie, Lawrie, A Christie
Subs not used:
Mills 45, Mailley 47
Man of the Match:
Conon Bridge native Ali Matheson signed with Tain Thistle with every expectation of sharing the goalkeeping spot, but the Jags' young custodian has landed a first team place thanks to a handful of confident displays in the opening stages of the season.
A second generation keeper, the son of his father of the same name, Ali honed his skills as a product of the Clachnacuddin youth system, while also playing for neighbouring Maryburgh. Now 19, Ali has not been short of influences in his young career.
"My Dad has obviously had a big influence on my game, having played as a keeper for years with Conon and Maryburgh, but I also learnt a lot from my time at Clach, working with John Beaton and Gary Davidson."
Thistle manager John Oliver is the latest mentor of Ali's career, the gaffer making him his first new signing of the season back in late July, adding to a budding young squad which already features a number of former Brora youth starlets.
Having missed the season opener, Ali experienced a baptism of fire as he was thrown into the scrappiest of derby matches between Balintore and Thistle at Seaboard Park, to make his competitive debut for the club. It was the week after however when the former Clachnacuddin youth player began to raise the eyebrows of team mates and supporters alike with a confident and safe clean sheet against Invergordon.
"Beating Invergordon was a big occasion for the club, taking six points from our first three games but personally it was very pleasing to manage a clean sheet, especially against our league rivals."
This Saturday, Ali plays his fourth game for the club becoming the first goalkeeper to play for Thistle in a cup tie. But the young stopper is not afraid of the task ahead in Thurso.
"It's always going to be a hard game, going all the way up there, but from the evidence of the last few weeks there is no reason why we can't get a result and move into the semi."
"The manager has had a big impact on the club, and the results have shown that.
Left winger Arron Christie today put any rumours of a move to Golspie Sutherland to bed by promising to see the season out with his hometown club, Tain Thistle.
Christie, who was appointed captain of the 4th placed side in August, clarified his future following discussions with Thistle manager John Oliver.
"Golspie offered me a very good deal to go but my heart is with Tain and that's where I will stay for the rest of the season."
"Seeing where we are in the league with nine points from four games shows how good we can be and I want to continue to be a part of that."
Christie has only recently returned from a trip to Bulgaria, having played only once against Dingwall Thistle on the opening day before stepping off the plane to take the field against Bonar Bridge last Saturday. Christie was subsequently subbed and has missed training this week due to illness.
"A combination of the travel and having the flu this week has held me back and I've been feeling out of sorts, but I hope to be back to fitness soon and hope to be involved for our cup game this Saturday."
Tain Thistle continue to add to the history books this weekend, as they march into their first ever North Caledonian Cup match, in the most taxing of fashions. The Jags travel North to far away Caithness for their 2nd Round tie against equally high flying Thurso, with both teams having won their last three games in the league.
Thistle will not be without their share of concerns however, with defenders Martyn Farquhar, David Mackay and Gordon Duff all out missing from the side who have continued to impress. Centre half Lee Morrison remains the only regular from the Thistle back four, while Andy Durrand and Craig Sutherland may be expected to make their first starts.
Michael Brand is used to putting the tackles in against opposition in the Welfare and North Caledonian leagues, but this winter, the talented midfielder will be tackling climates and cultures thousands of miles away.
Thistle's hard working centre mid is set to leave Scotland for Kurland Village (near Plettenberg Bay) in South Africa this week to work with charitable organization, WWISA (Willing Workers in South Africa) to teach sports to children and adults within the community.
Michael grabbed a chance to speak to TainThistle.co.uk before his departure and is looking forward to the opportunity to work with the village, even if it does take him away from beloved Thistle.
"The village is in extreme poverty, which means I will get involved in other projects like building houses and improving the facilities within the community. It's going to be an interesting time and I've no doubt I'll find out more when I get there."
"I did the Inverness Half-Marathon in March and raised £850 to help me get across to South Africa and I'll be taking a number of footballs, pumps, strips and other items that have been donated by people in Tain and the surrounding area."
"Also, paper, pens and stationery for their schools; these can be bought with money that has been donated from the Tain area, family and friends of mine - Tain Royal Academy in particular has raised £218 which I will take across with me."
"The support I've had from family and friends to raise money, items and awareness has been brilliant - all in all, I've raised over £1000 worth of money and items to help the community in Kurland."
"I've always wanted to help people that are less fortunate than ourselves."
"My friend Ross Macleod recommended me to the experience and I am really looking forward to it."
Michael encourages everyone to visit http://www.wwisa.co.za to have a look at the great work the organization carries out and to view footage on Youtube about Kurland Village to help others understand about their plight.
Thistle continued their impressive start to the North Caledonian league campaign this afternoon with a 2-1 win at Migdale Playing Fields, beating Bonar Bridge to move up to fourth place in the table.
Manager John Oliver welcomed back Arron Christie to the fold, who took the place on the left wing of Chris Mailley, who confidently stepped in for the absent Gordon Duff at centre half. Martyn Farquhar also came back in, replacing Michael Brand, who had made his way to Africa.
The game started well for Thistle who found themselves unlucky not to have taken the the lead; Gordy Oman and Russell Lawrie both being denied by Bonar stopper Stevie Martin and better judgment on a number of occasions.
The goal finally came on the half hour mark when Russell Lawrie knocked the ball home from close range after a flurry of corners awarded to Thistle. The goal makes Lawrie Thistle's top scorer for the season with three in four appearances.
Thistle kept the pressure on in a more close second half with Ashley Mills and Arron Christie both impressing on the wings. Darran Goller could very well have made it 2-0 on the 70 minute mark when clever play from substitute Daniel Christie saw a ball cut back and Goller hitting a left foot shot just wide.
Bonar Bridge found the net on 75 when Sean Henstridge found a way past the resilient Thistle defence to confidently place past Ally Matheson. At 1-1, a rejuvenated Bonar were now chasing a win.
Thistle kept their concentration however and eventually their continued pressure on a tired Bonar defence won numerous corners, one of which again found Lawrie, who headed into Martin for Oliver to pounce on the rebound, with seven minutes remaining.
Thistle finished the game as the winners, making it three in a row against a side who were the better of them twice last season and will feel it was deserved.
In other result, Golspie Sutherland took care of Fort William by 5 goals to 2 in an early kick off while Thurso beat Invergordon and Halkirk destroyed Balintore. Muir of Ord entertained Dingwall in derby fashion in the only other game of the day and stunned the league by securing a 1-0 win.
The win leaves Thistle with 9 points from 12 in the handsomest of starts, sitting a very comfortable fourth in the North Caledonian league table.
Matheson, Mackay, Farquhar, Morrison, Mailley, Oman (Oliver 80), Austin, Goller (Ross 80), Mills, Lawrie, A Christie (D Christie 66)
Subs not used:
Lawrie 30, Oliver 83
Man of the Match:
The club's official website, located at http://www.tainthistle.co.uk has been given a slight revamp and update for the new season.
Added are the complete competitive results from Thistle's first 13 years of Welfare football, detailing every record and result against all clubs faced. A number of updates will follow in the coming weeks.
The Tain Thistle website hit a record 17,444 unique visits for August 2009, meaning that the site is being visited (on average) about 560 times a day! The record surpassed an earlier achievement in the year, having gradually climbed to a previous record of 13,676 in May, which brings the tally for the year close to an unbelievable 111,000 hits!
Despite Bonar Bridge's last two fixtures being postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, the Sutherland side have confirmed that unless the weather turns, their match against Tain Thistle will go ahead as planned at Migdale Park tomorrow, with a 3pm kick off.
8th placed Bonar, who played in the qualifying round of the North of Scotland Cup this season, losing out to Brora Rangers have played only one fixture so far this season, losing 3-0 to champions Golspie Sutherland on the opening day of the league campaign.
Thistle recorded their second win of the North Caledonian campaign today with a solid and careful 3-0 victory over county rivals Invergordon at Grant Park. The game, rescheduled for 1pm to avoid conflict with the Scotland international game, saw goals from Darran Goller and Russell Lawrie as well as Chris Mailley, who notched his first for the club.
Manager John Oliver had to deal with absentees Martyn Farquhar, Robbie Ross and Daniel Christie, while left winger Arron Christie remained on leave. Gordie Oman was handed a first team place, with Michael Brand and Gordon Duff both recalled at the back. Mailley took his spot in a more favoured midfield position, on the left, while Kyle Oliver dropped to the bench.
The forward pairing of Lawrie and Goller had been clever against Balintore this week and as quickly as eight minutes in it had taken effect once again, with Goller finishing well to put Thistle 1-0 up, placing the ball just under the body of Angus Hutchison. Goller had scored twice against Hutchison only two weeks prior, against the keeper's Portland Hotspurs side.
The back two of Duff and Morrison held very well to deal with the counter attacking play of Invergordon, but could do nothing but watch as the Recreation Park men cannoned a shot of the bar, and forced Thistle's Ally Matheson to tip another past the post.
Despite some pressure, Thistle had chances to extend their lead, Lawrie shooting wide and into Hutchison on three occasions.
Lawrie finally found the net in the second half however, when he connected with a Mailley cross just after the hour mark, placing a header into the top corner of Hutchison's net.
At 2-0, Invergordon lost their competitive edge and before long, Christopher Mailley dribbled past a committed Hutchison to make it 3-0 with the calmest of finishes.
In goal, Ally Matheson had a solid afternoon, keeping Thistle's first clean sheet in the North Caledonian league since November 2008 when Barry Nimmons kept it at zero against Thurso.
The result pushes Thistle into fifth place, joint on six points with Dingwall, Golspie, Halkirk and Thurso. In the bottom half, Bonar remain on zero having played only one game due to their water logged pitch, and in other action Balintore were dropped out of the NCFA Cup, losing 7-2 to Muir of Ord in the qualifying round at Seaboard Park. Halkirk beat Golspie 2-0 in the other league game today while Dingwall and Fort William had no fixtures.
Matheson, Mackay, Brand, Duff, Morrison, Austin, Oman, Mailley, Mills, Goller (Sutherland 80), Lawrie
Subs not used:
Goller 8, Lawrie 62, Mailley 78
Man of the Match:
Tain Thistle are expected to be without Robbie Ross, Arron Christie and Martyn Farquhar for their early kick off tomorrow against visitors Invergordon. Michael Brand, however is expected to be fit for the game with Gordon Duff also expected to return to action.