With Tain Thistle's game against Invergordon pushed back to December 5th, the only local North Caledonian league game of the day saw Balintore narrowly miss out on a draw with high fliers Dingwall Thistle, losing 2-1 at Seaboard Park.
In other action Muir of Ord piled more defeat on Fort William's reserves, while Thurso notched a 6-1 win over Bonar Bridge at Sir Georges Park.
Tain Thistle learned today that defender David Mackay will serve an immediate one match ban following his dismissal against Muir of Ord last weekend.
His suspension means that he will miss the club's December 5th trip to Invergordon, as Thistle look to extend the gap between themselves and the 9th placed club.
Tain Thistle were dropped out of the SWL Cup at the 2nd Round today, on the end of a 5-0 defeat to an impressive Muir of Ord Rovers.
Inverness striker Bobby France joined Nairn natives Peter Belby and Sam Rodriguez in the Tain lineup for today's cup tie, with youngster Ayah Rattanaphithak also listed on the bench.
With Daniel Christie and Martyn Farquhar both missing, Thistle welcomed back Michael Brand and Liam Rostock to the starting lineup, both coming back from an extended absence.
As has often been the case this season, defensive miscommunication led to the opener, as Muir of Ord capitalised on Thistle's failure to clear the ball, going 1-0 up on
Thistle's afternoon continued to look bleak when goalkeeper Ali Matheson came off the worst in a 50/50, leaving him grounded for several minutes with a suspected arm injury. The stopper was able to play on however, but had conceded a second within minutes, with Tain's defensive frailties showing again.
Muir of Ord began the second half as they finished the first, netting once more with a lob over Matheson to go 3-0 up. 3-0 down, Tain began playing some better football with Russell Lawrie missing the side's best chance of consolation, one on one with the Muir keeper; Darran Goller also unable to capitalize with a rebound effort.
A fourth followed on 68 minutes, before Muir rounded off their afternoon with a headed effort to make it 5-0.
Ali Matheson kept the score at five, following an 89th minute penalty award for Muir of Ord, saving the set piece taker's effort; David Mackay dismissed for the infringement.
The defeat drops Thistle out of the cup, while Muir of Ord advance to the semi final.
Matheson, Sutherland, Durrand (Rodriguez), Murray (Belby), Mackay, Mailley, Goller (Rattanaphithak), Brand, Lawrie, France, Rostock
Subs not used:
Man of the Match:
Tain Thistle head into their first ever SWL Cup tie this weekend, welcoming Muir of Ord Rovers to Grant Park for the first time since September 2008.
Thistle are expected to be without Martyn Farquhar and Daniel Christie, but the squad will be buoyed by the return of Michael Brand, who concluded his visit to Africa last week. A heavily bearded Andy Murray is also expected to make a return to action.
Thistle are also expected to include the returning Liam Rostock, who ironically last played for Thistle in a North Caledonian FA game, last season against Muir of Ord, scoring Tain's only goal, before moving to Bonar Bridge.
The stars of Tain Thistle will tackle each other over the next four weeks in a Beard War. Players and committee will battle it out in a competition to grow the best beard at the club.
Early odds from the bookies have Andy Murray as the clear favourite, with Daniel Christie following close behind. Michael Brand is a surprise entry at 10/1.
Murray - 3/1
Christie - 5/1
Brand - 10/1
Dickie - 250/1
Goller - 1000/1
With Fort William being forced to postpone yet another home fixture (at home to league leaders Thurso) and Halkirk deeming their pitch unplayable for their tie with Dingwall Thistle, only three games were played yesterday on the North Caledonian league card.
As already reported, Tain Thistle were defeated 3-0 at home by a much improved Balintore side. The win takes Balintore up to 7th place, now only two points behind their rivals.
At Pavilion Park, Muir of Ord continued to press towards the top spots in the table with a dominant 3-1 win over champions Golspie Sutherland. Tony Farquhar cancelled out an Alex Bone opener just after the half hour mark before Ewen Dance put the Muir men ahead in the second half. A second Farquhar goal made the result academic, ten minutes from time.
The result is the latest in a string of disappointing results for Golspie, who remain in 5th place, ten points off the top, while Muir push into 3rd.
Bonar Bridge turned a corner yesterday with an emphatic 4-2 win over Shaun Ross' Invergordon. New manager Kraig Vass introduced a few new faces to the Sutherland side, including hat-trick hero Robert McDonald who added his goals after Sean Henstridge had given Bonar the lead. Invergordon offered late replies through Alan Stone and Robbie Ross, but could not prevent their 7th defeat of the season.
Fort William, now several games behind, remain in bottom place with no points, while Invergordon's run of bad luck continues leaving them in 9th with 1 point. Meanwhile, in the middle of the table, the competition is becoming fierce, with only three points distancing Tain Thistle, Balintore and Bonar Bridge.
Balintore retained the Graham Jardine Quaich this afternoon, while also securing 3 valuable points in the North Caledonian league against home side, Tain Thistle, at Grant Park.
Andy Ripley provided the opener before the half hour mark, before Balintore captain Ross Powell made it 2-0 before half time. Ripley added another in the second half to make it 3-0, recording the final goal of the game.
Manager John Oliver had to deal with late call offs once again, but was able to reintroduce Lee Morrison to the back four. Kyle Oliver moved back into the midfield, while Darren Oliver returned to the bench. Steven Martin, formerly of Bonar Bridge FC, was named as a substitute.
The game began in cagey style with neither side able to stamp their authority in the opening quarter however Balintore came the closest to taking the lead with a thumping effort on 20 minutes; Ali Matheson palming the ball wide with a brilliant reflex save.
It was Matheson however that provided Balintore with the opener when the stopper failed to clear a passback, leaving Seaboard striker Andrew Ripley with the easiest of finishes, passing the ball into the empty net to put Balintore 1-0 up.
Within ten minutes, Balintore had scored again. Captain Ross Powell played a cross into the Thistle box that eventually sail over Matheson's head and arms into the net.
Darran Goller had the best chance for Tain in the first half, put through one-on-one with Ross Henderson, but the keeper was faster to the ball.
Thistle, feeling aggrieved to be 2-0 down after a fairly even first half, started the second half in promising style, testing Ross Henderson with a series of corners. However, it was Balintore who found the only goal of the half, going 3-0 up on 52 minutes. Ripley again, was the scorer, doing very well to out pace full back Martyn Farquhar and place the ball past Matheson.
At 3-0 down, Thistle began to play some of their better football, substitutes Steven Martin and Darren Oliver introduced for Andy Durrand and Darran Goller.
Russell Lawrie should have pulled a goal back after being played through by Martin. The striker rounded Henderson, but failed to tap the ball into the empty net, instead hitting the side netting.
Martin, earlier the creator, should also have scored, having played himself into a clear position, but found his shot blocked.
Committee member Alan Forsyth co-ordinated the presentation of the Quaich, which was awarded to Balintore captain Ross Powell at full time by Jim Jardine, father of Graham, to whom the trophy is a continued memorial to.
(Below: Ross Powell, with Jim Jardine)
Matheson, Sutherland, Farquhar, Mackay, Morrison, K Oliver, Mailley, Lawrie, Goller (D Oliver), Christie, Durrand (Martin)
Man of the Match:
This Saturday, Tain Thistle and Balintore will meet in the North Caledonian league but will also recontest the Graham Jardine Quaich, which was battled out for the first time last year between the sides at Grant Park.
The Quaich, a memorium to former Tain and Balintore player Graham Jardine, was initially contested between Tain St Duthus and the Seaboard side until the Saints folded in 2005. Thistle reintoduced the trophy in 2008.
Last season, Balintore proved to be the winners, with then-manager Alan Brindle's side winning by 5 goals to 2, over Robbie Ross's Thistle side.
(Picture below: Last season's winning captain, John Skinner)
Tain were outclassed in Dingwall today, as the club's first ever North Caledonian league game on astroturf ended in a 6-0 defeat to the home town's Thistle. John Macleod again put the Tain Jags to the sword with four goals.
Tain Thistle were again without Lee Morrison at the back as manager John Oliver renamed the young makeshift defence of Sutherland, Farquhar, Oliver and Mackay.
In goal, Ali Matheson was up to the test of the Dingwall attack for most of the first half, but could do little to prevent a three goal flurry after the quarter hour mark; Macleod forcing three past the Tain stopper after defensive errors let the striker in on three occasions for a first half hat trick.
Tain's lone forward Russell Lawrie found himself in an advanced position a couple of times in the first half but the organised defence of Dingwall were more than up to the task.
Gary Urquhart nodded home a fourth before the break to make it 4-0 at half time.
The messy away side shipped a further two goals within minutes of the restart and at 6-0, the Dingwall men took their foot off the pedal.
Daniel Christie came closest to hitting back for Tain with a long range effort in the second half; Neil Mackay doing well to palm the shot away for a corner.
The introduction of substitute Martin Smith brought a new attacking option for Tain, with the action on the artificial surface noticeably calmer than in the first half. Smith found himself inches away from a consolation on 80 minutes at Mackay's near post, but fired his effort inches wide.
The game finished 6-0 to Dingwall, taking them to 2nd place in the league, four points clear of Halkirk, Golspie and Muir of Ord; the latter losing 1-0 to league leaders Thurso with a 90th minute Mark Nichol goal separating the sides.
Matheson, Sutherland (Durrand), Farquhar, Oliver, Mackay, Austin, Mills, Mailley, Christie, Lawrie (Smith), Goller
Man of the Match:
The match between Dingwall Thistle and Tain Thistle this Saturday has been moved from Jubilee Park to the Dingwall Academy all weather pitch, following police concerns over conflicts with the Ross County/Inverness CT SFL fixture.
The game will still kick off at its orginal scheduled time of 12.30pm.
Player sponsorship places for the 2009/10 season are still up for grabs at £10 per player.
Have your name or business listed with pride next to your player's name on their profile page, showing your support for Tain Thistle FC.
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2008/09 Young Player of the Year Liam Rostock could be set to make a return to former club Tain Thistle, after news broke that the winger had requested his release from Bonar Bridge FC.
The winger officially requested his release from 7th placed Bonar this afternoon, following the resignation of management team Bill Russell, Billy Russell Jr and Jim Robertson from the Migdale Park side.
"I hoped to be available as much as possible this season, however work commitments have prevented me from getting involved in North Caledonian league games as much as I'd like."
"It's a shame to see Bill go after all the hard work he has done at Bonar. He is the reason I won the award last year, I wish him all the best."
"It would be great to be able to return occasionally and play with the Tain boys again. I think the team can really achieve a lot this year.
There is also speculation over the future of goalkeeper Steven Martin who is thought to be training with Thistle this week.
Andy Murray, who suffered a broken toe in the game against Halkirk a week ago is expected to be out for between 6-8 weeks before a return is possible. The toe break is the latest in a long line of injury for the defender, who has only just recovered from knee ligament damage.
Having scored 18 times so far this season (a marked improvement from last season’s entire tally of 23), Thistle have a renewed eye for goal, thanks to a number of attack minded players being added to the squad. Top of the scoring charts is Inverness native Russell Lawrie, who joins the side as a relatively unknown quantity, following years as a prominent scorer in the Inverness & District Welfare leagues.
The former Gellions & Portland Hotspurs forward has set new standards for Thistle in their North Caledonian league adventures, breaking the club's goal scoring record (previously set by last season’s top scorer Colin Burry). Though the club’s records are short lived for North Caledonian league football, the striker has shown himself to be prolific in the red and black since scoring in his first start against Golspie Sutherland last year.
Lawrie, 23, was a late arrival under former boss Robbie Ross last season, brought to the club for their final games of the season as a trialist before returning to the club as a signed player for the current 2009/10 campaign.
“I knew the club coach Rob Nicolson from work and played football with him now and again. With the Inverness league shutting down for the winter I took the opportunity to come through and play. When the chairman asked me to come back to training this year I didn’t need persuaded – the chance to play at a higher level and pull the Thistle shirt on again was too good an offer to turn down.”
Lawrie has been in rare form this season, finding the net six times in as many starts and doesn’t expect the performances to stop there.
“My personal goal is to play every week and to keep improving. John has been great to work with so far, allowing me to play my game and he provides me with structured criticism."
"Being the top goalscorer is great but football is a team game and I wouldn’t be scoring the goals without my team mates. Ali, Lee and Ashley have strengthened the team and the fact we are on twelve points this season so far is a testament to the hard work the existing players have also put in to improve.”