Following discussions between Tain Thistle and Tain Juniors committee representatives, it was agreed that Grant Park, Tain's only active football pitch, should be turned in February. The measure will be taken to prevent any disruption to Thistle's remaining North Caledonian fixtures and also to prepare it for the rest of the year.
It was also suggested that Thistle's welfare football team could play on the Links park during the upcoming summer months. The Thistle committee are expected to organize an informal trial match to be played on the surface to determine its playability.
Goalkeeper Steven Martin is a footballer in transition. Touted by many as the number one keeper in the North Caledonian league, it was not surprising that many clubs came knocking when he left Bonar Bridge last year.
Top of the list were Brora Rangers. The Highland League club had trained Steven in the past as a youth player before he left for Bonar Bridge, but it was the new management team led by Andy Macleod (who snapped up left winger Arron Christie from Tain last October) who were keen to see him return to join the squad of keepers at Dudgeon Park.
“After Bill (Russell) left Bonar, I knew I was not going to stay there and I had a few options open to me.”
“I wanted to test myself at a higher level again and when Andy (Macleod) asked me to go back to Brora I had to go.”
But the talented custodian has yet to be handed the chance of first team football and for now, has agreed to see out his season with Tain Thistle, the club he grew up playing for and supporting.
“I am a Tain fan and always like to see them do well so I am always willing to help out when I can.”
“I picked up a calf injury at the end of November and have struggled since, only managing one training session in the past 7 weeks. My main focus at the moment is getting a few good sessions under my belt.”
“I would like to think when I get back training on grass that I will be able to get my fitness up and get involved up at Brora again.”
Steven made his unofficial return to the side as an outfield substitute during the Graham Jardine Quaich match with Balintore in November but it was not until this past weekend that the Fearn resident pulled on the gloves for Thistle – and he could not have gotten off to a better start, keeping a clean sheet in the club’s first win of 2010, as Tain overcame Fort William by one goal to nil.
The stopper reserved special praise for the club’s resolve in victory.
“Winning is always pleasing and keeping a clean sheet is a bonus. It makes it easier for the strikers, knowing one goal is enough. After a bad run of defeats it was important to get 3 points on the board.”
“We did something that Tain have struggled to do lately -- win ugly.”
Martin is the fifth goalkeeper to play under John Oliver this season, with young Maryburgh native Ali Matheson the only to have kept a clean sheet until Martin’s arrival. Along with the players and supporters, Martin hopes that the team can find a new level of consistency for the remainder of the season.
“Every team needs a steady goalkeeper and defence. The NCL (North Caledonian League) is so unforgiving, and one mistake can be the difference between teams at times.”
“If you can get a settled team that are comfortable playing together it cuts out the mistakes.”
But Martin, under no illusions, sees next weekend’s fixture as a different story, with talisman Chris Mailley and winger Darran Goller missing.
“Golspie are always a difficult team to beat, and missing key players only makes the task that much harder. Chippie (Mailley) was fantastic yesterday and will be a key player for the rest of the season.”
“Darran's pace can hurt every defence in this league, but Daniel and Dickie will bring a bit of quality back into the team and hopefully we can put in a good performance.”
“You never know, with a bit of hard graft and the rub of the green an upset might be on the cards.”
Steven Martin is expected to be between the sticks for the club’s first ever Jock MacKay cup tie, at home to Golspie Sutherland this Saturday, January 30th.
What a difference a break makes. It has been seven weeks since Tain and Fort William took to the field and as both sides played for the first time in 2010, the occasion proved most fruitful for the Jags; Thistle running out 1-0 winners in a tightly contested affair.
The game had been switched due to the unplayable state of Fort's Claggan Park and while registered as a home game for Fort William, the Jags certaintly registered their home field advantage.
Manager John Oliver named a makeshift eleven, coping with mid-winter absenses and the fitness effects of a lengthy layoff. The major change came with the inclusion of goalkeeper Steven Martin, making his first start between the sticks for Tain's Second XI's side following his move from Bonar, while Chris Mailley moved back to defence. Missing from the early December defeat to Invergordon were Ali Matheson, Daniel Christie and Andrew Durrand.
Thistle started the game brightly, with winger Darran Goller keen to open the scoring with a series of midfield runs, his most potent tipped round the bar by goalkeeper Gary Macleod after a run down the left wing.
Debutant keeper Steve Martin had little to do in the early stages, with only a header from Iain Maclellan to hold.
Martyn Farquhar also came close to scoring following a mazey midfield run late in the first half, but it was Fort William who had the best chance of the first half; centre half Chris Mailley clearing a netbound shot from the Fort on 42 minutes to prevent a first half lead.
The second half proved more productive for Thistle, as they pressed for an opener against a livelier Fort William. With action flowing from end to end, the breakthrough eventually came following a mistimed challenge on Paul Cowie in the eighteen yard box, which resulted in a penalty. Referee Gavin Dearie pointed to the spot, issuing goalkeeper Garry Macleod with a stern talking to for his involvement. This season's top goalscorer Russell Lawrie made no mistake from with the kick to put Tain 1-0 ahead.
Within moments however, a clash at the other end led to a moment of tension and outspoken goalkeeper Steven Martin was booked for dissent, along with the offending Fort defender.
The Claggan Park men never gave up however and thirty minutes of defensive determination were what saw the Jags finish the game with a clean sheet and a win; Chris Mailley impressing once again as a centre half.
The well earned three points keep Thistle in 6th place in the North Caledonian league despite a poor end to 2009, while in other action Balintore fell 3-0 in Golspie and Invergordon suffered a 4-0 loss at home to Muir of Ord. The only other result was in the Jock MacKay Cup, Thurso beating Halkirk by 3 goals to 2.
Martin, Farquhar, Murray (D Oliver), Mackay, Mailley, Cowie, Brand, Sutherland, Goller, Smith, Lawrie
Subs not used:
Russell Lawrie pen 62
Stevie Martin 64
Man of the Match:
The weekend fixture between Tain Thistle and Fort William's reserve side looks set to go ahead tomorrow as planned, following a midday pitch inspection.
Spectators and players alike are encouraged to approach the park entrance with caution due to icy conditions.
With this past Saturday's match against Fort William postponed due to excessive snow and frost, Tain Thistle can only wait until later in the week to find out if their league trip to Halkirk will go ahead this coming weekend.
The Jags are due to play Halkirk on Saturday, 17th January, before returning to Caithness on the 24th to play Thurso.