The Tain Thistle Supporters Club has been relaunched, with all-new online benefits for club members.
For as little as around eight pence a day, you can show your support for the Jags, while also benefiting from online features such as never before seen web galleries of matches over the past five years, electronic versions of classic match programmes and a monthly newsletter to your mailbox.
Club members will also have the honour of being named as the sponsor of one of our man of the match awards for the current season!
So, sign up now, by visiting http://www.tainthistle.co.uk/sc.php and spread the word!
A windy afternoon at the Recreation Grounds saw the Jags suffer their first defeat of the season yesterday, as they were KO'd in the final minutes of a gritty encounter by league leaders Invergordon Social Club.
Daniel Christie was the only casualty following an eventful midweek thrashing of Balintore, with the midfielder dropping out of the squad on Saturday morning. The Pattison Cup semi-final was to be Thistle's ninth game in the space of just over four weeks, and signs of burnout were certainly evident as the Jags, who ripped Balintore apart only days prior, struggled to move out of first gear.
Many of Invergordon Social Club's older players have returned to the side this season, and their experience is vastly evident; the defence limiting the freedom of Messrs Goller, Durrand and Burry during a stubborn first half.
Martyn Farquhar however, who has had an eye for goal for most of the season, will surely be disappointed not to have tested Wilde, failing to pull the trigger on two occasions when he found himself through on goal.
It was Thistle who had the first near miss of the game however with a Colin Burry corner, the winger rattling Wilde's crossbar after his cross looped in with the assistance of a strong wind.
At the other end, chances were also few and far between and it took a free kick in the middle of the park to finally make the difference just minutes before half time. With the ball sent into a packed box, it was Chris Graham for the Social Club who found himself in enough space to stab the ball home for a 1-0 lead.
The tide turned in Social's favour thereafter and the home side began to pressure Thistle for a second, but thanks to resolute defending from Arron Christie and Kyle Oliver, the flow of attacks was stemmed. The next goal in fact came for the Jags, largely against the run of play.
Substitute John Maclellan, who replaced Brian Cameron with a quarter hour left on the clock, showed determination in beating his man on the right wing, before cutting inside the box to nick the ball between the legs of Wilde at his near post for a stunning equalizer. The goal makes it four goals in four games for the striker who is certainly attracting attention as a game changer.
Celebrations were short lived however as former Jags' defender Keith Dingwall broke Thistle hearts with a headed goal, restoring Social's lead within minutes of the leveller.
Any chances of a Thistle comeback were swiftly killed off in the dying stages when referee Billy Murray took exception to Andy Durrand's frustration following a controversial penalty denial, as he dismissed the mild mannered winger for using strong language. Bookings followed for Farquhar and Burry, during a heated exchange as the Jags protested Durrand's sending off.
With the game's competitive element firmly in the gutter, it was down to Thistle stopper Steven Wemyss to prevent further goals for Social, pulling off a tremendous one-on-one save before stopping a long range effort at the end of time.
The result hands the Jags their first defeat of the season after an unbeaten run unmatched by any previous Tain Thistle side. As we head into June, Thistle's players and coaching staff can look back on what was, on the whole, a very successful month in May.
Wemyss, Sutherland, Johnston (Graham), Oliver, A Christie, Cameron (Maclellan), Farquhar, Brand, Durrand, Burry, Goller
Subs not used:
D Nimmons, Stainke
Man of the Match:
In other semi final, Inver were handed yet another heavy defeat, this time at the hands of Balintore, who bounced back from a midweek embarrassment to beat their Seaboard rivals by 5 goals to nil.
Invergordon Social Club and Balintore will now meet at Portmahomack in the Pattison Cup final, this Saturday, June 4th.
Below is an excerpt from the North Star in 1920, who report on a Pattison Cup semi final game played between Tain St Duthus and Invergordon on Saturday, February 21st, 1920. The teams were as follows:
Tain St Duthus
W Munro, W Macleod, T Macleod, R Earl, A Macleod, W B Dunnett, J G Holmes, D J H Mitchell, D Mackay, G Findlay, W Ross
D Mackay 44, Macintyre o.g., D J H Mitchell
Lyon, Lennington, Macintyre, Woodley, Woods, Lamb, Black, Taylor, Spiers, Macvinish, Maclean
W Munro o.g. 3
Referee - Mr S Mair, Inverness
On the day, Tain secured a 3-1 win and went on to beat Alness in the final. Here's hoping for a similar result this Saturday!
Tain Thistle showed footballing superiority tonight, with the lion's share in a ten goal thriller at Grant Park. A first ever hat-trick from Andy Durrand was supported by goals from Daniel Christie, Kyle Oliver, Martyn Farquhar and John Maclellan as the Jags cruised to victory against rivals Balintore.
Michael Brand returned to the side who secured a late victory at Dingwall on Saturday, with Andrew Sutherland dropping onto the bench. Messrs Joe Stainke and Kevin Graham also returned to the fold, named as substitutes for what would be Thistle's second home game of the season, having played the other six away.
With the Grant Park pitch rolled and lined, looking in a much fitter condition than a fortnight prior, Thistle gave Balintore a quick reminder of the passing football that had won them the League Cup earlier in the month; Colin Burry and Daniel Christie both firing off-target.
The quick feet of the Jags paid off on thirteen minutes as Christie finished a beautiful chain of passing, slotting past Henderson with ease, and there were only seventeen on the clock, when Kyle Oliver netted another headed effort from a Colin Burry corner to make it 2-0.
Balintore began to crumble, and before long they were 3-0 down as Andy Durrand slammed an effort home following a failed clearance by Stainke.
It looked as though Balintore may have pulled a goal back shortly after, as Wemyss was beaten at the other end, but the scorer had been adjudged to been in an offside position. On the counter, the pace of Durrand outran the Balintore defence and it was left to Henderson to stop the winger, felling him after being nutmegged. A penalty award followed without question but to the amazement of Thistle and the relief of Balintore, Henderson escaped with only a yellow card. With confidence, Durrand stepped up to take his reward, sending Henderson the wrong way to make it 4-0.
At the other end, another penalty award followed for what appeared to be a very soft collision that saw Powell hit the ground on the edge of the box. Thistle's confident stopper was up to the challenge however. Killing off Balintore's hopes of a first half lifeline, Steven Wemyss saved Cowie's spot kick before sending the ball clear to the defence.
The Jags rounded off a near perfect first half with a fifth goal a few minutes from the break, when Martyn Farquhar netted his sixth of the season from close range.
The Balintore men benefited from a half time break and hit back with a goal moments after kick off, as Cowie found Bell at the far post for the young gull to push a close effort home.
But only minutes after, Durrand completed his hat-trick to make it a very comfortable 6-1 for the home side, drilling a Goller cutback beyond Henderson for his seventh of the campaign.
After a prolonged spell of inactivity due to a fallen net, Balintore capitalized on poor concentration to find the net following a corner, Macdonald the scorer, but again Thistle were undeterred. On 85 minutes, substitute John Maclellan made it 7-2, turning a shot into the net for his third goal in as many games.
The final touch of the game fell to Balintore's Macdonald as the towering striker headed beyond Wemyss in the dying embers of the game to reduce the score to 7-3, and the game ended at just that.
Wemyss, Cameron, Johnston (Sutherland), Oliver, A Christie, Farquhar, Brand (Stainke), Burry (Maclellan), Durrand, Goller, D Christie
Subs not used:
D Nimmons, Graham
D Christie 13, Oliver 17, Durrand 20, pen 35, 50, Farquhar 41, Maclellan 85
Goller, A Christie
Man of the Match:
Elsewhere in the league, Dingwall Vertex lifted themselves off the bottom of the league by beating Inver 3-2 at Portmahomack thanks to goals from Ally Smith, Joffy Bowen and Ryan Reid. Invergordon Social Club came back from 1-0 down to beat Cromarty at Victoria Park and the game between Ross-shire Club and Alness Athletic was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
Next week's league fixtures for Wednesday, June 1st:
Balintore v Inver
Tain Thistle v Ross-shire Club
Invergordon Social Club v Alness Athletic
Dingwall Vertex v Cromarty
All with a 7.30pm kick off.
Tain Thistle overcame a stubborn Ross-shire Club with two late goals to reach the semi final of the Pattison Cup, after being 1-0 down for the majority of the game.
Michael Brand, Dave Nimmons, Robbie Ross, Kevin Graham, Joe Stainke and Michael Stein were all missing from the side on a typically wet day in Dingwall, where Tain were on top for most of the game, but failed to create real chances.
They started brightly, passing the ball around well and threatening to take the lead, Daniel Christie coming close with a free-kick. However Tain’s best chance of opening the scoring came when the away side were awarded a penalty, after a foul on Darren Goller. However a great save from the Ross Club keeper denied Martyn Farquhar.
Five minutes later, Tain paid the price, as a cross into the box was headed in by Cammy Bell, a goal which looked suspiciously offside. It stayed the same until half time and beyond, as after the break, Tain took control of the game, piling the pressure on the home defence, but to no avail, the closest chances falling to the relentless Ryan Johnston and another Daniel Christie free kick.
The former was replaced by John Maclellan near the end of the game, as Brian Cameron moved into midfield to impose himself. Minutes from the end, a defensive mistake allowed Maclellan to score the equalizer.
Moments later, a short corner came to Farquhar, who delivered a fantastic cross for Kyle Oliver to glance home with his head brilliantly. Tain's back line defended superbly to see out the result, and send Tain into the semi finals of another trophy, despite a less than impressive performance.
Match report by John Maclellan
Wemyss, Cameron, Johnston (Maclellan), Sutherland, A Christie, Oliver, Durrand, Burry, Farquhar, D Christie, Goller
Subs not used:
C Nimmons, Mackintosh
Maclellan 88, Oliver 90
D Christie, Goller
Man of the Match:
In the other semi finals, Inver made easy work of Cromarty at Victoria Park, scoring two early goals to eventually win 3-0. Balintore emerged as Inver's opponents for the semi final in a week's time, following a more convincing 3-0 win at home to Dingwall Vertex. Meanwhile, Tain Thistle's semi final opponents were decided when Invergordon Social Club easily disposed of Alness Athletic at the defeated side's Academy Park.
The semi finals will take place one week from today, with a 3pm kick off.
We cannot begin a news roundup without once again giving praise to the team that held out with ten men to beat Balintore in the League Cup final last weekend. The result and the achievement goes down in history not ony as a cup win, but as one of the club's finest ever performances.
With the cup win fresh in the mind, Thistle travel for their next cup game this afternoon, in the first round of the Pattison Cup against the in-form Ross-shire Club. The match should prove to be a very close affair.
Fitness wise, Thistle's only injury doubt is Andrew Sutherland who has been suffering from a back complaint this week. Absentees Michael Brand, Kevin Graham and Robert Ross are all still vacationing for the weekend fixture at Dingwall.
Steven Martin's stellar efforts in retrieving a Tain Thistle FC match ball from the Jubilee Park swamp this past Wednesday must be applauded, following Andrew Sutherland's merciless punt to send the article into the depths.
On the pitch this past Wednesday, Tain Thistle notched their first league victory of the season against Dingwall Vertex, winning 3-0 thanks to goals from John Maclellan, Martyn Farquhar and Daniel Christie.
Player Andrew Murray has been released by the club. Tain Thistle FC wish Mr Murray all the best in his future endeavours.
The club's first matchday raffle was a resounding success against Alness Athletic a week ago last Wednesday, raising £62. The football card efforts of committee efforts this past week has also raised over £60. Well done to those involved.
Finally, thanks must go to Iain Macleod of Tain Golf Club who took the time to roll both Tain football pitches this past week, in preparation for future games this summer. Thank you Iain.
With several first team players absent and the manager himself missing due to suspension, a much changed Tain Thistle side from the one that won the League Cup took to the field of Jubilee Park to play Dingwall Vertex last night. Goalkeeper Steven Wemyss returned to action for his second consecutive league appearance, while Daniel Christie also returned to the starting XI filling the void in midfield left by the holidaying Michael Brand. Also returning to action was Kyle Oliver at centre half, slotting in to replace the injured Andrew Sutherland who continues to recover from a back complaint.
The much improved Vertex side who had drawn 0-0 with Thistle in pre-season appeared to have turned up in the early stages, competing well in an end-to-end period of action, but as expected it was the Jags who had the better of the attacking play, forcing a series of corner kicks.
It was a corner which eventually resulted in the first goal as John Maclellan opened his account for the season, tucking a cross home from close range to make it 1-0.
The Dingwall side's spirit appeared to peter out only moments later as Vertex keeper Macrae failed to hold an aerial shot, dropping the ball behind his head for Martyn Farquhar to casually canter the ball into the net for his fifth goal in five games.
Referee Mark Dalton awarded Thistle a penalty soon after, but taker Darran Goller shot at the keeper's right and the kick was saved.
Ryan Johnston played well at left-back, again a goal threat. The young full back had scored the goal of the season in this fixture last year, but could only fire wide from distance this time around just before half time.
The second half started with an abundance of slips and falls amidst heavy wind and rain, but the weather conditions could not prevent Daniel Christie from exhibiting a touch of class on 56 minutes, as he looped a free kick from five yards wide of the eighteen yard box into the far corner of the net to make it 3-0.
Top scorer Darran Goller was unlucky not to score in the second half with a number of angled shots, and was even more unlucky not to win a penalty as the Vertex stopper appeared to obliterate the pacey forward during a one-on-one; referee Dalton waving play-on after having sent Thistle keeper Robbie Ross off for less the previous Saturday.
Late on, it seemed as though the score would finish 3-1, as Ally Smith struck from a tight angle past Wemyss to apparently rattle a shot into the net off the far stachion, but again referee Dalton waved play-on. Full time followed shortly after, the 3-0 scoreline handing Thistle their first league win, and their first clean sheet of the season. The Jags will be pleased with the win, despite never really moving out of second gear.
Wemyss, Cameron (D Nimmons), Johnston (Stainke), Oliver, A Christie, Farquhar, D Christie, Burry (C Nimmons), Durrand, Goller, Maclellan
Subs not used:
Maclellan 30, Farquhar 33, D Christie 56
Man of the Match:
Elsewhere in the league, the results again provided a few surprises, Ross-shire Club handing Balintore a 4-0 drubbing away from home. At Portmahomack, Inver threw away a 2-1 lead to lose 3-2 to the Social Club, while Alness Athletic made easy work of Cromarty, winning 3-1 at home.
Next week's league fixtures:
Ross-shire vs Alness Athletic
Tain Thistle vs Balintore
Cromarty vs Invergordon Social Club
Inver vs Dingwall Vertex
All 7.30pm kick offs.
In other news, Michael Brand has reported that he and Michael Stein are having a good time in Magaluf, despite Steino throwing up at the airport entrance then fainting on the plane.
Martyn Farquhar capped off a tremendous start to May by collecting the League Cup as Thistle's captain, while also picking up the man of the match award. But last week, the midfielder also joined the exclusive list of hat-trick scorers in the Jags' history.
Farquhar's goals against Cromarty in last week's semi final made him the tenth person to net 3 or more goals in one game for Tain Thistle during their fifteen year existence.
The Hat-trick Club
1. Garry Perks - 6
2. Liam Rostock - 4
3. Robert Ross - 3
4. Mike McKenna - 2
= Calum Macdonald - 2
= Mark Reid - 2
= Matthew Rooney - 2
= Darran Goller - 2
9. James Rice - 1
= Martyn Farquhar
Despite playing in the Welfare league since 1997, the first Jags player to net a hat-trick was Robert Ross in 2000.
Below is a complete list of all 25 hat-tricks scored by Jags players in competitive games.
1. July 12, 2000 - Robert Ross (3) vs Invergordon Distillery (League Match)
2. July 19, 2000 - Mike McKenna (4) vs Wheel Inn (League Match)
3. May 2, 2001 - Mike McKenna (3) vs Tain United (League Match)
4. May 25, 2002 - Calum Macdonald (3) vs The Rigger (Pattison Cup Match)
5. July 13, 2002 - Robert Ross (5) vs Tain United (Seaboard Cup Match)
6. July 13, 2002 - Calum Macdonald (3) vs Tain United (Seaboard Cup Match)
7. May 5, 2004 - Garry Perks (3) vs Portmahomack (League Match)
8. July 14, 2004 - Mark Reid (3) vs 3G's (League Match)
9. August 4, 2005 - Mark Reid (3) vs Ross-shire Club (League Match)
10. July 5, 2006 - Matthew Rooney (3) vs Invergordon Distillery (League Match)
11. July 19, 2006 - Matthew Rooney (3) vs Inver (League Match)
12. August 4, 2006 - Liam Rostock (3) vs Ross-shire Club (League Match)
13. June 13, 2007 - Garry Perks (3) vs Maitlands Bar (League Match)
14. June 4, 2008 - Garry Perks (3) vs Black Rock Rovers (League Match)
15. July 28, 2008 - Liam Rostock (3) vs Invergordon Social Club (League Match)
16. Jun 17, 2009 - Robert Ross (3) vs Inver (League Match)
17. July 22, 2009 - James Rice (3) vs Cromarty (League Match)
18. July 22, 2009 - Liam Rostock (3) vs Cromarty (League Match)
19. June 9, 2010 - Garry Perks (3) vs Cromarty (League Match)
20. June 16, 2010 - Liam Rostock (3) vs Invergordon Social Club (League Match)
21. June 16, 2010 - Garry Perks (3) vs Invergordon Social Club (League Match)
22. July 31, 2010 - Garry Perks (4) vs Invergordon Social Club (Coronation Cup Match)
23. July 31, 2010 - Darran Goller (3) vs Invergordon Social Club (Coronation Cup Match)
24. April 30, 2011 - Darran Goller (3) vs Inver (League Cup Match)
25. May 7, 2011 - Martyn Farquhar (3) vs Cromarty (League Cup Match)
May 14th of 2011 goes down in history alongside only a handful of other dates as another memorable encounter that saw silverware make its way to Tain Thistle Football Club. A performance immersed in fight, determination and tremendous team spirit saw Thistle overcome several hurdles to take the lead three times against Balintore, despite losing their goalkeeper to a sending off, reducing them to ten men.
Manager Robbie Ross, who himself had failed to make the League Cup final squad under manager Arron Christie last season, brought himself back into the goalkeeping position for Steven Wemyss, while Martyn Farquhar also returned to the side. Daniel Christie, unavailable for the final, was replaced by young striker John Maclellan, who started for the first time this season. Also returning to the squad was Liam Rostock, who having played only one pre-season game would make his first appearance of the season.
A mixture of blustery winds and frequent showers earlier in the day suggested that the game may have to be approached with the weather as a factor. Indeed it did, as Thistle won the toss and chose to play with the wind behind them in the first half.
Before long, the game had its first goal. Darran Goller, who has shown new levels of composure and determination this season gave everyone a reminder of why he is the club's top scorer on only 7 minutes when he thundered a shot past MacGruer for the opener. Much like they had done last season, Thistle took an early 1-0 lead.
Thistle could very well have gone 2-0 up when Maclellan found himself bearing down on MacGruer, but the keeper was fast to the ball.
But the game would soon take a turn that would reshape it for the rest of the 90 minutes. Despite claims for offside, Balintore's Andrew Ripley advanced towards the Thistle goal before being felled by Thistle keeper Robbie Ross. Ross, in the cruelest of fashions, was then dismissed and Balintore were awarded a penalty, which - needless to say - was converted with ease against Thistle's unorthodox right-back-come-stand-in stopper Brian Cameron.
A goalkeeper being dismissed with no goalkeeping option on the bench is high on the list of nightmare scenarios for any cup final team, let alone playing with only ten men. But in this case, the sending off was only the first chapter in what would become one of the most remarkable tales in the club's football history.
At 1-1, Thistle reshaped their defence and began to show that they had everything to play for, quickly reaffirming their dominance, with Michael Brand forcing a save from MacGruer. But the best was still to come, as captain-for-the-day in Daniel Christie's absence, Martyn Farquhar launched a curling shot over the head of MacGruer into the net in what will be a candidate for goal of the season to make it 2-1.
With the score at 2-1, Tain showed no sign of letting up on a Balintore side who looked like they were the team with ten men. In fact, as half-time approached, Goller was unlucky not to make it 3-1 as he played himself into a 1 on 1 situation with MacGruer from a tight angle, but could only shoot straight at the goalkeeper.
Adopting a more attacking game in the second half, Balintore forced Thistle to defend early on, the Jags thwarting a series of cross balls, before successfully clearing Balintore's first corner on 55 minutes.
The move that finally made the difference for Balintore after close to an hour of excellent defensive play from Thistle was a ball from Stainke that found the feet of the onrushing McCourt, allowing the towering forward to place the ball round Cameron to make it 2-2.
The Thistle hearts did not sink however, and Ross moved quickly to introduce the fresh attacking legs of Liam Rostock in place of Maclellan. The switch gave Balintore no opportunity to capitalize on any momentum following their goal and before long the combined pace of Rostock and Goller was proving a test for the Baltie back line.
On 70 minutes, a twisting run from Rostock allowed the striker to fire across MacGruer's goal; his shot flying just inches wide. But only a few minutes later, the quick feet of Goller pushed Thistle back into the lead. Taking a ball to the by line, the Jags top goalscorer squared a waiting ball for Rostock who was quick to tap the ball home in the six yard box. The goal was undoubtedly a just reward for Thistle, who had shown their dominance throughout the game.
Balintore's desperation began to show as they attempted to score with a 50 yard lob direct from kick off, but the shot fell nowhere near the target. A furious quarter hour followed as Sutherland, Christie and Brand put on a display of ruthless defending against an all-out Balintore attack; Cameron also handling the ball well when called upon.
Chasing a late equalizer, Balintore's McCourt worked hardest for his side despite some over-zealous forward play which saw him caught offside on a number of occasions, only increasing the frustration of the "Gulls".
One final attack for Balintore saw a corner headed wide by Macdonald much to the relief of Cameron and his defence - then - after what seemed like an eternity for the Jags, referee Mark Dalton finally blew his whistle for full time, sending the Thistle support and players into uproarious celebrations.
Ross, Cameron, Johnston (Graham), Sutherland, A Christie, Farquhar, Brand, Durrand, Burry (Reid), Maclellan (Rostock), Goller
Subs not used:
D Nimmons, C Nimmons
Goller 7, Farquhar 41, Rostock 75
Man of the Match:
Opinions were shared around the ground after the game that a finer performance had never been seen from a Tain Thistle team, who overcame the odds in so many ways, showing determination and fight that will be remembered for many years.
Back at the Commercial Hotel, thanks were given to cup sponsor Jimmy Oman of Highland Heatsave Ltd and the match officials before Balintore, captained by Paul Cowie, collected their Runners-up medals. The winning captain Martyn Farquhar was then presented with the trophy to a rousing reception from the victorious party of players and committee. Farquhar was also named the sponsor's man of the match.
The result is historic for Tain Thistle on a number of levels. Having played in three other League Cup finals during their fifteen year history, this afternoon's win against Balintore hands them their first ever League Cup win. It was also a first for long time Thistle servant and founding player Colin Burry, who missed both 2007 and 2009, Thistle's other years capturing silverware.
It was of course the first ever cup final contested between Balintore and Tain Thistle, two sides who thrive on personal pride and carry a local rivalry. If this game was anything to the neutral, it will have served as a tremendous advertisement for the level of football being played under the Ross-shire Welfare football association banner.
Tain Royal Academy clinched the North of Scotland League title on the 28th of April, with a workmanlike victory away to the holders Inverness Royal, in a 4-1 win. A rousing team talk followed by a stirring prayer from Mr Stainke in the dressing rooms prior to the match ensured focus and determination were felt by the players as they took to the pitch. However at first it seemed it would not be answered, as Tain struggled to settle into their passing game, the long grass and heat being factors in this.
IRA (Inverness Royal Academy) missed a penalty 10 minutes in, as Ayah Rattanaphithak brought down the opposing striker in the box, however, the player’s spot kick was ballooned wide. This was a wake up call for Tain, and minutes later, a left footed Joe Stainke strike put Tain ahead, as he capitalized on a defensive misjudgement.
Tain were to double their lead soon after, when John Maclellan was fouled inside the box, and then scored the penalty. It was getting comfortable for Tain with the midfield pairing of Ayah and Andrew Sutherland working excellently, with Donald Matheson and Ally Mackintosh on the wings.
Despite this Tain lost a silly goal right on half time, when a ridiculous decision by the referee allowing a player 5 yards offside to run through and score.
The score stayed at 2-1 till half time, but after the interval the game became a battle, with Alan Duff commanding his defenders Calum Macdonald, Ryan Johnston and Reece Stewart well. It was Johnston who made a world class tackle to prevent an almost certain goal for the IRA, an soon after, a deflected Ayah strike gave Tain some needed breathing space.
Johnny Allan continued to keep the home side at bay with some great saves, and Tain were rewarded for their efforts when Nick Mein was fouled in the box, and Alan Duff stepped up calmly to put Tain 4-1 ahead. There were to be more chances for Tain, with Thomas Urbancyk coming close twice after coming on to replace Stainke.
The game finished 4-1, to give TRA their first ever league title, and send Mr Stainke and his team into wild celebration.
Report contributed by John Maclellan
The League Cup final meeting this Saturday will be the first ever cup final game played between Tain Thistle and Balintore. Incredibly, in the years since Balintore rejoined the Ross-shire Welfare league in 2000, the sides have never found themselves facing each other in a final.
Incredible still, the sides have only met in a semi final twice. The first, in the 2004 Coronation Cup ended in a 3-2 win for Balintore despite taking the lead through the first of two goals from Calum Macdonald. The second, in 2008, when the score read 4-2 - Baltie's Gus Macdonald proving too much despite goals from Perks and Rostock.
Neither side has set the world alight in their most recent league games. In what Dingwall Vertex may consider to be their greatest result to date, Balintore finished up 4-4 with the relative newcomers, while Thistle, at home to Alness Athletic ended their game 2-2, this past Wednesday.
On the park, Darran Goller is enjoying a tremendous run of form for Tain Thistle, captured initially during the winter with Balintore's North Caledonian league side. The pacey forward has netted 6 times in 4 games so far this season. Winger Andy Durrand has also impressed, with 4 in 4. One thing that will certainly be tested on Saturday is the Thistle defence, who face the challenge of a free scoring Balintore attack; Ripley, Macgruer, Powell, McCourt and Macdonald all having found the net so far this season.
The route to the final has proved arduous and attractive at different times for both teams. Balintore ambled past Ross-shire Club with the narrowest of 1-0 wins, while Thistle drubbed local rivals Inver 6-2 in the first round. The semi finals proved to be a different story for Balintore as they impressively eliminated Invergordon Social Club with a resounding 6-2 scoreline. At Cromarty in the other semi final, Thistle enjoyed the largest scoring margin of the season so far with a thumping 8-1 win.
Though Thistle are the designated "home team" in Saturday's final, the seasiders will no doubt take encouragement from the fact they are playing on their familiar Balintore ground at the lower park in the village, giving them the "twelve man" on the day.
Sponsored by Highland Heatsave Ltd, the final is scheduled to kick off at 3pm on Saturday.
Ryan Johnston returned from a bout of the flu to replace the work-committed Martyn Farquhar, while Steven Wemyss was handed his first start between the sticks, replacing the benched gaffer Robert Ross in an otherwise unchanged starting eleven for the Jags' first home game of the season.
Only fifteen minutes prior to kick off, the Alness Athletic men had not arrived and it looked as though Thistle could be destined for a training session instead of a game, but the same problems that had haunted the Alness men in their first two games seemed to have been eradicated as they turned out in their numbers, with the strongest team they have fielded thus far.
After a late kick off, the game took shape early on as Alness took an unexpected lead. Martin Douglas catapulted an effort from 30 yards to catch debuting goalkeeper Steven Wemyss off guard. The goal did not deter the Jags however, with Kevin Graham shooting narrowly wide at the other end.
A final spell of pressure in the first half saw Michael Brand head over from the closest of ranges following a corner, and Goller fire a shot into the side netting. With Alness retaining their 1-0 lead at half time, it felt like only a matter of time before Tain were back in the game.
The second half kicked off as the first had began however, with the Athletic stunning the Jags on the counter, winning a corner before sending the ball into the box for David Niven to score with the easiest of headers at the far post. Now 2-0 down, the Jags had it all to do.
Having been introduced at half time, John Maclellan quickly found his step for Tain, linking up well with Goller and Christie up front to create a number of chances, the latter shooting wide before Goller eventually pulled a goal back, galloping the ball into the net following a stramash in the Alness goalmouth.
Andrew Sutherland could very well have found the equaliser on 70 minutes as he launched himself at a looping Burry corner at the far post, but the centre half failed to reach the ball.
Hard work and determination finally paid off with 85 minutes on the clock, as Goller found the net for his second, powering a header from deep inside the eighteen yard box past an unsuspecting Robertson. The goal was a just reward for the Jags, who had worked tirelessly throughout the game to earn at least a draw.
Having lost their grasp on a somewhat fortuitous lead, Alness kicked into a new gear in the final stages and forced two saves from Thistle stopper Wemyss, who having prevented an attempt from Jamie Sinclair had to block the rebound also.
But with victory in sight, Thistle rounded the game off with sustained pressure. Despite frequent time wasting from Athletic, prevolent throughout the second half, Thistle created a number of chances to snatch a winner; substitute Ross firing wide and Goller forcing a tremendous save from an in-form Robertson. The greatest effort however fell to Maclellan, who found himself one-on-one with Robertson in injury time, but the Alness stopper was up to the challenge, blocking a powerful strike.
Alas, the score remained at 2-2 - a familiar result for Thistle so far during their league campaign, but the team must take some satisfaction as a side who remain unbeaten this season against tough opposition. All attention now turns to the League Cup final this Saturday against Balintore.
Wemyss, Cameron, Johnston (Maclellan), Sutherland, A Christie, Brand, Burry (Reid), Graham (Ross), Durrand, D Christie, Goller
Subs not used:
Stainke, D Nimmons
Goller 58, 85
Man of the Match:
Elsewhere in the league, at Dingwall, Vertex got off the mark with the most amazing of 4-4 draws with league champions Balintore thanks to goals from Reed, Mclean, Macdonald and Duff. Dingwall's other side Ross-shire Club however fell 2-1 to league leaders Invergordon Social Club while in the other game, Cromarty bounced back from cup defeat to beat Inver 4-2.
Next week's league fixtures are:
Inver v Invergordon Social Club
Alness Athletic v Cromarty
Balintore v Ross-shire Club
Dingwall Vertex v Tain Thistle
All with a 7.30pm kick off.
We bring you a later than usual weekly news roundup, after a busier than usual week.
Tain Thistle have reached the League Cup final for the second year in a row thanks to two excellent cup performances in the early rounds. Fourteen goals in two games saw the Jags run out 6-2 winners over neighbouring rivals Inver before thrashing Cromarty by 8 goals to 1 at their Victoria Park home in the semi final. Hat-tricks for Darran Goller and Martyn Farquhar along the way, as well as two braces for Andy Durrand has given Thistle supporters much to be excited about in the goalscoring front.
The cup final will be played this Saturday, May 14th with a 3pm kick off Balintore's lower park, and is sponsored by Highland Heatsave.
Either side of the cup ties, Thistle kicked off their league campaign with a good performance but a disappointing result against Inver at Portmahomack. Despite taking a 2-0 lead, the Jags eventually had to settle for a draw in what turned out to be a heated affair. The point leaves both Inver and Tain Thistle mid table, with Balintore, Social Club and Ross-shire Club all recording wins.
Training will resume tomorrow after its cancellation last week, scheduled to take place at 7pm at the Links.
Fundraising wise, the club wishes to thank DH Munro for their sponsorship this past week, and thanks also go to Balblair Distillery for their kind donation of a raffle prize. Their continued support is greatly appreciated.
The next poker fundraiser is expected to take place on Tuesday, May 17th. As ever, interested parties should contact the club in advance to participate.
The club are currently looking for volunteers to sell scratchcards during the current season. If anyone is interested in helping the club with fundraising, please contact a member of the current committee.
And finally, on a lovely news note, congratulations go to Thistle striker Mark Reid and his other half Claire, who became parents today. Congratulations Mark and Claire!
The last time Tain Thistle visited Victoria Park in Cromarty for a semi final, they walked away badly beaten, on the wrong side of a 9-1 drubbing. The result of this afternoon's League Cup semi final would prove to be almost a complete reversal.
Manager Robbie Ross had only one late call-off to cope with, as flu stricken Ryan Johnston was forced to withdraw after two impressive displays against Inver. Arron Christie made his return to the side, with Farquhar returning to the midfield, while Kevin Graham dropped back to the left side of the defence.
Showing the same confidence and determination in the early stages they showed a week prior, the Thistle boys wasted no time in asserting their authority with a spell of pressure on the Cromarty goal; Martyn Farquhar eventually connecting with the necessary touch to put the Jags 1-0 ahead.
Scythed out of play in the 18 yard box, Darran Goller won Thistle a chance to extend their lead on 25 minutes, but penalty taker Daniel Christie could only fire at the Cromarty keeper from the spot, then striking the bar with the rebound.
With the penalty miss, and a one-on-one effort for Christie also squandered, it seemed as though Cromarty may have cashed in their lifeline and just moments later they were unlucky not to score with a speculative free kick, palmed away by Ross as it made its way to the top corner.
Thistle's second came ten minutes later however thanks to Andy Durrand, who showed coolness in slotting the ball home after a flurry of Thistle shots on goal.
Unlucky not to have scored once or twice himself in the first half taking advantage of a sleepy Cromarty defence, Goller eventually proved to the creator for Thistle's third, taking the ball to the byline before squaring an effort for Farquhar to pirouette the ball over the line for 3-0.
It took Thistle only seven minutes to extend their lead in the second half, with Michael Brand beating the ball beyond the Cromarty stopper for a fourth before Daniel Christie made amends for his penalty miss on 55 minutes. At 5-0, the tie looked all but wrapped up.
Referee Mike Stainke showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot once again, this time on the hour mark, after Arron Christie was adjudged to have fouled Phil Macdonald during the Cromarty striker's attempt to bicycle kick a shot towards goal. Macdonald, making no mistake with the spot kick, placed the ball down the gullet of Ross's goal to bring the score back to 1-5.
Any chance of a Cromarty fight back was killed off just six minutes later however when Farquhar headed home for Thistle's sixth and his first ever hat-trick for the club.
A meandering Goller finally netted a goal of his own against a ragged Cromarty back line, knocking the ball past two defenders before battered a shot past the keeper to make it 7-1. The goal signalled the end of the Jags' top scorer's contribution, who was replaced by Craig Nimmons with twenty minutes left on the clock.
As it was in the last cup round, it was up to Andy Durrand to round off the scoring with his second of the afternoon, beating the offside trap to run through and slot the ball home with ease.
Ross, Cameron, Graham (D Nimmons), Sutherland, A Christie, Brand, Farquhar, Burry (Reid), Durrand, D Christie, Goller (C Nimmons)
Subs not used:
Farquhar 7, 39, 66, Durrand 35, 85, Brand 48, D Christie 51, Goller 70
Man of the Match:
Post-match, the Thistle team and committee were treated very well at the home side's sponsoring bar and restaurant, the Cromarty Arms, where pies and chips were the order of the day.
In the other semi final, Balintore made short work of Invergordon Social Club at the eliminated side's Recreation Grounds. Goals from Ross Powell, Jamie Martin, Andy Ripley, Craig McCourt, Dave MacGruer and an unfortunate own goal for Social's Allan Campbell were enough to overcome a brace from Paul Austin for the home side.
Thistle will now travel to Balintore this Saturday, May 14th for what will be their second consecutive League Cup final appearance. Losing out by 2 goals to 1 last year to rivals Inver, the Jags will be hoping for a different outcome this time against a Balintore side that will have a home advantage.
Saturday’s League Cup semi final will be only the eighth meeting between Tain Thistle and Cromarty -- but one Jag in particular is certainly no stranger to the Black Isle natives. Before Cromarty joined the ranks of the Ross-shire Welfare Football Association, Thistle’s Brian Cameron was party to their efforts in the Ross-shire Amateur league.
"I started out playing football with Cromarty, having gone to school in Fortrose. With the amateur side, I started playing in 2004 and finished in 2007. It was Colin Burry who asked me to come to Tain for the next season, and I did."
Slotting into a busy and young Thistle side that year, Cameron would become an ever-present, going on to play in every one of Thistle’s games during the 2008 season, only narrowly missing out on a league winners’ medal thanks to a last ditch title push from Black Rock Rovers. Only 20 years old, the midfielder’s tenacity and gritty determination won the praise of many Thistle supporters.
Now as the 2011 season begins, Cameron reflects on the years past and the improvement made not only by himself but his former teammates at Victoria Park.
"The Cromarty boys are all older and more mature now than when I was there. When I was younger playing alongside them, we just wanted to play attacking football and forgot a lot about the defensive side of the game."
Attacking indeed. Cromarty knocked no fewer than twenty-three goals past Thistle in league and cup competitions last year, asserting a goalscoring dominance over Tain unmatched by any other team during 2010. But Cameron sees the affair being a lot closer this time around.
"It’s going to be a hard game to call. I don’t think we should fear them, but they should certainly be respected. If we keep things tight at the back, we have a good chance of going through. We have got to focus on our own game and as long as we play to our potential we should be more than capable of getting a result."
The semi final showdown between Cromarty and Thistle is scheduled for a 3pm kick off this Saturday at the Croms' Victoria Park.
Only four days separated the Jags' last visit to Portmahomack and their evening league meeting with rivals Inver. With Arron Christie missing due to work commitments, manager Robbie Ross dropped Martyn Farquhar to the back four slotting in Kevin Graham to fill the void in midfield, with the team otherwise unchanged. Inver introduced forwards Scott Smith and Martin Smith to their lineup, with Gordon Macinnes providing a more able pair of hands between the sticks for the home side this time around.
The game started as it indeed proceeded to go on with a series of scrappy challenges and heated moments, referee Keith Middleton having to cope with a number of contentious decisions.
With twenty minutes gone however, it seemed as though Thistle had made a breakthrough, as Darran Goller found the net with a header from only one yard - but referee Middleton bizarrely chalked the goal off for offside.
The short size of the Portmahomack pitch always makes for an end-to-end affair and this evening proved to be no different with Inver almost scoring on the 25 minutes mark; goalkeeper Robbie Ross blocking a one-on-one effort from Scott Smith.
Undeterred by the earlier stroke of misfortune however, Thistle made no mistake with a later aerial effort, the imposing Kevin Graham first heading towards goal before poking the ball home for the opener just after half an hour.
Graham remained in the thick of the action after his goal too, on the unfortunate receiving end of a vile attack from Inver's Stuart Wood, who sent a knee into head of a grounded Graham. Referee Keith Middleton, very softly, issued only a yellow to Wood, and a booking to Graham for his involvement in the incident, much to the amazement of Tain onlookers.
In what would have perhaps been more reflective of their dominance, Thistle could have gone in 2-0 up at the break thanks to very clever running from Ryan Johnston on 40 minutes, but the full back struck just beyond Macinnes' far post.
The second half saw the introduction of more meat to the challenge, with Inver chasing an equalizer. The threat of Smith and Robertson proved to be a test for Farquhar and Sutherland at the back, but it was Macinnes again who saw the most of the action, first watching as a Brand effort flew a tremendous distance just over the bar and moments later a Daniel Christie strike, that would have been easier to score, sail past his far post.
It was Christie however who eventually found the net for the evening's second goal, rattling a shot in off the post to make it 2-0 for Thistle. The goal should have marked the beginning of a spell of ease for Tain, were it not for an instant strike-back by Inver, who sent a shot straight over Ross from the resultant kick off to make it 1-2; Scott Stirling making it 2 in 2 against Tain this past week.
The close scoreline made for a nervy final quarter and it seemed Thistle's pressure would eventually pay off for a third thanks to Goller rattling Macinnes' hands and the crossbar with a thunderous effort to force a corner and an underpower strike from Graham that was easily held. But it wasn't to be. A late cross sent over the top of Tain defence was met with a glancing header by Scott Innes who left Ross with no chance to bring the scores level at 2-2.
Inver's desperation to prevent Thistle from finding a late winner eventually led to the dismissal of Stuart Wood, who ruthlessly scythed Ryan Johnston out of play on the wing. A late headed effort for Martyn Farquhar which was sent over the bar was all she wrote for Thistle's opening league game and the scores ended at two a piece.
Ross, Cameron, Johnston, Sutherland, Farquhar, Brand, D Christie, Burry (Reid), Durrand (Maclellan), Goller, Graham
Subs not used:
Wemyss, D Nimmons
Graham 32, D Christie 72
Man of the Match:
Elsewhere, Balintore kicked their defence of the league title off with a 3-0 win against last year's runners-up Alness Athletic, thanks to goals from Ross Powell and James Metcalfe and an own goal from Gordy Maclean. Ross-shire Club secured three points at home to Cromarty with Cammy Bell and Kegan Stewart on target for the home side as they won 2-1. In the final game of the day, the much improved Invergordon Social Club ran away with spoils thanks to a 5-1 win over Dingwall Vertex, with Paul Austin, Stephen Campbell and Gordy Oman on the scoresheet.
Next week's fixtures:
Cromarty vs Inver
Inv Social Club vs Ross-shire Club
Tain Thistle vs Alness Athletic
Vertex vs Balintore
Tain Thistle will now travel to Cromarty in the semi final of the League Cup this Saturday, after the Victoria Park men crushed Alness Athletic by six goals to nil.
In other results, Balintore snuck a 1-0 win at Dingwall over Ross-shire Club, while also at Dingwall, Invergordon Social Club went through on the right side of a high goal affair with Dingwall Vertex, winning 6-3.
Thistle's win over Inver at the weekend presents two semi finals of Cromarty vs Tain Thistle and Invergordon Social Club vs Balintore. The winners of each match will meet the following weekend at Balintore Lower Park in the League Cup final.