A multitude of absences owing to illness, injuries and holiday commitments meant that the Jags went into their second league game against Inver with a depleted lineup - so much so that manager Robbie Ross was forced to name himself in the defence, alongside an otherwise regular back line.
Inver, at reasonably full strength, looked decidedly resolute in the first period, thanks in part to sweeper and Thistle turncoat Andknee Murray but it was Thistle's Stainke who had the game's first shot on goal, preying on a loose ball from eight yards out before sending his shot over the fence onto the railway line.
In what proved to be a quiet first half at both ends, neither goalkeeper had a save to make. The sprightly forward pairing of Martin Smith and Russell Ferguson was kept relatively quiet by Ross and Sutherland, as were Goller and Maclellan by the three man defence of Inver.
The gear was stepped up in the second, however. An early scare for Inver saw stopper Macangus fresh-air an aerial catch before the ball cannoned off the post behind him, saving the custodian's blushes. The best chance of the game followed soon after as Kevin Graham headed just wide following the first of many corners.
Decisive decision making from referee Eric Robertson at the other end saw Stephen Wemyss handed a reprieve on the hour mark as he collided with Martin Smith on the edge of the box, before being booked by the Inverness based whistler. Disputes for a penalty were waved away as Inver had taken play forward from an advantage played.
At the other end, Johnston's ever keen and persistent eye for goal saw him test Inver keeper Macangus, after watching his first attempt blocked by the Inver defence. A series of successive corners saw Inver under a prolonged period of pressure towards the end following the introduction of Colin Burry, but a solitary shot from Darran Goller was the only notable strike goalward as time petered out.
With mere seconds left on the clock however, a sleeping Thistle defence left an onrushing Graeme Davis one-on-one with Wemyss, but the Inver man fired with shot wide, much to the relief of the Jags' back line.
Wemyss, Cameron, Johnston, Ross, Sutherland, Graham, Stainke (Matheson), Durrand, Goller, Maclellan (Burry), D Christie
Subs not used:
Man of the Match:
Tain crashed out in the semi final of successive cups on Saturday, as Balintore scored two goals without reply.
Kevin Graham continued his stint in the centre of defence alongside Kyle Oliver, flanked by Brian Cameron on the right and Ryan Johnston on the left, who has made a big difference following his return from holiday.
Tain started reasonably well, without any clear cut chances. However Tain suffered a major setback, as Michael Brand had to be substituted following a nasty clash of heads with Gus MacDonald of Balintore. The midfielder had to be replaced by Andrew Sutherland, with Graham moving into midfield. Around half an hour in, Balty took the lead after a corner from Tain led to Gavin Mckenzie charging upfield to allow Andrew Bell to finish past Wymess in goal.
They doubled their lead before half-time, when Andrew Sutherland was harshly adjudged to have fouled the tricky Craig McCourt in the box, and David Macgruer stepped up to score.
After the interval, Tain pushed for a goal and had the majority of possession. With half an hour left, Liam Rostock and John Maclellan were introduced to the fray as Tain searched for a lifeline, but it was not to be. The closest they came was a thunderous left footed drive from Johnston, which Henderson did well to tip over the crossbar, leaving Tain disappointed at losing out on another cup final.
Report by John Maclellan.
Wemyss, Cameron, Johnston, Graham (Maclellan), Oliver, Farquhar, Brand (Sutherland), Durrand, Burry (Rostock), D Christie, Goller
Subs not used:
C Nimmons, Stainke
The competitive chance of winning the Ross-shire Welfare league title was taken out of Thistle's hands tonight as Invergordon Social Club recorded an impressive 3-0 win against a demotivated Jags side.
Kyle Oliver returned the side that narrowly beat Inver on Monday night, while Brian Cameron was absent.
Despite a decent start for Thistle in the early stages, it did not take long for a dominant Social midfield to take hold of the game.
Social striker Chris Graham was unlucky on two occasions during the first half, the Thistle defence appearing to live a charmed life after a series of defensive failings. Forward Mark Lamont eventually made his mark on the game with the first of Social's goals, after careful positioning in front of goal to place the ball behind Wemyss on eighteen minutes.
Referee Malcolm Macleod was brought into the spotlight shortly after when he awarded a highly dubious penalty to the Invergordon side. After sliding in tandem with an Invergordon forward for a ball going by, Ryan Johnston was adjudged to have fouled the player. Paul Austin, the league's top scorer, made no mistake with the spot kick, knocking the ball home despite Wemyss diving in the correct direction.
A late strike from Daniel Christie tested Social keeper Scott Wilde, forcing a save with a long range effort, but the effort was the single highlight of a futile first half performance from the Tain boys.
The experience and determination of the Social Club shone through in the second half once more as they secured a third goal, capitalising on repeated pressure on a disjointed Thistle defence. Austin, scoring his second of the night, knocked a ball home after some clever attacking play.
Social were unlucky not to extend their lead as Stephen Campbell, Graham and Austin were foiled by the goalkeeping of Wemyss and faulty crosshairs.
With substitutes Joe Stainke and John Maclellan introduced toward the end, it seemed as though Thistle may register a consolation but inspiration was at a lowest ebb as shots from Goller, Farquhar and Maclellan all flew wide of target.
The defeat leaves Thistle seven points behind the Invergordon side.
Wemyss, Sutherland (Maclellan), Johnston, Graham, Oliver, Farquhar, Brand (C Nimmons), Durrand, Burry (Stainke), Goller, D Christie
Subs not used:
Ross, D Nimmons
With defenders Arron Christie and Kyle Oliver both missing for the Monday night visit of rivals Inver, a makeshift back two of Andrew Sutherland and Kevin Graham was named, with Ryan Johnston also returning from holiday at left back. Daniel Christie also returned to the fold, with John Maclellan dropping to the bench.
The Jags could very well have taken the lead in the opening minute thanks to an urgent attack from kick off, forcing Inver defender Niall McVicar to head the ball clear, only to watch his effort cannon off his own crossbar avoiding a disastrous start for the visitors.
But it was Inver who found it easier to test their opposition keeper in the initial stages, as Martin Smith was played in behind the Thistle back line on two occasions, first shooting wide before lobbing an effort over the bar.
It was Thistle who finally broke the deadlock however, with a long range strike from Michael Brand, sent flying home to leave Inver stopper Ross Macangus standing just before the half hour mark.
At the other end, Scott Smith should have equalised for the away side after a defensive error, but the imposing forward could only issue a weak strike wide of the post.
It was Martin Smith who finally found the net for Inver just before the break, with a headed goal from a corner, leaving things all-square at half time.
The second half quickly favoured Thistle, and before long Macangus was forced into action under pressure from Darran Goller and Martyn Farquhar, before saving a Dickie Durrand effort. But it was right-back Brian Cameron who made the difference. Picking his spot, Cameron launched a left foot drive which battered its way through the grasp of Macangus to restore Thistle's lead on 55 minutes.
Daniel Christie will consider himself unlucky not to have made it 3-1 when he was played through on Macangus' goal, but time was not on his side as he failed to strike towards goal. Another effort for Cameron followed shortly after, zipping past the post.
A late push from Inver for an equaliser in the hope of extra time made for a busy end to the game. A superb late save from Stephen Wemyss prevented a Russell Ferguson shot from reaching the back of the net, before Macangus did the same to catch a looped effort from Ryan Johnston that looked destined to sail over the Inver keeper.
But there was to be no extra time, and the score remained 2-1.
Wemyss, Cameron, Johnston, Graham, Sutherland, Farquhar, Burry (Maclellan), Durrand (D Nimmons), Goller, D Christie (Stainke)
Subs not used:
Brand 28, Cameron 55
Burry, D Christie
Man of the Match:
The result sets up a rematch of the sides who contested the League Cup final last month, this time in the Coronation Cup semi final, as Balintore host Tain Thistle. Balintore, who battled their way to a 2-1 extra time victory over Invergordon Social Club on Saturday, will certainly be looking for revenge after losing out on both meetings with Thistle so far this season.
The results of the Coronation Cup ended as follows, while Tain Thistle prepare to play Inver in the final game of the round this Monday night.
Dingwall Vertex 3-5 Cromarty
Balintore 2-1 Social Club (aet)
In the other game, Alness Athletic failed to raise a team and Ross-shire Club were therefore handed a bye into the semi finals.
A last-gasp Kevin Graham strike salvaged a 2-2 draw away to Cromarty, on a night where Thistle never really got going.
Joe Stainke was handed his first start for the club, with Daniel Christie, Ryan Johnston and Colin Burry all missing from the side.
It was the worst of starts for Tain, as in the first minute, a 35 yard free-kick taken by Tom Nicholson curled into the bottom corner of Steven Wemyss’ goal, to give the home side an immediate one-nil lead.
A series of corners and free-kicks were all that Tain threatened with following this early setback, with Stainke coming close on a few occasions and causing all sorts of problems to the Crom’s defence. However, the game trickled out till half time, leaving Tain with some thinking to do.
After the interval, Tain pressed for a while, looking for an equalizer, but ten minutes into the second half, Cromarty doubled their lead, Paddy Hardcastle calmly finishing past Wemyss.
Tain continued their onslaught on the home defence, with few clear cut chances. This was the case until Darran Goller took advantage of a knock down, with a brilliant finish from a tight angle with the outside of his boot that clipped the bar on it’s way in.
Tain then sprung into life, piling pressure on the Home side’s back four. They were running out of time, until Kevin Graham was first to react 8 yards out from a scramble from a corner, and lashed home with his weaker right foot. Tain pressed for the winner but it wasn’t to be, and although they rescued a point, it must surely be seen as two dropped.
Report by John Maclellan.
Wemyss, Cameron, Sutherland (Graham), A Christie, Oliver, Durrand, Brand, Stainke (Ross), Farquhar, Maclellan, Goller
Subs not used:
D Nimmons, C Nimmons
Goller 80, Graham 88
Man of the Match:
A week of disappointment and satisfaction saw Tain Thistle first crash out of the Pattison Cup, losing 2-1 to Invergordon Social Club before beating Ross-shire Club in midweek by 3 goals to nil. This weekend will be Thistle's first off-weekend of the season so far, having played on both Wednesdays and Saturdays since the start of the season in April.
The Tain Thistle Supporters' Club has been launched online and has had a favourable response so far. Options of signing up for a mere £2.50 per month enables club members to view exclusive club and match galleries online, dating back to 2007. In addition, members also have the option to download PDF versions of previous match programmes. Many more features are expected for club members as time goes on!
To find out more about the supporters' club, please click here for details.
Andy Durrand was presented with the first Player of the Month award of the season on Wednesday night after a solid start in May, having helped the Jags towards their first ever League Cup trophy while also scoring a hat-trick against Balintore.
Matchday raffles continue to be a resounding success at home fixtures this season, with the funds raised sitting at £110 so far after three games. Thank you to everyone who has bought a ticket, and specific praise should go to Anthony Mackenzie, who put in a stellar shift to raise a large proportion of the funds at the Balintore game last week.
The Pattison Cup final was played at Portmahomack today, contested between form side Invergordon Social Club and Balintore. It was Balintore who took the victory however, making amends for a bad start to the season with a 4-1 win over Invergordon Social Club to secure the second cup in the Ross-shire Welfare calendar.
Finally, we wish many happy returns to Thistle player Joe Stainke, who turned 18 this past week. Happy birthday Joe!
Centre half Arron Christie braved a hamstring concern to take the field alongside a back four that saw Brian Cameron reintroduced at right-back, while John Maclellan was rewarded for some fine play in recent games with a first team start. Coming back into the side for the suspended Andrew Durrand was Kevin Graham.
A ropey start for Thistle saw them on the back foot in the opening stages as quick one-twos between the Ross-shire Club forwards won the visitors a series of corners.
From the resultant corners, protests from the visitors were soon directed towards referee Gary McCarthy following a goal line dispute. The Dingwall men believed they had scored after a cross sent into the Thistle box appeared to have been nodded over the line. Photo evidence suggests the Dingwall side may have had a case. What do you think?
But quick counter-attacking play soon caught Ross Club off guard as top scorer Darran Goller finished a move into the eighteen yard box with a simple tap in to make it 1-0, leaving the visitors feeling very aggrieved.
The Jags soon settled into the game, and the gritty midfield play of Brand and Graham saw Thistle begin to win the physical battle. As has been the case for most of the season, a steady Tain back four left Ross-shire with little opportunity to hit back with an equalizer during the first half, with goalkeeper Wemyss up to any test that was forthcoming on target.
The pace of Goller was once again the undoing of a slow Ross back line on 39 minutes, as the striker pounced on a through ball to lash a shot past Mitchell with authority to make it 2-0.
Partnering Goller up front, Maclellan showed tremendous individual skill for the Jags' final attempt before half time, forcing Mitchell to tip a powerful strike over the bar after dribbling past the Ross Club defence.
The game took on a grubbier than necessary feel as the second half commenced, with referee Gary McCarthy having more than his fair share of discussions with players on both sides.
The persistent play of Goller however, chasing a hat-trick, saw Thistle continue to dominate in attack, setting up Messrs Maclellan and Burry on a number of occasions, despite Ross Club stopper Mitchell regularly standing up to the task.
Tearing forward from the left-back position, Ryan Johnston had designs on joining Goller on the scoresheet, and went for the spectacular with a long range drive, but his shot flew just inches wide of the post.
It was midfielder Martyn Farquhar though, who has been involved in a lot of the scoring this season, who finally killed off Ross Club's hopes. Not to be denied in his latest match, he found the net for the Jags' third with a confident finish after a neat lobbed pass from Burry.
With the game now firmly in Thistle's control, it looked like 4-0 was on the cards, as Maclellan found himself clear of the Ross-shire defence on 75 minutes - but although the striker was successful in leaving Mitchell standing, his placed shot veered just a fraction wide of the upright.
Farquhar had the last of the chances for Tain as they enjoyed a late spell of attacking play, but the midfielder could not finish to the same standard as before, opting to lob the ball wide of Mitchell's far post.
Wemyss, Cameron, Johnston, Oliver, A Christie, Farquhar, Brand, Graham (D Nimmons), Burry (Stainke), Goller, Maclellan (C Nimmons)
Subs not used:
Goller 10, 39, Farquhar 74
Man of the Match:
In the evening's other matches, Invergordon Social Club maintained their 100% record in the league with a 1-0 win over neighbours Alness Athletic, while in another local derby, Balintore and Inver drew 2-2. In the only other game, Cromarty made easy work of Dingwall Vertex with a 3-0 win at Dingwall.
Andrew "Dickie" Durrand has been named as Thistle's Player of the Month for May, as voted for by club players and committee.
The pacey winger has enjoyed a very successful month in May, netting goals against Inver and Cromarty during the Jags' cup run before collecting a cup winners medal against Balintore. Dickie capped off a brilliant spell of form with a hat trick against Balintore last week, picking up the man of the match award along the way.
Well done Dickie!