Goals from Paul Cowie, Liam Rostock and John Maclellan saw Tain Thistle beat Ross-shire Club to reach the Seaboard Cup semi final this afternoon.
Avenging their earlier semi-final defeat to the Ross-shire in May, a Thistle side still missing Michael Brand, Martyn Farquhar and now Darran Goller turned up in small numbers to play the two time finalists.
Despite only playing the first half, Paul Cowie scored the first for the visitors before Liam Rostock and John Maclellan added goals to make it 3. Craig Sutherland scored the home side's only goal, netting a penalty after gaffer Robbie Ross was adjudged to have handballed.
The Jags will travel to Invergordon for the semi final to play the Social Club.
Allan, Durrand, Johnston, Graham, Ross, Cowie (Ripley), Mailley, Matheson, Rostock, Maclellan, D Christie
Cowie, Rostock, Maclellan
Man of the Match:
Three first half goals and a valiant second half effort from the Jags against league leaders Alness Athletic made for a storied and toughly contested game at Academy Park last night.
Missing both centre halves from last week's win over Inver (Martyn Farquhar suspended and Michael Brand recovering from surgery), Thistle fielded an otherwise unchanged eleven with last minute addition Michael Stein added to the subs bench.
The game's importance was clear to see as both sides started with an eye for goal, Goller shooting over at one end before Mark Lamont hit the side netting at the other - all in the opening two minutes.
The end to end action continued, with John Allan called upon early with a double save, continuing the brilliance in goal that he has shown all season. At the other end, it was Tain who eventually found the opener. In a moment of brilliance, Chris Mailley flicked the ball to Darran Goller who turned and lobbed a shot from over 30 yards, foxing Daniel Cormack in the Alness goal as his powerful shot rattled the crossbar on its way into the net.
It should have been 2-0 shortly after as a goalmouth scramble was eventually cleared by Cormack and the Alness defence following a series of corners, and again at the other end, Allan was equal to Alness.
Missing their top goalscorer Shaun Robertson, an otherwise strong forward line was bolstered by David Niven, who eventually found Athletic's equalizer on 26 minutes, tapping home from a Lamont squared ball.
At 1-1, the frenetic pace didn't change, however the grip was held stronger by Alness, buoyed by their goal. Unlucky with an earlier attempt, it was Chris Graham for the home side who eventually scored. John Allan, otherwise excellent in the first half, could do nothing to prevent Graham's thumping angled shot, ghosted past the Jags at pace to make it 2-1.
The break followed within four minutes and so began a second half of Tain pressure. The back two of Robbie Ross and Kev Graham expertly stood up to early attacks from Alness, with Allan in goal again up to the test when required and Durrand and Johnston were both quick on the counter for Thistle. Under pressure, the Alness back line grew in numbers and successfully defended a series of well delivered corners from Daniel Christie.
Liam Rostock looked the Jags' biggest threat, unlucky not to score with an effort that missed the target, continuing however to link up well with Johnston and substitute Donald Matheson - the former also shooting just wide.
In the dying stages it looked as though Tain would surely snatch an equalizer as Maclellan found himself through on goal, but his shot flew agonisingly over.
The win for Alness all but cements their position as champions-in-waiting, having already beaten closest rivals Balintore a week ago.
Allan, Durrand, Johnston, Ross, Graham, Cowie (Matheson), Mailley, Rostock, Goller, Maclellan, Christie
Subs not used:
Man of the Match:
Wearing his colours on his sleeve, John Maclellan is an out and out Tain man.
He is already in his third season with Tain Thistle since being thrown to the wolves at the age of 16 in a North Caledonian league match against Muir of Ord Rovers. The tall and imposing centre forward could have had a hat trick that night, were it not for the heroics of Robert Rose in the Muir goal, but that performance, coupled with a sparkling season with the Tain Juniors winning the Under 17 league championship and cup double, left a big impression.
Three years on and Maclellan emerges a new player, rust free, stronger and fresh from a winter playing in the Scottish Universities football leagues with maturity and the commitment of a player hungrier for success.
It was only last year that he collected his first winners' medal following Tain's capture of the Ross-shire Welfare League Cup, albeit at the start of an otherwise disappointing season for the Jags. Maclellan, however, four games in and with three goals under his belt, sees much more promise in his beloved Thistle this year.
"We're a better team than the last couple of seasons. Individually, we are among the best in the league; the team is full of good players. We should be aiming to win cups and should certainly be challenging for the league. It isn't quite out of our grasp yet, we just have to keep taking each game as it comes and doing all we can to narrow the gap."
Thistle's next league game sees them travel to Academy Park to play league leaders Alness Athletic. Two years as the bridesmaid and not yet the bride, Alness will look upon victory next week as their first step towards title certainty, however a win for the Jags will close the gap to only three points, making it one of the biggest games of the league thus far.
The Jags recorded a further five goal win last night, beating local rivals Inver with goals from all round the team.
Inver were stunned by an early goal for Thistle thanks to a well taken Liam Rostock free kick, beating Gordon Macinnes at his near post in the first minute.
The score was to remain at 1-0 for most of the half, despite many chances for the home side. John Maclellan was first to force a save out of Macinnes, the elder keeper showing great agility to force the tight angled shot wide. Shooting wide following a corner shortly after, Maclellan was yet to open his account, and a shot over the bar on the half hour mark kept the score at only 1-0.
Darran Goller, who had shot wide moments early, eventually extended the scoreline a minute before half time, giving Macinnes no chance with a powerful strike following some good forward play.
With several minutes of first half stoppage time, Rostock looked like he would extend his own tally, but Macinnes saved a thumping effort at his near post to leave the first half score at 2-0.
Inver faced some bad luck in the second half as their prolific centre half Andrew Sutherland fell awkwardly on his knee, before leaving the field in agony. Unable to weather the storm, the visitors soon found themselves 3-0 and then 4-0 down after an hour's play, through goals from Maclellan and Martyn Farquhar.
The Jags introduced substitutes for the remaining twenty minutes of the game, and despite chances for Goller and Sutherland, it was Inver who were next to score. Hitting Thistle on the break, Martin Smith opened his account for the season carefully rounding Wemyss to score.
Thistle's lapse continued as Smith found the net again shortly after, following a short foray of corners, but Wemyss, previously picking the ball out of the net, found himself credited with an assist shortly after, as his long kick was hit first time by Andy Ripley for Thistle's fifth of the evening.
In what had been an otherwise well spirited game, a series of contentious offside calls against the home side in the final ten minutes led to frustration, and the Jags' Martyn Farquhar found himself dismissed for a second yellow for dissent; although it has been argued that of the 23 people on the park, the 22 players were perhaps the least guilty of dissension.
Inver capitalized with a last minute goal following Farquhar's dismissal, Michael Newlands the scorer.
The win for Thistle puts them within six points of Alness Athletic on the league table - a gap that can be reduced to only three points next week, as the Jags visit Academy Park to meet the league leaders. With 5 games to be played, its a tall task, but anything can happen.
Wemyss, Johnston, Graham, Brand, Farquhar, Durrand (Sutherland), Rostock, Munro (Cowie), Ross, Maclellan (Ripley), Goller
Subs not used:
Rostock 1, Goller 45, Maclellan 65, Farquhar 68, Ripley 86
Farquhar, Wemyss, Sutherland
Martyn Farquhar (90+2)
Man of the Match:
Tain Thistle bounced back tonight, from defeat at Cromarty with an emphatic 5-2 win away to league champions Invergordon Social Club. A hat-trick from man of the match Daniel Christie and a goal from Paul Cowie was enough to give Thistle a commanding lead before their third penalty award in three games saw Donald Matheson round the game off.
Missing Andy Ripley, Ryan Johnston and Craig Nimmons, the Jags fielded an otherwise full strength side, with Colin Burry included for the first time this season. Player-manager Robbie Ross was also back in the side, following a relaxed gentleman's trip to Liverpool.
As has been the case for most of the season, Thistle stuttered at the start of the game as Paul Sangwin's glancing header found the net to give the Social a lead after four minutes. The goal came after Darran Goller and Christie both failed to find the net for Tain during a frenetic opening spell.
The opener was cancelled out in good time however with a similarly speculative cross, headed into an open net by Paul Cowie.
The lead was extended when Daniel Christie capped off a brilliant move started by Darran Goller, playing in John Maclellan for to cut back for the striker to score.
Tireless running and attacking play from Liam Rostock saw the winger presented with a number of chances, but the score at half time, remained 2-1 to Tain.
The second half started as the first had with Social netting a goal, as Stuart Thomson's bobbled home from distance to make it 2-2.
The leveller proved to be a short lived ray of hope for the Invergordon side however, as Christie again found the net.
Christie looked like he was about to net his third on the seventy minute mark following clever play from Rostock, but he could only fire at the legs of the Social stopper.
His hat-trick eventually came, marking his 30th goal for the Jags, neatly slotting past the goalkeeper to make it 4-2.
The game took an ugly turn with twelve minutes to go as Sangwin was dismissed for violent conduct following an altercation with Kevin Graham.
Finally, in what proved to be the third penalty in as many games that Gary McCarthy has awarded Tain Thistle, Donald Matheson converted to find the net for the first time this season, making it 5-2.
The score remained at 5-2 with seven minutes remaining, Thistle recording their second away win of the league season.
Allan, Durrand (Burry), Graham, Farquhar, Brand, Cowie (Ross), Munro, Goller (Matheson), Rostock, D Christie, Maclellan
Subs not used:
Cowie 14, D Christie 29, 62, 73, Matheson pen 82
Man of the Match:
The Jags will wait on the availability of stand-in players as the week continues, with almost all of the first team unavailable for their Coronation Cup 1st round tie with Balintore.
While the club hopes to be able to field a team, forfeiting the tie has not been ruled out, with almost all of the current first team absent.
The long trip up to Cromarty ended in a 3-2 defeat after five first half goals and an outstanding goalkeeping display from Tain's Number 1.
John Maclellan found the net after his shot was deflected past the Cromarty stopper after only nine minutes giving the Jags a dream start, but the goal was quickly cancelled out minutes later by Aaron Henderson after Allan had saved from Ruari Rogan.
At 1-1, Thistle then found themselves on the backfoot, Phil Macdonald shooting wide after capitalising on a defensive slip up. Cromarty eventually found the net through Rogan to go 2-1 up.
A Jags equalizer was soon to follow as the Cromarty goalkeeper wiped out Darran Goller in the box. A penalty was awarded but amazingly the keeper walked away without a caution. Liam Rostock converted to make it 2-2.
Minutes before half time however, Rogan punished Thistle again, slotting past Allan despite the keeper's best efforts to parry an earlier shot.
An outstanding game long performance was continued by 15 year old keeper Johnny Allan as he kept Thistle in with a shout of finding an equalizer in the second half. The goal however, never came, despite a shot from Kevin Graham which found its way over the bar and a crossbar rattler from Liam Rostock. Darran Goller was last to stab at goal with a shot just wide of the post into the side netting. Alas, the score remained 3-2 to the home side.
Allan, Durrand (Mackay 81), Johnston, Farquhar, Brand, Graham, Cowie, Rostock, Goller (Wemyss 81), Matheson (Nimmons 81), Maclellan
Maclellan 9, Rostock pen 36
Man of the Match: