In the final game of the season last night, Thistle were soundly beaten at the Links by Invergordon Social Club.
In a first half which ended in the favour of the Invergordon men, Thistle had no luck. Opening the scoring for the visitors, Rob MacCormack held off his man to slot home before a Paul Austin cross was diverted into the net by Thistle's Martyn Farquhar.
Thistle were not without chances as Goller twice struck wide and Stephen Campbell in goal for Social did well to save when tested by Rostock. A third was added before half time to make it 3-0.
Thistle never moved out of second gear and in the second half, two further goals followed. Robbie Ross powered home a consolation for the home side, however the result by this time was academic.
The result wrapped up the shortest of seasons for Thistle in their sixth and final league game.
Wemyss, Durrand, Johnston (Matheson), Ross, Farquhar, Cowie, Brand, Rostock, Goller, D Christie, Maclellan (Munro)
Turning up with only ten players, a valiant effort from Cromarty saw them defend well in a first half which saw Tain Thistle consistently attack their goal for 45 minutes.
After four minutes Darran Goller hit the crossbar, before curling a shot wide moments later. Thistle thought they had scored shortly after with a header that appeared to be over the line and in the net but referee Gary McCarthy waved play on.
A Rostock header went over and Goller again was unsuccessful with a shot saved by Maclean on the half hour mark. From a free kick, Chris Mailley came close with an effort and the resultant rebound before Rostock had a shot blocked on the line. Incredibly, the score finished 0-0 at half time, with goalkeeper Stephen Wemyss for the Jags finding the evening awfully quiet.
Amazingly, from the start of the second half, Cromarty kicked into gear and found themselves 1-0, hitting Thistle on the counter to cut a shot back for Gordon Thompson to score.
Paul Cowie hit straight back from the home side to make it 1-1 within a few minutes, however it was back to the drawing board as a resilient Cromarty side held on for the draw.
Durrand had a shot destined for the top corner stopped by Maclean, and Cowie again looked like scoring - but the packed defence of the Black Isle men kept their resolve the game ended at 1-1.
Wemyss, Durrand, Johnston, Mailley, Farquhar, Cowie, Munro, Rostock, Goller, Maclellan (Matheson), Ripley
Alness exacted revenge for their third cup final defeat this season by dumping hosts Tain Thistle out of the Cordiner Cup on Saturday.
Missing a host of players from the cup final winning team, including Liam Rostock, Arron Christie, Martyn Farquhar, Michael Brand, Chris Mailley and John Allan, Thistle brought only thirteen players to Academy Park, including Brian Cameron, who returned to the side on temporary duty since his departure for Orkney at the start of the season.
The cup tie was not to prove history-changing for Thistle as they once again found themselves on the losing side in Alness, with goals from Mike Mckenzie, Keith Dingwall and Chris Graham putting the Jags to the sword.
Wemyss, Cameron, Durrand, Graham, Ross, Cowie (Matheson), Munro, D Christie (Johnston), Goller, Maclellan, Ripley
As the first round of the Tain hosted Cordiner Cup approaches, the Jags will be looking to add to their current unbeaten run, as they enjoy the best form they have had since May 2011, when they won the Ross-shire Welfare League Cup.
With only one blemish on their record in their last eight games, Thistle will hope for a reverse of their last visit to Academy Park in Alness, which saw them take the lead but ultimately lose 2-1 in the league this past June.
Action between Alness Athletic and Tain Thistle has been tight this year, with a win, loss and a draw recorded for each side, across league and cup competitions.
Second half goals from Chris Mailley and John Maclellan cancelled out the first half lead of Ross Club at Jubilee Park last night, as the Jags recorded a point.
Missing Mark Munro, John Allan and Martyn Farquhar from the Seaboard cup final winning squad, Thistle would also have to contend with injury to Liam Rostock and a groin irritated Darran Goller, both of whom took a place on the bench for the Dingwall visit. Stephen Wemyss came in for Allan, while Kev Graham also returned to action.
A slow to start Thistle looked as though they may have been suffering from a cup hangover in the first half, unable to make a breakthrough despite enjoying most of the play. Daniel Christie and Andy Ripley both unlocked the Ross Club defence but were thwarted by the quick hands of Steven Hyslop in the Ross-shire goal.
At the other end, Arron Christie and Robbie Ross both did well to deal with the quick counter of the Dingwall side, but it was an unfortunate cut back in the 38th minute that led to the opener; Wemyss unable to prevent a certain goal.
Within minutes, Ross Club had extended their lead, in the most fortunate of fashions. Wemyss, caught out of his goal, was lobbed from distance with a speculative effort and with that the Jags were 2-0 down.
The Tain men will have felt aggrieved to be 2-0 down at half time, but they emerged for the second half with renewed vigour, and before long they had pulled a goal back. Midfield man Chris Mailley found the net with a stunning shot, rifled past Hyslop.
Maclellan and Goller were soon introduced, and it was the latter who provided for the former, as he netted his seventh goal of the season to make it 2-2.
Maclellan found himself through on goal late on, but failed to capitalize and Ripley had the only other chance of note, forcing a save from Hyslop on 80 minutes.
Wemyss, Durrand, Johnston (Graham), Ross, A Christie, Brand, Cowie (Maclellan), Mailley, Matheson (Goller), D Christie, Ripley
Subs not used:
Mailley 55, Maclellan 64
Man of the Match:
Thistle's top marksman Liam Rostock suffered a blow to his end of season chances of picking up the goalscorers' shield on Saturday, as he limped off the park with 25 minutes left of the cup final. He never witnessed the end of the match, which saw his teammates go on to secure their first ever Seabord trophy, as he made an exit for accident and emergency at Raigmore hospital.
The winger's ankle had swelled to the size of a tennis ball after he left the field and fears of torn ligaments or a fracture were about to spell disaster for the rest of his season. The doctor's prognosis was more forgiving however.
"It's just a bad sprain." Rostock told the club website. "The swelling has gone down and I'm just left with a lot of bruising, and I've already been out running on it."
Rostock's chances of a quick return to the side for Wednesday's visit to Dingwall to play Ross-shire Club are slim however.
"I wont be fit for Wednesday, think I'll take the rest this week and aim for the following week."
As Thistle focus on securing 2nd place in the Ross-shire Welfare league, they face a tough trip to Dingwall, which has not favoured them in recent years.
In last year's corresponding July league visit to Dingwall, Thistle suffered a 5-0 defeat, and in 2010, the scoreline was no less embarrassing, falling 4-1 to a Ross-shire Club side who had eyes on Thistle's 3rd place spot.
This year, Thistle are a much improved side and will look upon the fixture as a must-win, coming off the back of an excellent performance in the Seaboard Cup final. The Jags' first round victory over the Dingwall men will be sure to bolster spirits, given Ross Club's cup form this year.
Tain Thistle secured their first ever Seaboard Cup win yesterday, following a brilliant second half performance and some resolute defending. A brace from substitute Andy Ripley and a goal from Darran Goller were enough to see out the result, despite a late fight back from fellow finalists Alness Athletic.
Thistle, for the first time this season, were at full strength, and gaffer introduced a reshaped back four, with Michael Brand and Martyn Farquhar taking up the full back positions either side of himself and Arron Christie. Paul Cowie, Chris Mailley and Daniel Christie made up the midfield, with Liam Rostock and Darran Goller on the wings, and John Maclellan completed the lineup as the lone striker.
Alness Athletic had been hard at it pre-match with close to an hour warming up on the sodden Lower Seaboard Park; the rain hitting the ground at a furious rate - but just minutes after the Thistle boys made their way onto the pitch at 2.45pm, the wet weather relented.
Jags keeper John Allan was called into action early on with a series of attacks; Mike McKenzie testing first with a shot saved well at close range. A flurry of corners followed with the Jags very much under the cosh. During the opening 20 minutes, Athletic will feel very disappointed not to have scored, having seen multiple chances fly over and wide of the bar; Ross and Arron Christie both doing excellently well to see the ball clear.
The Jags eventually settled into the game, and it was Rostock who was first to test Docherty in the Alness goal with a tame effort, however the battle in midfield was becoming anything but. Hard work from Farquhar, Cowie and Mailley to win possession saw Thistle begin to pass the ball in the way that has seen them win six of their last eight games.
Maclellan was next on the offensive for Tain, forcing a near post save from Docherty, however as quickly as the corner was taken, Thistle were on the defensive, as the end to end battle continued.
The second half started more in Thistle's favour, Alness appearing tired following am all-out attack in the first period. Slick passing and clever forward play allowed the pace of Goller and Rostock to get in behind the Alness back line, however Alness were up to the challenge in defence.
It looked as though the fruits of Thistle's labour in the early spell of the second half had paid off as Robbie Ross headed home from a Rostock ball, but referee Gary McCarthy judged that the attacking side had pushed inside the box.
Disaster struck after the hour mark for Thistle however, as Rostock was felled with an ankle injury. With his ankle swelling to the size of a tennis ball, he was forced to leave the field, and introduced in his place was Andy Ripley.
Albeit non-tactical, the change heralded success almost instantly as Daniel Christie found himself through on goal. His shot was saved by Docherty, but in at the far post to knock home the rebound was Ripley, sending the Jags into the lead.
With twenty minutes remaining, Thistle had a job on their hands to defend their lead, and it looked as though they had lost it when Allan was beaten on the edge of the eighteen yard box, but Arron Christie, excellent in his efforts all afternoon, was there to clear the ball before it crossed the line.
Injury forced another Thistle player off the park shortly after when Paul Cowie left the field with a knee knock, Andy Durrand being called into action in his place.
Moments later, Alness eventually found their equalizer as Mark Lamont headed home at the far post from a series of knock-ons. Undeterred however, Thistle hearts didn't sink and Darran Goller, tireless in his efforts all afternoon rattled a shot home from inside the eighteen yard box through a wall of defenders past Docherty to make it 2-1, completing a personal hat-trick of cup final goals for the Jags.
The Jags players and supporters watched on for the longest ten minutes of the game, awaiting the final whistle, but on 82 minutes, Ripley once again sent the Thistle support into applause with the coolest of finishes from the edge of the box, rattling a shot past Docherty with confidence to make it 3-1.
However, as lifelong fan Norman Macangus would say, quite frequently, "This is Tain we're talking about - we don't do things the easy way...". Following a spell of end to end chances for both sides, Maclellan particularly unlucky for Tain, it was Alness who netted again. With two minutes remaining, substitute Kevin Munro found the net and at 3-2 it was backs to the wall for Tain.
In the dying stages, hearts were in mouths as Alness Athletic had a goal denied, as Liam Muir believed he had headed home when his effort came off the bar, but Christie once again was the hero with a goal line clearance. Attacking at the other end, Docherty stranded, the Thistle forwards went on the counter towards an open goal, however linesman Martin Godwin deemed them to be offside.
Alas, that was to be all the action, and referee Gary McCarthy blew for full time. Thistle secured their fourth cup win in the short history, this their first ever Seaboard Cup win.
Allan, Brand, Farquhar, A Christie, Ross, Cowie (Durrand), Mailley, D Christie, Rostock (Ripley), Goller (Matheson), Maclellan
Subs not used:
Ripley 67, 82, Goller 78
Man of the Match:
Tain held their nerve to see out a deserved victory at Lower Seaboard Park tonight, despite a continued fight back from the home side.
Match report to follow.
Allan, Munro, Durrand (Maclellan), Farquhar, Ross, Cowie, A Christie (Brand), Mailley, Goller (Ripley), Rostock, D Christie
Subs not used:
Rostock 6, Ross 18, Cowie 59, 67, Maclellan 77
Man of the Match:
The competitive history between Alness Athletic and Tain Thistle has been one of the Ross-shire Welfare's most see-saw battles of the past three years. Over ten games, in short, Alness have never won in Tain, and Tain have never won in Alness. This Saturday, something will have to give, as they meet on neutral territory for the first time in the Seaboard Cup final at Balintore.
Athletic were formed in 2009, but it could be argued that the rivalry began in 2008, a year before they filled the void left by amateur bound Black Rock Rovers. Many of the current Alness Athletic team played for the Rocks during that season, during which the Rocks controversially pipped the Jags to the league title. Much like the history between Alness and Tain, the Rocks won the Evanton leg of their league fixtures while Thistle comfortably won by 3 goals to nil in Tain.
Thistle made amends for the championship loss by winning the Ross-shire Welfare league the following year, however in both league and cup competition, they could not record a win in Alness, despite winning 2-1 in Tain.
This season has proved no different. Alness Athletic, who up until last week could boast a 100% record against every other team team during their very impressive league campaign, could only draw 2-2 with Thistle in Tain.
The atmosphere and setting of a cup final will make for an entirely different game, no doubt, and with both teams scoring for fun on the way to the final (ten for Alness and twelve for Tain, in only two games), both sides are hitting form. Lower Seaboard Park was the venue for the Jags' last cup win, as they secured the League Cup last season. The Thistle players and supporters will be hoping that history can repeat itself next Saturday.
13/5/09 - Tain Thistle 2-1 Alness Athletic
1/7/09 - Alness Athletic 4-3 Tain Thistle
1/8/09 - Alness Athletic 3-0 Tain Thistle (Coronation Cup)
8/5/10 - Tain Thistle 2-1 Alness Athletic (League Cup)
12/5/10 - Tain Thistle 0-0 Alness Athletic
30/6/10 - Alness Athletic 2-0 Tain Thistle
11/5/11 - Tain Thistle 2-2 Alness Athletic
29/6/11 - Alness Athletic 4-1 Tain Thistle (Seaboard Cup/League double header)
9/5/12 - Tain Thistle 2-2 Alness Athletic
27/6/12 - Alness Athletic 2-1 Tain Thistle
Tain Thistle booked their place in the Seaboard Cup final with ease against Invergordon Social Club this afternoon. Goals from Liam Rostock, Darran Goller, Marc Munro, Paul Cowie and Martyn Farquhar rounded off a great team performance against a Social team which will be disappointed with their offering.
Arron Christie returned from holiday to come back into the side following ankle problems along with Martyn Farquhar who was returning from suspension. Michael Brand remained absent following surgery, while John Allan in goal was unavailable, prompting the return to the side of Steven Wemyss.
With a place in the final at stake, a cagey start saw the opening 20 minutes produce little action; Arron Christie and Darran Goller shooting over for Tain being the only action to speak of. Moments after, Paul Cowie should have scored with a free header but it was left to Liam Rostock to turn and shoot from outside the box to opening the scoring, his goal bound shot finding the top corner to make it 1-0.
Wemyss was called into action at the other end and did brilliant to close down the Social forward to keep the score in the Jags' favour, and it was Rostock again at the other end who extended the score on half time, netting from the same spot this time with a low drive under the Social keeper.
Starting the second half with a two goal lead, Thistle's pace dropped a gear and soon the Social men found themselves back in it, thanks to a stunning goal from Stuart Thomson, powered past Wemyss into the back of the net.
The reduced deficit was only temporary however as Paul Cowie netted at the other ended thumping a rebound into the far post with authority, before embarking on a celebratory backflip which ended the midfielder's participation for the afternoon! Marc Munro took to the field in Cowie's place.
Thistle felt they should have had a penalty after the hour mark when Liam Rostock's shirt was tugged, however referee Billy Murray allowed an (albeit limited) advantage before booking the Invergordon custodian. Six minutes later however Rostock rounded off his afternoon with a hat trick, dribbling home to make it 4-1, scoring his 60th goal for the Jags.
Rostock was the creator for the fifth as he squared an easy ball to John Maclellan for the striker to score and only a minute later, Darran Goller found the net to make it six.
Substitute Munro was next to score with a long range effort skimmed across the ground, appearing to fox the Invergordon keeper and it was Goller again moments later who dribbled past the defence and the keeper to tap the ball goalward, despite a last ditch clearance attempt.
Thistle's ninth and final goal was a moment of inspired class from Martyn Farquhar as the centre half dribbled from deep in his own half, past the midfield, the last line of the defence and then finally the goalkeeper to score the Jags' final goal of the afternoon, much to the delight of the players on the pitch and the spectators.
The emphatic win sends Thistle into their first cup final of the season against the very strong Alness Athletic, who won 5-2 at Seaboard hosts, Balintore. The final will be played on Saturday, July 14th at Balintore's Lower Seaboard Park with a kick off time of 3pm.
Wemyss, Durrand, Johnston, Ross, Farquhar, Cowie (Munro), A Christie, Goller, Rostock (Matheson), D Christie, Maclellan (Ripley)
Rostock 22, 45, 65, Cowie 59, Goller 66, 81, Maclellan 69, Munro 79, Farquhar 87
Man of the Match:
Every club has its icon. When you discuss Tain Thistle today, there are few names that remain synonymous with its humble beginnings, and none more so than that of Robert Craig Sutherland Ross. Close to a year after Roy Anderson had netted the club's first ever goal, a fifteen year old Robert opened his own account for the burgeoning Jags on May 6, 1998 scoring against The Morven, albeit during an 8-1 defeat.
"When I started out I was playing for the team that got beat every week, sometimes by double figures." Ross laments. "Myself and Billy Knox saw a poster in the post office about training and we went along. I'm still stuck here fifteen years later - what went wrong, I don't know!"
Ross is quick to jest, quite modestly so, about his formative years as a player, however many of his peers will remark that despite year upon year of goalscoring in the throws of Ross-shire welfare football, he never quite reached the level he was destined for. A highly regarded product of Edwin Skinner's Invergordon youth setup and a young prospect with Brora Rangers, Robert played alongside local stars such as Billy Ferries and Richie Hart before he ultimately gravitated toward Tain St Duthus.
"I could have done better, but you're always going to say that about yourself. I did play in the Highland League and a few highlights include playing against Celtic and Aberdeen, but there were many good players there at the time and it didn't work out. I played for a few years at St Duthus and ended up as a sweeper."
Robert's efforts at sweeper earned him the club's Player of the Year award, playing in a "second eleven" league arguably much more competitive than its namesake today. But the makeshift sweeper's eye for goal was his making in the welfare leagues. By 2002, he had finished as Tain Thistle's top goalscorer on three separate occasions, despite playing every position on the park for Gordon Burry's men. Hungry for success, Ross left Tain and joined Barry Nimmons to run the short-lived but successful Portmahomack FC. In his first season, he had accumulated a cup winners' medal, the top goalscorer shield and the league's Player of the Year award.
But knee cartilage and ligament troubles hampered his momentum and for a good while Robert was spending more time on the sidelines than on the park. His lust for involvement however wouldn't keep him out of action for long - and a return home was on the cards.
"I'd known Arron (Christie) for a long time since he was a young boy as my sister used to look after him. I'd heard that he'd been asked to take over the team (Tain Thistle) so I asked if he wanted a hand and he said yes. The rest is history."
And history-making it was. Robert's arrival was followed by instant success. In his first season back, he scored twice in a 3-1 win to lead the club to their first ever trophy win, taking home the handsome Pattisons Challenge Cup. In the season that followed he completed a positional round-robin, playing the whole season in goal as the club controversially lost the league championship to Black Rock Rovers. One year on, and he'd secured the recognition that had eluded him.
"I've enjoyed a lot of great moments with the club but the best of all was winning the league title with Arron and the boys in 2009. It was worth every year I have been with the club."
His contribution that season was far from understated, finishing as the club's top goalscorer for a record fourth time. Wind the clock forward three years and Robert is thirty years old and a veteran in a team with few players over the age of twenty-five. His motivation is different. His older peers such as James Rice, Mark Ford and Colin Burry have retired or reduced their game time and the faster, younger forwards of today are scoring the goals. Robert's football mind however, timing and strength are now his distinct advantage as Tain Thistle's experienced centre half. But in his fifteenth season, he is weighing up his options.
"Maybe its time to put the boots and the folder in the bin and spend more time with my family. I've had some great football influences, but the greatest has always been my Mam, as she was always out in the park playing football with me when I was young. My two boys are getting into football more and more every day and maybe its time for me now to be out in the park with them. As most players will tell you though, it's hard to say no when someone comes asking you if you want a game."