For the first time in their seventeen year history, Tain Thistle have won the Coronation Cup, with a narrow but confident 1-0 victory over Fortrose and Rosemarkie Union.
Owing to a last minute change, the venue of the final, usually Dingwall's Jubilee Park, was switched to Maryburgh. The team, along with many supporters, made their way from the St Duthus Hotel in Tain to Maryburgh at 1pm. While the supporters convened at the nearby Cottage Bar, the squad and manager Gary Ross prepared for the match.
Just as the game began, the heavens opened and a steady shower of rain followed for what seemed like the entire duration of the match. Undeterred, the team on the park and those on the sidelines (including those cowering under Ian Christie's umbrella) lined up with confidence.
Another last minute change saw the unfortunate withdrawal of Steven Martin, who himself was returning prematurely from an injury to cover the absence of Johnny Allan. Keeperless, the gaffer made several frantic calls. The result was the signing of veteran stopper Gordy Macinnes, formerly of Gary Ross's Inver.
A cagey start by both teams saw little action in the opening ten minutes, with stubborn defending and a tight midfield taking shape in the middle third of a very short Maryburgh park.
It fell to Liam Rostock to send in the first test, his shot flying across the face of goal and just wide of the Fortrose goal. Indeed, the Jags were enjoying most of the passing, continuing to abide by the short passing game that has seen them in such great form of late - however the breakthrough seemed to be eluding them - thanks to clever sweeping and resilience in the Black Isle side's back line.
After half an hour, a moment of brilliance heralded the opener. Chris "Chippie" Mailley, rarely a scorer of simple goals, curled a shot from at least 25 yards over the top of Fortrose defence, and Martin Smith in the Union goal, landing in the top corner of the net. The goal naturally drew the applause and admiration of the Jags' faithful, but it would take even the most critical of the game's spectators to argue that a finer goal has been scored this season.
Play opened up after goal was scored and up front for Thistle, Rostock and Jamie Macdonald continued to give the Fortrose back line a torrid time of it. It was Fortrose, however, with two speculative efforts testing the Jags' goal who provided the next two chances of the game. An shot from the edge of the eighteen yard box, launched high into the air by Lewis Graizer, came down towards Macinnes in the Tain goal at a ferocious pace. It seemed as though the Thistle stopper might get to it, but the shot cannoned off the crossbar with an almighty thwack and bounced over the net. A similar effort followed only five minutes later, this time Stevie Stewart the striker for Fortrose, rattling the top of the cross bar. The woodwork was certainly proving to be the Union's undoing!
There was little other than a Macdonald header nodded just wide for Thistle to report in the first half, and as the rain continued to fall down, referee Michael Stainke called for an end to the first forty-five.
Thistle's search for a second was the main story of the opening stages of the second half, but despite enjoying the lion's share of the ball and a series of corners, Fortrose defended resolutely. Likewise in the Thistle defence, impeccable timing and organisation from the back three of Arron Christie, Keith Dingwall and Alan Duff ensured that Macinnes had a mostly quiet second forty-five.
With ten minutes left, the game opened up somewhat, Fortrose throwing everything forward in search of the elusive equaliser. A couple of free kicks followed for the Union, Partick McGarvey and Stuart Gammie both failing to find the target. At the other end, Darran Goller came close for Thistle striking the post with a shot curled across the face of Smith's goal; Martyn Farquhar rifling a shot into the oncoming arms of the Fortrose stopper before assistant Billy Murray's flag was raised for offside.
In the dying moments, it seemed that the wind had truly been taken out of the Union's sails as Gordon Whyte, having been booked earlier in the game, was sent off for a late challenge on Thistle's Martin Smith.
Play concluded after only a couple of added minutes and with that, Thistle were crowned Coronation Cup winners for 2013. Despite the narrow scoreline, the one goal that separated the sides was truly worthy of winning a cup final, and shall be remembered as one of the club's hardest fought cup victories.
After the game, both sets of players, committee and supporters convened at the Ross-shire Club in Dingwall, sponsors of the trophy. Sandwiches and cold snacks, kindly laid on by the venue, made for a great post-match refreshment. Overseeing the presentations, Ross-shire Welfare league chairman Jimmy Patullo presented the runners-up with their medals and match-ball, while the Tain lads collected their winners' medals and captain Daniel Christie accepted the trophy on behalf of the team. Speaking after collecting the cup, Christie congratulated those involved, and offered his and the team's admiration for Fortrose Union, toasting the Black Isle club as a great addition to the league.
Thistle now look forward to a free week (post-match post-evening recovery!) before returning to action on Saturday away to another Black Isle side in Cromarty to begin their defence of the Seaboard Cup.
G Macinnes, A Christie, K Dingwall, A Duff, G Davis, M Farquhar, S Wood (D Goller), D Christie, C Mailley, L Rostock (C Sutherland), J Macdonald (M Smith)
Sub not used:
C Mailley 31
M Smith, K Dingwall
An all-round team performance saw Thistle notch a 5-0 win over rivals at Balintore at Lower Seaboard Park last night. A hat-trick from Jamie Macdonald and goals from Arron Christie and Martyn Farquhar saw Thistle pick up all three points in the continued race for the Ross-shire Welfare league title.
Tain Thistle made their into the Coronation Cup final this afternoon with a confident 3-1 win over Invergordon Social Club. An early goal snuck in at the near post by Scottie Innes gave Thistle the lead on 16 minutes before Liam Rostock made it 2-0 shortly after.
Social Club pulled a goal back in the second half, but it was Liam Rostock with his 70th goal for the club who secured the points with 15 minutes remaining to send Thistle into the final.
An incredible second half fight back saw Tain Thistle overcome league leaders Alness Athletic at the Links last night, recording their second win in four days over the champions.
A stuttering start saw Tain unable to test Andrew Maitland in the Alness goal during the opening stages, while Alness at the other end struggled to find the target.
It took forty-one minutes for the deadlock to be broken as Alness went 1-0 up with a opportunistic shot from Ally Rose at close range.
Strong words followed from gaffer Gary Ross and the same again at half time and a very different Tain Thistle emerged in the second half. Now maintaining possession and creating chances, the Thistle equaliser eventually came from the back, as Arron Christie found space from a free kick and curled a left foot drive beyond Maitland into the top corner of the net. It was as good a goal as anyone will see watching Ross-shire Welfare football this season.
Spurred on by the leveller, Thistle now looked for a winner, however their attacking options took a blow shortly after striker John Maclellan was introduced, as wing partner Darran Goller was mercilessly hacked to the ground. Goller had to leave the field of play, but the remaining Thistle men were undeterred as Maclellan and Rostock soon linked up to create the winner - the former squaring for the latter to run past the last defender and rifle the telling shot home.
At 2-1, Thistle expertly saw out the remaining minutes to secure a vital three points.
A valiant performance from the Jags over 120 minutes saw the Tain men beat Alness Athletic today in the first round of the Coronation Cup. A headed goal from Martin Smith in the second half of extra time saw Thistle run out 1-0 winners in a close encounter.
Report to follow.
A last minute goal punished Tain Thistle for hesitance at the back in Invergordon on Wednesday, after a Liam Rostock goal had seen the Jags in the lead for most of the match.
Rostock took advantage of slack work in the Invergordon defence after 15 minutes, poking the ball past Stephen Campbell to make it 1-0.
Thistle seemed like they would add to their tally as time went on however efforts from Rostock, Jamie Macdonald and John Maclellan all fell astray.
At the other end, it was all quiet until the latter stages when Mark Reid turned a short beyond stand-in goalkeeper Scott Innes to make it 1-1. With ten minutes left on the clock, Thistle frantically chased for an equaliser, substitute Daniel Christie coming close with an effort - but it was Social Club who scored the winner, as Kraig Vass took advantage of a blunder at the back to nip and finish.