Thistle look set to complete their pre-season with two friendly matches. The Jags will play Embo in a return fixture from last year's game on Saturday, April 5th with a 3pm kick off. Last year's game at the Links saw the Sutherland side run out 1-0 winners. This year's game will be played at Embo Park with Thistle out to secure a victory over last season's North West Sutherland league runners-up.
On Tuesday, April 8th, Thistle will welcome Lairg Rovers to the Links for the first time since 2012, having already played them this pre-season in a practice game at the TRACC all-weather pitch in March. The game kicks off at 7pm.
Thistle's friendly match of the pre-season ended in comfortable victory as Darren Mackay's depleted Jags battled to a 3-1 win over Muir of Ord United.
Run by former Tain striker Stu Ross, Muir of Ord United had played Thistle three years ago under their former name of Dores FC in a Christmas friendly. That day the game ended in a 7-7 draw in bitterly cold and wet conditions. Thankfully, the weather made for a much better game today. Missing several of their regular side, Thistle took only twelve players to Muir of Ord for the game.
The Jags got off to a flier after only one minute of play when the speedy Darran Goller capitalised on lackadaisical defending to run past the keeper with ease and score.
The next twenty minutes of the game, though, belonged to Muir as they began to press the Thistle back line. Despite a couple of debatable offside calls going the home team's way, Muir were unable to take their chances, blasting shots high and wide.
At the other end, Paul Cowie was desperately unlucky not to score when he rattled the crossbar on the 20 minute mark. Six minutes later though, a free kick for the Jags led to a second goal. Floating the ball into the eighteen yard box with precision, Arron Christie found Goller who volleyed the ball home to make it 2-0.
With only one man on the bench, Thistle did well to cope against the frequent introduction of fresh legs in the Muir ranks in the second half and should have made it 3-0 on the hour mark when Goller again found himself in on the keeper. Finding himself with his back to goal though, he could only back heel, and the chance went awry.
The score remained at 2-0 until the 79th minute when the referee awarded a penalty to Muir, amidst much protestation - goalkeeper Robert Ross being booked for dissent during the furore. For Muir, Alan Smith made no mistake with the spot kick to reduce the deficit to one.
Tain wasted no time from the restart and from a Chippie Mailley through ball, Goller was on hand once again to dance past the keeper and walk the ball into the net for his hat-trick.
With Liam Rostock leaving the field with an ankle injury, Paul Cowie replaced him up front towards the end of the game, and nearly made it 4-1 in the dying moments with a curled effort that hit the woodwork. The score, however, remained 3-1 and Thistle recorded their first win of the pre-season in style.
R Ross, G Davis, A Durrand, M Brand, J Sutherland, G Smart, P Cowie, L Rostock, C Mailley, A Christie, D Ross, D Goller
Today's Texas Golf Scramble was another huge success, raising over £1,000 towards club funds. Thank you to Tain Golf Club, the companies and individuals who donated raffle prizes and to everyone who participated.
Congratulations to Frank Sutherland's team who won the second annual Tain Thistle Shield with a score of 55.7.
The standings at the end of play were as follows:
1st. Frank Sutherland
2nd. Alan Sangster
3rd. David Macleod
In a back and forth match at Tain Royal Academy Community Complex, Tain Thistle lost 3-2 to a feisty Lairg Rovers side last night.
Missing key players Daniel Christie and Martyn Farquhar from the draw against Maryburgh, manager Darren Mackay introduced Chris Mailley and Jamie Macdonald to the side.
Lairg played effectively on the counter with Thistle having enjoyed most of the early pressure, and took the lead with a shot squeezed in at the near post to make it 1-0. Liam Rostock levelled for Tain on the half hour mark, and the scores remained level for some time. Midway through the second half, Lairg capitalised on a mistake at the back to make it 2-1, but with five minutes remaining Chris Mailley made it 2-2.
It seemed as though the game would end a draw until a momentary lapse for the Jags gave Lairg the easiest of goals, as the ball was walked into the net.
Team from: R Ross, Davis, Durrand, Brand, Macdonald, Sutherland, Cowie, Mackenzie, Pelka, A Christie, Smith, Goller, Rostock, D Ross, McCourt
As the sun battled its way through the clouds to show its face for the first time this Spring, the Jags took to the Links for the first time this year, under new management, to face the visiting amateur team from Maryburgh.
Despite being a friendly, the first half saw a couple of tasty challenges from both sides, with chances shared too. Thistle could have gone 1-0 up after only three minutes when an effort deflected off a Maryburgh defender and looked to be looping over their keeper, but the shot drifted just over. At the other end, Robbie Ross in goal for the Jags did well with a save from close range to keep the scoreboard clear at half time.
Playing in the middle of the park, Paul Cowie was a candidate for man of the match, winning headers as though he were 7 foot tall against some big lads in the Maryburgh team.
The second half saw the introduction of several substitutes including the nephew of goalkeeper Robert, Dean Ross, and it was the youngster who eventually opened the scoring after the hour mark, firing into the far corner following a neat counter attack to make it 1-0 to the Jags.
With the makeshift pairing of Graeme Davis and Michael Brand looking comfortable at the back alongside the re-introduced Arron Christie, it didn't seem as though Maryburgh would have any luck up front, but following a tussle in the box, referee Billy Murray awarded Maryburgh a penalty - and the visitor's imposing Number 2 thundered the ball over a diving Ross to net the spot kick.
The game ended with both sides one goal apiece, and all told the outing proved very useful for the new manager, Darren Mackay, who saw his Tain side pick up where they left off last season in many ways; the signs of determination and grit still apparent despite many absences.
Thistle have to wait just two days for their next friendly match, playing on the TRACC all-weather pitch against Lairg Rovers on Tuesday evening.
Robbie Ross, Joe Sutherland, Andy Durrand, Graeme Davis, Michael Brand, Arron Christie, Paul Cowie, Daniel Christie, Martyn Farquhar, Darran Goller, Martin Smith, Liam Rostock, Dean Ross, Ross Gourlay