In the most miserable of conditions, the Jags drew a blank at the Links this evening against a Dornoch City side that will no doubt continue to impress as the season progresses. Martyn Farquhar and Arron Christie stepped back into the side for Thistle's opening league game of the season, while Daniel Cormack took the #1 shirt between the sticks.
The Sutherland men got off to a lively start with clever passing and incisive runs from former Jags Ayah Rattanaphithak and Donald Matheson, giving the Thistle back-line food for thought. Despite their possession, they failed to really test Daniel Cormack in the Tain goal.
At the other end, Thistle rattled the woodwork when Martin Smith attempted to deflect a shot home but the ball cannoned back into play.
Action swayed back and forth for the remainder of the first half, with Dornoch always looking like a threat on the counter against the continuously pressing Jags. Edging further forward as the half reached a close, Thistle enjoyed a string of corners and free kicks, Rattanaphithak for Dornoch being booked amongst the infringements. For all the set pieces though, the Jags couldn't find the net, Martin Smith having the best chance with a powerful shot sent down the gullet of Dornoch 'keeper David Mitchell.
The second half was quite a mixed bag, for both sides. Daniel Christie forced a save from long range shortly after kick off before Cormack was forced to tip the ball over from a looping Scott Murray free kick to keep the scores blank. Matheson for Dornoch rattled the woodwork shortly after before sending a free kick into the arms of a well positioned Cormack.
Credit must be given to Dornoch City in what was their first Ross-shire Welfare league game as they held their position well against a Tain Thistle side frantically trying to put the ball into the back of the net during the closing ten minutes. Chances for Daniel Christie and Liam Rostock were saved, and Chippie Mailley shot wide before Darran Goller appeared to be felled in the penalty area - to no award. Alas, it was not to be and 0-0 was the final, and perhaps fair, result.
Cormack, Cameron (Durrand), Davis, Brand, Farquhar, A Christie, Mailley, Cowie, Goller, Smith (Rostock), D Christie
The Links will be the setting for a Ross-shire Welfare debut tomorrow night as new boys Dornoch City visit the home ground of the champions for their first game as members of the league.
Both sides lost out in the first round of the League Cup on Saturday, so will be looking towards picking up their first competitive win of the season.
For Tain, manager Darren Mackay should have the services of goalkeeper Daniel Cormack, as well as the returning Arron Christie and Martyn Farquhar, making for significant changes from the starting XI who turned out against Balintore.
Messrs Joe Sutherland (ankle) and Craig McCourt (knee) are both expected to be absent due to injury.
Tain Thistle suffered a repeat of their 2013 fate as they crashed out of the League Cup in the first round today against local rivals Balintore. A hat-trick completed either side of half-time saw the Seaboard side hold firm against a Martin Smith equaliser to go 4-1 up, before Darran Goller pulled a goal back for Tain.
Missing Martyn Farquhar and Arron Christie, gaffer Darren Mackay had to switch things about for his first competitive game in charge of the club, with Graeme Davis and Michael Brand being flanked by Brian Cameron and Joe Sutherland at the back. A midfield of Daniel Christie, Chris Mailley, Paul Cowie and Andy Durrand completed the 4-4-2 with Martin Smith and Darran Goller up top. Standing in to wear the familiar pink keeper's jersey following the sudden departure of Robert Ross was Niall McVicar.
Mackay's first eleven lasted only thirteen minutes, however, before the blood and thunder nature of the "derby" took its toll on Joe Sutherland, as the amateur boxer, victorious in a bout against Patrick Coates in Aberdeen earlier this month, never made it back to his feet after a knockout blow to his ankle. Returning to the side for the first time since 2008, Craig McCourt made his return debut as a substitute, forcing a reshuffle in the ranks.
Balintore drew first blood on 26 minutes following a controversially high boot to the face of the 6' 3" Michael Brand, which referee Michael Stainke deemed to be of adequate height. The young and pacey Balintore forward Terence Brady raced beyond the defence following the melee to net his first goal of the afternoon.
Thistle bounced back to equalise with four minutes left on the first half clock, taking advantage of an ill-taken James Metcalfe throw-in, the Balintore defender leaving his keeper Ross Henderson to deal with the imposing figure of Thistle's Martin Smith. Instinctively and in timely fashion, Smith nodded over Henderson to make it 1-1.
Having regrouped, Balintore emerged after the break as the more determined of the two sides, and they went 2-1 ahead five minutes into the second period, Brady again the scorer following a frenetic goalmouth stramash. Just eight minutes later, the Seaboarders asserted themselves as comfortable leaders when the diminutive Brady completed his treble.
Struggling with a knock to his knee in the first half, Thistle's McCourt was eventually replaced by Lewis Ross in the forward line, but the change, and a switch to 3-4-3 heralded no come-back for the Jags. Twenty minutes of pressure resulted in plenty of possession but nothing to celebrate as the Balintore back line kept the Jags at bay.
On the counter, Balintore wrapped things up with a fourth goal on 85 minutes, this time for Metcalfe, making amends for his earlier error with a well taken strike.
With injury time left to play, Darran Goller pulled a goal back for Thistle, but the point notched was merely academic as Mr Stainke brought the game to a close just a minute later.
While Balintore move onto the League Cup semi-finals for a match with Fortrose Union, Thistle look ahead to beginning their league campaign with a home game against new boys Dornoch City. The game takes place this Wednesday at the Links, with a 7pm kick off and manager Darren Mackay and his squad will be looking to get back to winning ways in their quest to defend the Ross-shire Welfare league championship.
McVicar, Cameron, Sutherland (McCourt (L Ross)), Davis, Brand, Cowie, Mailley, Durrand (Gourlay), D Christie, Goller, Smith
Subs not used:
Smith 41, Goller 89
The Jags made amends for their loss in a practice game earlier this year with a 3-1 win over visiting North West Sutherland amateur side Lairg Rovers on Tuesday night. With many absences, only nine of Darren Mackay's envisaged eleven were available for selection, prompting the introduction of a couple of others.
Goals from Darran Goller, Liam Rostock and substitute guest player, Clachnacuddin striker Ross Grant in the second half wrapped up the win.
Squad: R Ross, Davis, Sutherland, Chisholm, Brand, Farquhar, Cowie, Mailley, Rostock, Goller, D Christie, MacIver, Grant
Two late goals gave Embo a narrow win over Tain Thistle as the Jags visited the North West Sutherland side in a friendly today. Martyn Farquhar had given Tain the lead for most of the game before a lapse in concentration led to a quick fire double to send the visitors home with a defeat.
R Ross, Durrand, Davis, Sutherland, A Christie, Cowie, Farquhar, Rostock, Bell, McCourt, D Ross, Smith, D Christie, Mailley, McVicar