What a difference a break makes. It has been seven weeks since Tain and Fort William took to the field and as both sides played for the first time in 2010, the occasion proved most fruitful for the Jags; Thistle running out 1-0 winners in a tightly contested affair.
The game had been switched due to the unplayable state of Fort's Claggan Park and while registered as a home game for Fort William, the Jags certaintly registered their home field advantage.
Manager John Oliver named a makeshift eleven, coping with mid-winter absenses and the fitness effects of a lengthy layoff. The major change came with the inclusion of goalkeeper Steven Martin, making his first start between the sticks for Tain's Second XI's side following his move from Bonar, while Chris Mailley moved back to defence. Missing from the early December defeat to Invergordon were Ali Matheson, Daniel Christie and Andrew Durrand.
Thistle started the game brightly, with winger Darran Goller keen to open the scoring with a series of midfield runs, his most potent tipped round the bar by goalkeeper Gary Macleod after a run down the left wing.
Debutant keeper Steve Martin had little to do in the early stages, with only a header from Iain Maclellan to hold.
Martyn Farquhar also came close to scoring following a mazey midfield run late in the first half, but it was Fort William who had the best chance of the first half; centre half Chris Mailley clearing a netbound shot from the Fort on 42 minutes to prevent a first half lead.
The second half proved more productive for Thistle, as they pressed for an opener against a livelier Fort William. With action flowing from end to end, the breakthrough eventually came following a mistimed challenge on Paul Cowie in the eighteen yard box, which resulted in a penalty. Referee Gavin Dearie pointed to the spot, issuing goalkeeper Garry Macleod with a stern talking to for his involvement. This season's top goalscorer Russell Lawrie made no mistake from with the kick to put Tain 1-0 ahead.
Within moments however, a clash at the other end led to a moment of tension and outspoken goalkeeper Steven Martin was booked for dissent, along with the offending Fort defender.
The Claggan Park men never gave up however and thirty minutes of defensive determination were what saw the Jags finish the game with a clean sheet and a win; Chris Mailley impressing once again as a centre half.
The well earned three points keep Thistle in 6th place in the North Caledonian league despite a poor end to 2009, while in other action Balintore fell 3-0 in Golspie and Invergordon suffered a 4-0 loss at home to Muir of Ord. The only other result was in the Jock MacKay Cup, Thurso beating Halkirk by 3 goals to 2.
Martin, Farquhar, Murray (D Oliver), Mackay, Mailley, Cowie, Brand, Sutherland, Goller, Smith, Lawrie
Subs not used:
Russell Lawrie pen 62
Stevie Martin 64
Man of the Match: