Tain Thistle bounced back from three consecutive defeats tonight to leapfrog Ross-shire Club into 3rd place in the Ross-shire Welfare with a 2-1 win at Grant Park. Goals from Daniel and Arron Christie saw the league champions reaffirm their intentions as contenders to retain their title with a persistent and workmanlike performance.
American college soccer supremo Garry Perks stepped back into the fold after an eighteen month absence to take his place on the right wing while Michael Brand also returned, following an ankle injury sustained in the pre-season. The suspended Darran Goller stepped out, while James Rice was also absent.
Thistle started the game in nervy fashion, despite matching their opponents in most areas of the park. Robbie Ross came closest to opening the scoring in the early going; his header sailing only inches round the post before turning an effort over the hands of Mitchell and the crossbar.
Despite the pressure from the home side, it was the Dingwall men who took the lead through a lapse in concentration down the right flank. Clever play from the Ross-shire men saw full back Donald Stewart's effort reach the far post and drift into the net, while keeper Steven Martin could only look on in astonishment.
The disaster did not deter the Jags however as they continued to press at the other end of the park. In fact, within minutes the Thistle bench and players were all but celebrating when Andrew Sutherland saw his aerial effort sail goalward only to be deemed not to count, despite appeals from the home side that his header had crossed the line.
As the second half began, Thistle looked more positive, with player managed Arron Christie now in an advanced midfield position. Quickly, Christie and Perks began to link up well, creating chances in front of the Ross-shire goal with frequency; Ross again unlucky not to score as he watched his effort drift over the bar.
The clever trickery of Garry Perks finally paid off for Thistle as the winger dribbled past a pair of defenders to square the ball for the waiting feet of Daniel Christie; the latter making no mistake with the finish, placing the ball beyond Mitchell to make it 1-1.
Ross-shire Club continued to show solidarity at the back however, thwarting a series of corner attempts for Thistle as the Jags battled for a winner. But it was not for long, as an Arron Christie looping effort from the edge of the area soon found the net, taking a deflection on the way in. At 2-1, Thistle's domination was finally reflected in the scoreline.
A late flurry of long ball attacks from the Ross Club put some late pressure on Martin's goal, but confident defending from Martyn Farquhar and Michael Brand saw the goal well tended until the final whistle; the visitor's best chance in the latter stages easily thwarted as Ryan Cowie covered ground with the grace of a gazelle to tackle Paul Fredricks at the key moment.
The win pushes Thistle into 3rd place in the Ross-shire Welfare league, overtaking both Inver and Ross-shire Club, while Balintore strengthened their lead at the top with a thumping 6-1 win over their seaside rivals. At Invergordon, Alness beat the Social Club 3-0, while Vertex fell 2-1 to Cromarty.
Martin, Cowie, Sutherland (Durrand), Farquhar, A Christie, Brand, D Christie, Cameron, Burry, Perks (Rattanaphithak), Ross (Maclellan)
Subs not used:
Johnston, C Nimmons
D Christie 50, A Christie 71
Man of the Match: