Tain Thistle narrowly avoided an upset tonight as they meandered their way to a 5-3 win over Cromarty at Victoria Park. A hat-trick and man of the match performance from Garry Perks was enough to secure the points for Thistle following a brilliant second half comeback from the home side.
Manager Arron Christie rested Daniel Christie and Kyle Oliver, while Colin Burry was a late withdrawal from the side, leaving an opening for the incoming James Rice and Darran Goller, who was returning from suspension.
A 4-0 lead at the end of the first half would have had many believing that the fixture was headed for the same scoreline witnessed in 2009 which saw Tain run out 9-0 winners. After all, the four goals were certainly the product of some excellent play from the Tain men. Garry Perks opened the scoring for Thistle thanks to a protracted dribble at the near post followed by a shot, rifled into the net. A second from Perks followed soon after, placed beyond Maclean to make it 2-0.
Arron Christie, who had impressed all through the first half as the yin to Perks' yang enjoyed the goal of the game as he lobbed the Cromarty stopper from the right flank with perfection to make it 3. And finally, first half substitute Ayah Rattanaphithak ensured that he was not going to be knocked off the club's top goalscorer chart just yet by chipping in with a finish from close range on the stroke of half time.
The scoreline certainly should have given Thistle the confidence to see the game out in style, however the second half started with a burst of encouragement for the Cromarty men; Ross MacMillan stunning the Tain defence with a first consolation, straight from the kick off.
At 4-1, Thistle continued to look like offering something up front but lacked the precision that saw them score four in the first half. Within minutes, they were caught on the counter once again and this time the Victoria Park men's top scorer, Thomas Nicolson blasted a goal home to pull the score back to 4-2.
Thistle looked noticeably affected by the comeback, now playing without the fluency that saw them breeze past the Cromarty defence only a half prior. Before long, in a moment of astonishment, Nicholson advanced once again, midway through the second half, and took great advantage of a miscommunication in a Tain defence that were all-at-sea, when he lobbed Steven Martin to stun spectators and make it 4-3.
The close scoreline had Tain players and spectators alike wondering just what had happened, while late set pieces and corners could very well have seen the Cromarty equalise and nick a point. Were it not for a last minute moment of genius from Garry Perks, dribbling past the Cromarty defence to net his third and secure the points for Thistle, it could very well have turned out in disaster. The goal marked all but the last action of the half.
The win keeps Thistle in third place, with Alness and Balintore also having won their league games. Alness secured all three points at home to Inver with a 1-0 win, while Invergordon Social Club conceded their game to Balintore when the scoreline reached 13-0. In the only other game of the evening, Ross-shire Club beat Vertex 4-1 in the league's Dingwall derby.
Martin, Cowie, Rice (Johnston), Brand, Farquhar, Cameron, Mackay (Rattanaphithak), Goller, A Christie, Perks (C Nimmons), Ross
Subs not used:
Perks 16, 19, 90, A Christie 26, Rattanaphithak 45
Man of the Match: