THE NEW season began in satisfying fashion yesterday as St Duthus emerged 2-1 winners against a hard working Inverness Athletic in their Macleod & MacCallum North Caledonian League opener. Early goals at either end made for an even first half before the Saints took a lead before the break that would ultimately secure them the points.
With the absentee list high due to work commitments and summer football conflicts, four trialists were named in the fifteen man squad for the game. There were competitive debuts also for summer signings Rory Patience and Andreas Broomfield. Captaining the side for the first time was newly appointed matchday skipper Jon Campbell.
A positive start for the Saints saw them come out of the traps with purpose, and they were the first to threaten. An early shout for a penalty kick was waved off by referee Chris Macleod after Liam Rostock was grounded in the box and moments later, the Inverness crossbar was rattled with an effort from distance.
With their first attack though, Inverness took the lead. A neat cross from Scott White was met by Phil MacDonald who powered a header beyond Steven Martin from close range to give his side the advantage after six minutes.
Liam Rostock was unlucky not to open his account for the season with an effort which sailed just over the crossbar but five minutes later, the homesters were back on level terms and the goal arrived thanks to great work from Andreas Broomfield, who after carrying the ball forward played the ball to the Saints' trialist number 9 who turned to fire past Stephen from the edge of the box.
The game continued at a frenetic pace with both sides looking for another breakthrough midway through the first half. The Saints finally pressure paid off on 38 minutes though when a great ball through from Jon Campbell found his Trialist forward teammate. The Saints man was felled but the ball broke loose to Liam Rostock who took his time and sent a composed lob over Stephen to make it 2-1.
Just before half time, a lob at the other end over a stranded Martin almost resulted in an equaliser for the visitors but the speculative attempt was followed out by Ken Morrison as it bounced just wide for a goal kick.
Half time: St Duthus 2 Inverness Athletic 1
Both teams emerged for the second half with the same determination, and end to end play ensued once again.
For the remaining half an hour of the match, the Saints were in firm control and some great passages of play led to a number of chances. A defiant performance from Sandy Stephen in the Inverness Athletic goal was to follow, and on the hour, he denied Liam Rostock with a double save. He was to deny Rostock again on 65 minutes, blocking an attempt with his feet after the Saints forward had been played in on goal by Jon Campbell.
Athletic's Phil MacDonald seemed to do everything but score when he received the ball in a crowded six yard box, but his subsequent effort flew high over the bar, leaving the Saints breathing a sigh of relief.
Joe Sutherland, who had played splendidly throughout the game, was unlucky not to cap off his performance with a goal with twenty minutes remaining after he was played in with a chance by Broomfield but the wing back's shot was ultimately screwed wide of goal.
The home pressure continued and a save, block and a goalline clearance involving several Saints men saw the Tain side's best efforts to extend their lead thwarted. Inverness remained undeterred as the game moved into the dying stages and the St Duthus back three had to be alert to the end in dealing with a handful of dangerous cross balls, but each time they were dealt with confidently by the trio of Skinner, Morrison and Broomfield.
A chance in injury time saw Finn As-Chainey break free on goal, but his cut back for fellow substitute Paul Cowie failed to reach its target, and moments later time was called. The win earned St Duthus a well deserved three points to kick off their league campaign.
Full time: St Duthus 2 Inverness Athletic 1