ST DUTHUS suffered defeat at the Links for the second time this month, at the hands of a Thurso side who were clinical in front of goal. In a game that was plagued by strong winds for its duration, the Saints weren't without their chances but could only net a consolation with ten minutes remaining.
The Saints named a strong eleven for the visit of the league leaders. Liam Rostock was the only noted absentee, missing from the first eleven for the first time this season. This allowed Craig Ross to return to the starting lineup, having missed out against Lewis & Harris. Returning to take a place on the bench was Martyn Farquhar, while Lewis Ross was posted absent due to travel for work.
Just seven minutes in, Thurso were presented with a golden opportunity to take the lead after a spreaded pass found Conor Cormack on the edge of the box with an open goal beckoning, but the midfielder fired his shot well over the bar. Five minutes later Luke Manson also failed to hit the target after the Vikings man carried the ball into the Saints box unchallenged.
The Saints forced the first save of the match on the fifteen minute mark after Joe Sutherland played Miller Mackay in on goal, and the big forward man sent a low shot across goal which Thurso 'keeper Asa Sinclair had to deflect wide for a corner. Three minutes later, Craig Ross tested Sinclair once again with a powerful drive which was heading for the top corner, but the Thurso custodian forced the shot wide.
On 25 minutes, Thurso took the lead. A misplaced pass sent the Vikings clear on the break and after some neat wing play, a ball into the box found Stevie Morris unmarked and the striker cleverly side-footed home at the far post. The goal proved to be a crushing blow for the Saints at a time when the they appeared to have the better of the play.
An injury to the jaw of Ewan Ross earlier in the match ultimately saw the Saints defender withdraw after 34 minutes, further adding to the home side's woes.
Good work from Craig Ross on the right wing created a number of chances as the game progressed, however, between contending with the weather conditions and some bad luck in front of goal, a number of dangerous balls into the box evaded their target and there was to be no first half leveller. From a Jon Campbell cross, Joe Sutherland came closest at the far post when the ball sailed just over the wing back's head, leaving the Saints dugout with their head in their hands.
Half time: St Duthus 0 Thurso 1
A poor start to the second half led to a second goal for Thurso just five minutes after the restart - and it was Stevie Morris who netted his second, rifling the ball through the grasp of the onrushing Steven Martin with authority.
A great tackle from Garry Macleod denied a third goal as the floodgates appeared to be opening, but the treble was delayed by just one minute. On 54 minutes, James McLean popped up to turn a loose ball into the net following a period of chaotic defending from the Saints.
At 3-0 down, several changes were made, with Farquhar and As-Chainey introduced to shake things up. The change had a noted impact on the game as the Saints began to take the game by the scruff of the neck, albeit a little late in the day. Just moments after the change, the Saints did everything but put the ball in the net when a Craig Ross cross found Will Ross at the back post, but after the wing back's effort was saved, further attempts from Cammy Mackintosh and Joe Sutherland were kept out by Sinclair and a block on the line, and incredibly, the ball was cleared to safety.
Another cross from Craig Ross just evaded the reach of As-Chainey at the far post ten minutes later as the Saints continued to press with a series of corners. On 78 minutes, Ross himself should have scored on the break, but his effort from 12 yards flew over the bar. A goal did arrive just two minutes later after some persistence in the six yard box, with Ross tapping home from two yards following a scramble to reduce the deficit to two.
Aside from a Ross chance which flew just over the bar three minutes from time, Saints couldn't peg their Caithness visitors back any further and the three points went home with the Vikings.
Full time: St Duthus 1 Thurso 3
Steven Martin, John Skinner, Joe Sutherland, Rory Patience, Craig Ross, Ewan Ross, Garry Macleod, Ken Morrison, Jon Campbell, Cammy Mackintosh, Miller Mackay
Will Ross, Sam Beeston, Finn As-Chainey, Martyn Farquhar, Scott Miller
Craig Ross (80)
Asa Sinclair, Christopher Wann, Innes Macintosh, Benn Murray, Gary Mackay, Luke Manson, Conor Cormack, Michael Petrie, James McLean, Jack McKechnie, Stevie Morris
Steven Sinclair, Shaun Forbes
Stevie Morris (25), Stevie Morris (50), James McLean (54)
Referee: Stephen McDade