THE LAST of the club's league matches was played at Golspie today and a six goal battle went the way of the home side as St Duthus struggled to get going against their hosts.
With several key players unavailable due to work and other commitments, a new look forward line of Craig Sutherland and Louis Webster started up top for the Saints in the absence of messrs Scott Miller and Jamie Skinner, the latter dropping to the bench as he continues his recovery from a broken nose. Ewan Ross stepped into the back three in place of the missing Garry Macleod, and trialist Calum MacDonald made his debut at left wing back.
The game took an ill tempered turn from the get go, with contention over a throw in sending the game into disarray before Golspie took a second minute lead. Taking a long pass into his body, Miller Mackay held off his man before turning and lashing the ball past Steven Martin to make it 1-0. St Duthus were a goal down before they'd had the chance to do anything with the ball and now had it all to do.
As quickly as the first goal had gone in though, St Duthus seemed to take an early command and enjoyed most of the possession in the opening stages. Anyone who needed a reminder that football is a contact sport would have been well served in watching the first half of this game though, as the tackles were flying in thick and fast, and Jon Campbell in particular in the Saints midfield was on the receiving end of some hard challenges. The hardest, a badly timed tackle to the 'tackle' so to speak, left the midfielder on the ground in the eighteen yard box, and referee John Nicolson instantly awarded the Saints a penalty. With a quarter hour gone, captain John Skinner netted his first goal of the season from the spot kick and the game was level at 1-1.
With just over thirty minutes gone, Golspie were back in the lead. A speculative cross sent into the box was met by Miller Mackay who challenged Steven Martin in the area and the ball flew directly into the far corner of the net.
A late chance for Craig Sutherland flew just wide of the target as the striker got a shot away under pressure, but most of the play was reserved for the middle of the park, with a number of stoppages causing play to become disjointed at times.
Half time: Golspie Sutherland 2, St Duthus 1
St Duthus continued their chase for an equaliser and the introduction of the mask faced Jamie Skinner seemed to introduce a new urgency about the Saints, albeit with limited scoring opportunities to speak of.
On the 65 minute mark though, Adam Sutherland broke the second half deadlock and fired Golspie into a 3-1 lead after he collected a ball on the edge of the eighteen yard box and rifled home.
Either side of cautions issued to Mure and Mackay for delaying the restart of play, Golspie scored a fourth goal through Ally Macleod, seemingly ending the game as a contest with just fifteen minutes remaining.
Not yet ready to be beaten, it looked as though the Saints had pulled a goal back on 76 minutes when a goalmouth scramble ultimately fell to Will Ross who backheeled the ball into the net past a goalline of Golspie defenders. To the astonishment of the St Duthus men, however, assistant referee David Cowie had flagged for offside and the goal was disallowed.
Four minutes later though, Adam MacDonald reduced the deficit to 4-2 with a lopping effort which flew into the top corner after flying over the outstretched arms of Mure. The goal was MacDonald's first of the season.
The Saints later attempts to further reduce the deficit were ultimately in vain as time ran out on the game.
Full time: Golspie Sutherland 4, St Duthus 2
For St Duthus, attentions now turn to the Jock Mackay Cup Final next week against Orkney, where an entirely different performance will be required if the Saints are to return from Invergordon with silverware.
Steven Mure (bkd 72), Paul Gordon, Bryan Reid (Luke MacBeath 83), Jordan Sutherland, Evan Murray, Hasheem Bremner, Ally Macleod, Adam Sutherland, Miller Mackay (bkd 81), Cameron Sutherland, Shane Sutherland (Ryan Forbes 66) (bkd 86)
Sub not used: Andrew Banks
Steven Martin, Adam MacDonald, Trialist (bkd 75), Will Ross, John Skinner (bkd 90), Jon Campbell (bkd 44), Ewan Ross, Cammy Mackintosh, Louis Webster (Jamie Skinner 48), Craig Sutherland (Liam Mcleod 55), Ken Morrison
Subs not used: Trialist, Trialist
Referee: John Nicolson
Assistant referees: David Cowie & Paul Grant
Photography by Craig Keys.