A MISERABLE afternoon in Muir of Ord saw the Saints fall to their second league defeat of the season today, at the hands of a hard working Inverness Athletic.
Without Jon Campbell (holiday), Adam MacDonald and Rory Patience (injury), the Saints welcomed Miller Mackay and Ewan Ross onto the bench, while Finn As-Chainey was called up to the starting eleven. Craig Ross made his competitive debut for the team, and Lewis Ross, returning from work commitments, was also named as a substitute.
A quiet opening period saw a game of hot potato taking place as the ball flew from end to end. In the third minute a Craig Ross overhead kick flew high and wide of Ryan Macleod's goal which was to be the Saints first and only offering in the opening quarter hour. The first promising chance of the game came from Finn As-Chainey who did well to decieve his man before sending a dangerous ball across the face of goal. Getting just a brushing foot to it, Craig Ross saw his connection easily thwarted by Macleod.
At the other end, Athletic's tall and commanding striker Connor Ross threatened on 16 minutes when he found space to turn and shoot towards goal, but Steven Martin was alert to the chance, saving well in front of his near post.
Persistent play from Craig Ross on the left flank saw the Saints man send a dangerous cross into the box which had to be headed clear at the far post, leading to the first St Duthus corner of the match. Two minutes later at the other end for Inverness, Sam Ross did well to take the ball on his chest before sending an overhead kick over Martin and the bar.
A goal was narrowly avoided when a free kick from Inverness man Russell Macintyre was met by Liam Downie, but the centre half's first time effort flew over the bar from 10 yards. The opener was delayed for just two minutes though, and from a similar move, a ball across the face of goal was rifled into the net at the far post by Glenn Donoghue to give the home side the advantage. Appeals for offside were waved away by referee Stephen McDade.
A Saints free kick from distance presented Jamie Skinner with an unlikely opportunity on the half hour mark. The set piece returned straight back to Skinner and from the loose ball he sent a looping effort towards goal from 30 yards which forced Macleod to be on his toes while under pressure from Garry Macleod, but the on loan Nairn County stopper held the shot.
A forgettable opening period for the Saints came to a conclusion just after Donoghue shot wide with a chance that could have given Inverness a two goal half time lead.
Half time: Inverness Athletic 1 St Duthus 0
The manager rang the changes at half time, with Ewan Ross and Miller Mackay replacing Jamie Skinner and Finn As-Chainey, and within five minutes Mackay made his presence known, doing well to hold the ball up before sending a ball wide to Joe Sutherland who sent a wicked low cross into the box, held by Macleod just in front of the waiting Liam Rostock.
For Inverness, Connor Ross found Donoghue in the box with 54 minutes gone, but the Athletic man couldn't add to his tally and sent his chance over the crossbar.
A minute later, it looked as though the Saints would surely equalise after great work from Ewan Ross down the right wing. Finding space on the byline, he did well to find his brother Craig at the far post, but the resultant chance was sent wide.
Steven Martin had to be quick to react to another effort from Connor Ross who turned his man to shoot inside the box - the Saints keeper clutching the shot into his chest.
On 62 minutes, Liam Rostock played a good ball into the feet of Miller Mackay who seemed to have the easiest of chances to slot the ball into the far corner of the net, but the striker's shot curled agonisingly wide of the upright.
Just a moment later, it was 2-0 to Inverness. Collecting the ball just inside the eighteen yard box, Connor Ross turned and slotted the ball into the corner of the net beyond Martin with ease.
Fresh legs were introduced for the remaining 20 minutes as the Saints looked for a way back into the game, and the combined efforts of Miller Mackay and Ewan Ross saw the latter fire a shot into the clutches of Macleod. A goal for St Duthus finally arrived on 74 minutes. A nicely spread ball from Ken Morrison found Ewan Ross in great space out on the left and from the wing back's low drive, Mackay steered the ball into the net to reduce the deficit.
A few minutes later, Scott Miller had a golden opportunity to level the scores when he found himself clean through on Macleod from a Mackay flick on, but opting to lob the keeper his shot looped just over the bar.
Late Saints pressure was quelled by delaying tactics from the Inverness men who were content to keep the ball in the corners, and despite a flurry of late corners for the Saints, the game ultimately ended in defeat.
Full time: Inverness Athletic 2 St Duthus 1
Ryan Macleod, Liam Smith, Chris Innes, Iain Wilson, Liam Downie, David Fraser, Russell Macintyre, Craig Stuart, Connor Ross (Andy MacDonald 82), Sam Ross (Taylor Sutherland 66), Glenn Donoghue (Shane Carling 87)
Steven Martin, Joe Sutherland, Will Ross (Paul Cowie 67), Cammy Mackintosh, John Skinner, Garry Macleod, Craig Ross (Lewis Ross 87), Ken Morrison, Jamie Skinner (Miller Mackay 46), Liam Rostock (Scott Miller 73), Finn As-Chainey (Ewan Ross 46)
Referee: Stephen McDade
Assistant referees: James McMartin & Thomas Campbell