THE VISIT of Orkney FC brought the curtain down on the Saints' home fixtures for 2017 yesterday, and the game ended in a 2-0 defeat to a strong Orcadian side. Despite the best efforts of the Tain men, an early first half goal and a second after an hour made sure of a deserved win for the visitors.
Jamie Skinner replaced Liam Rostock in the first eleven taking the number ten shirt in what was to be the only first team change following on from the Invergordon match a fortnight ago. Paul Cowie was recalled a substitute while 17 year old Ryan Patterson, who was transferred to Saints from Brora Rangers on Friday, took a place on the bench.
Early pressure from Orkney paid off after just five minutes. In an advanced position, Thorfinn Stout hit a shot from a tight angle inside the six yard box, which beat Steven Martin, but the ball cannoned back into play after connecting with the far upright. Reacting quickly, Kyle Drever slotted the ball into the net on the rebound from twelve yards to give his side a 1-0 lead.
Saints were finding it hard going trying to progress in the final third, and it wasn't until the eighteenth minute that Kevin Mackenzie was troubled in the Orkney nets. Finn As-Chainey worked well with Joe Sutherland to find space on the right flank, and floating the ball into the eighteen yard box, Justin Rogers hit the ball first time and it flashed just wide.
Just two minutes later, Thorfinn Stout was unlucky not to extend Orkney's lead with a powerful effort driven low into the corner but an agile Martin turned the shot wide for a corner. A minute later, the Orcadians had the ball in the net for a second time, but the goal was disallowed for offside.
A dogged midfield battle continued as the first half progressed, and while Saints came more into the game, Orkney held the balance of play.
Martin again came to his side's safety shortly before the interval with a quick reaction save - but just before the half time whistle, St Duthus nearly snatched an equaliser. Winning the ball on the Orkney byline, As-Chainey squared to Jamie Skinner who struck an impressive curling shot towards goal, and with Mackenzie beaten, it cannoned off the highest point of the upright.
Half time: St Duthus 0 Orkney 1
Immediately after the restart, Saints were under the kosh again, as a neatly worked Orkney move saw Stout shoot wide. Half time substitute Liam Rostock was the creator of the first on-target effort for the Saints as he nodded the ball into the path of Jamie Skinner who headed into the arms of Mackenzie.
At the other end of the park, disaster struck as Orkney were awarded a spot kick on 48 minutes. The Saints' penalty mastermind Steven Martin had the measure of Stout though, and he blocked and held the Orkney marksman's low effort, securing St Duthus another reprieve.
The let off was only temporary though, and on 62 minutes Stout found the net to score his eleventh goal of the season, adding the finishing touch to a neat series of passes to make it 2-0.
Man of the Match Martin saved again to prevent a third for Orkney, turning a shot round the post after Orkney had broken clear on 65 minutes.
The Tain men came more into the game as the final twenty minutes played out, and arguably had most of the possession as Orkney seemed content to play on the counter. As-Chainey proved to be a persistent threat as the game continued and acted as provider of a series of threatening crosses, each of which though invariably went abegging.
Cammy Mackintosh was unlucky with an effort on 70 minutes when he collected a loose ball on the edge of the area, but his stinging low effort flew wide after sailing through a packed eighteen yard box.
With ten minutes remaining, Mackenzie was left watching as Justin Rogers caught the Orkney stopper off his line with a clever lob, but the ball finished up higher than the intended target, landing on the crossbar and top netting. The same player did well to hold off his man and break clear before shooting just wide of the target.
A late chance for Orkney to further extended their lead was squandered when they fired over the bar, before time ultimately ran out on the game.
Full time: St Duthus 0 Orkney 2
Steven Martin, Joe Sutherland (bkd 76), Will Ross (Liam Rostock 46), Craig Ross (bkd 40), John Skinner, Rory Patience, Ken Morrison (Ryan Patterson 65), Cammy Mackintosh, Justin Rogers (bkd 70), Jamie Skinner (Scott Miller 75), Finn As-Chainey
Sub not used: Paul Cowie
Kevin Mackenzie, Owen Rendall, Graeme Horne (Connan Rendall 66), Erik Bews, DJ Moffat, Kyle Drever (Jon Tait 84), Joe Wilson (Chris Simpson 66), James Pickles, Chris Hellewell, Thorfinn Stout, Mark Berry (Jack Paterson 73)
Referee: Chris MacLeod
Match gallery: https://flic.kr/s/aHsma5xqSw (Flickr)
Man of the Match: Steven Martin