LEAGUE champions Orkney emerged with the three points against St Duthus at the Links yesterday in a game that could have really gone either way. Despite recording their fourth successive defeat of the season, the Saints showed great promise in a tough game against one of the best sides that will visit Tain this year.
Barry Kenny and Jack Theakston both made returns to the backline, while Cammy Mackintosh returned to the squad after missing out last weekend. Stephen Campbell made his first appearance between sticks this season, deputising for the absent Ali Matheson, and a forward line of Scott Miller, Liam Rostock and Lewis Ross started for the Saints.
A first half in blustery conditions saw the Orcadians play with the wind advantage going downhill. Neither side found it easy in the early going with most of the play contained to the middle of the park, however it was Orkney who had the first chances to speak of.
Stephen Campbell had to be on his toes for a couple of set pieces as Orkney began to bang on the door of the Saints backline, but was largely untroubled in the early going.
Chances were at a premium for both sides though in a first half which was mostly about set pieces and gaining possession. The most notable action came when Liam Rostock had the ball in the net after the half hour mark when he broke clear, but was unluckily caught in an offside position.
Just three minutes after the restart Orkney were awarded a penalty kick, and from 12 yards Chris Hellewell made no mistake with his conversion to hand the champions a somewhat fortutious 1-0 lead.
A corner across the face of goal on the hour mark seemed to evade everyone in the Orkney back line, but the Saints couldn't force the ball across the line. The goal eventually arrived on 67 minutes and it was Scott Miller on target when he headed the ball into the net from a corner to make it 1-1.
Orkney restored their lead eleven minutes later when Hellewell found the space unchallenged inside the box to slot low into the net beyond Campbell. Their lead last just two minutes though and it was 2-2 when substitute Jake Lockett levelled the scores shortly after being introduced.
The frenetic pace of the game in its latter stages continued and the Saints were dealt a further blow with eight minutes left when Orkney's talented front man Liam Delday netted his side's third to reclaim a late advantage.
A chance on 85 minutes for Scott Miller saw the striker cannon the ball off the crossbar when clear through on goal, and just a minute later Paul Beaton forced Mackenzie into a stunning top corner save with a 20 yard strike.
Stephen Campbell, Rory Patience (Matty Shewan 68), Paul Beaton, Justin Rogers, Jack Theakston, Barry Kenny, Callum Neil (Robbie Murray 54), Cammy Mackintosh, Scott Miller (Iain Macrae 87), Liam Rostock (Jake Lockett 60), Lewis Ross (Liam Hutchinson 87)
Kevin Mackenzie, Aiden Drever (Sam Rendall 59), Chris Simpson, James Pickles, Graeme Horne, Owen Rendall (bkd 75), Steven Hellewell, Jay Foubister (Connan Rendall 46), David Delday, Chris Hellewell, Liam Delday
Subs not used: Glen Scott, Gregor Dowell