A TEN goal encounter at Couper Park left the Saints stunned yesterday as they fell 6-4 to Bunillidh Thistle in an action packed bottom of the table Macleod & MacCallum North Caledonian League clash.
There weren't many changes to the St Duthus side who lost out narrowly to Orkney last weekend. Ali Matheson returned in goal, while Robbie Murray stepped in to midfield in place of Callum Neil. Jack Theakston missed out and Rory Patience stepped in to the centre half position, while Matty Shewan came in on the right.
St Duthus suffered the shocking start to end all shocking starts when just three minutes into the game Steven Learmont pounched on an opportunity to steer the ball into an empty net after Ali Matheson was left stranded. Just a minute later Learmont struck again with Saints on the ropes, as he advanced down the middle and curled the ball over Matheson into the top corner to make it 2-0.
Saints were quick to counter from the restart though and Liam Rostock was unlucky not to score with a chance at the other end. Within a minute they had pulled a goal back thanks to Scott Miller who finished well past Cameron Yuill at his near post with an angled strike. It could have been level just moments later when Cammy Mackintosh found himself in on goal, but his chance flew wide.
Eight more minutes of madness left St Duthus in a state of disarray after Garrick Taylor and Bobby Gunn both struck for the Helmsdale side, leaving the scoreline at 4-1 after just 14 minutes, and on 20 minutes Craig Sutherland broke past a static Saints backline on the right wing to bear down on and beat Matheson with a composed finish. This prompted a defensive switch which saw Lewis Ross drop back to shore things up.
As was the case for most of the first period, the Saints were not without chances and on the half hour mark, Miller should have netted his second after he was played clean through on goal, but on loan Brora Rangers stopper Yuill was up to the challenge.
Justin Rogers netted his first goal for St Duthus seven minutes before the break as the visitors began to apply some significant pressure. Yuill was left flapping at close range as the powerful forward forced the ball over the line from close range, albeit leaving him a momentary knock to the acorns.
A further consolation goal was netted through Miller for Saints shortly after, reducing the score to 5-3. The goal made for a slightly more flattering score at the break and offered Saints some hope of a comeback.
Half time: Bunillidh Thistle 5 St Duthus 3
The second period started in quieter fettle than the first, albeit with tensions high as both sides chased the all-important next goal.
Bunillidh set themselves up to protect their lead and the theme of the half was mostly Saints trying to break them down to reduce the deficit.
Substitute Jake Lockett was left furious after he was fouled inside the box on 56 minutes, sandwiched between two Bunillidh defenders and brought down. Referee Gordon Morrison, though, waved play on.
The killer blow came on 69 minutes when substitute Cameron Mackenzie scored with a low shot. At 6-3, the uphill battle was proving unsurmountable.
Such as it was, Saints did add another goal to make it 6-4 and it was their post-revival top marksman Scott Miller again, rolling the ball down the middle of a gaping net on 71 minutes to net his hat-trick.
Aside from the goal, Matheson had remained mostly untested in the St Duthus goal throughout the second half, and even when the Sutherland side were awarded a penalty on the 80 minute mark, he could only stand and watch as Learmont blew the chance when he sent his effort wide.
The game took an ugly turn towards the end with some choice tackles being sent in and cards issued, but with the damage done in the opening stages of the first period the game ended very much out of the Saints grasp.
Full time: Bunillidh Thistle 6 St Duthus 4
Cameron Yuill, Scott Risbridger, Ali MacRae (bkd 78), Niall Grant, Ethan Bews, Craig Sutherland (James Griffiths 70), Garrick Taylor, Colin Henstridge (Kevin Cairns 59), Bobby Gunn, Steven Learmont, Lee Mackenzie (Cameron Mackenzie 46) (bkd 54)
Sub not used: John Griffiths
Ali Matheson, Matty Shewan, Paul Beaton (bkd 88), Barry Kenny, Rory Patience (Iain Macrae 53), Justin Rogers (Liam Hutchinson 71), Robbie Murray (Callum Neil 46), Cameron Mackenzie, Scott Miller, Liam Rostock (Jake Lockett 51), Lewis Ross (Sam Beeston 80)