On the pristine artficial surface at the Highland Football Academy in Dingwall, St Duthus played three periods of 30 minutes against Highland Football League side Fort William last night, in a friendly game that proved to be the toughest test of their pre-season preparations so far. The game ended 3-0 to the Claggan Park side, although Stuart Ross and his young Saints can take great pride from their performance, the three goal deficit flattering the higher tier team slightly. Among those missing for the Saints were Lewis Ross, Ryan Day, Jake Lockett and David Fraser, while new signing Scott Miller was introduced to the 16 man squad for the first time, along with five trialists.
The Saints kicked off the first third and set out to attack from the get go, and they will consider themselves unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty by referee Robert McMillan in the third minute when Will Ross was impeded in the eighteen yard box. Shortly after a Fort chance had been headed over the bar, it looked certain that the Saints were about to take the lead when Paul Cowie found himself through on goal, but his stinging drive was steered away to safety by Maclennan. On the quarter hour mark, Scott Miller was unlucky with a chance that flew wide.
Fort William eventually took the lead after 17 minutes through Scott Davidson, the forward getting on the end of a neat through ball before showing composure to tuck it past Steven Martin. The Saints were undeterred in their efforts though and they continued to match their opponents and threaten up front. Solid midfield work from Will Ross and Paul Cowie saw the Saints winning a number of battles and the centre half pairing of the Saints' Trialist defender and Ken Morrison proved ever up to the task. As the first period drew to a close, the Saints will have felt aggrieved to have walked to the touchline as the losing side.
The Saints' Trialist striker did everything but score in the second period, joining Jamie Skinner and another trialist, playing on the wing, in hassling the Fort backline with regularity and on 38 minutes he was unlucky not to notch when he forced MacLennan into a save. Moments later, the Trialist striker cut the ball back for what seemed to be a certain goal as Ken Morrison hit the ball first time from ten yards and straight into the arms of the aptly placed MacLennan. At the other end, the Saints rode their luck on a couple of occasions with a shot off the upright saving their blushes and two Fort chances flying wide of goal. Steven Martin was forced to pull off a great reaction save to tip a shot over the bar soon after.
It should have been 1-1 on 55 minutes though, when a defensive lapse allowed Jamie Skinner to break through on goal, but the Saints forward missed the target as his shot flew low and wide of the post.
The whistle for the end of the second period came just at the right time for Fort William, halting the Saints momentum. Withdrawals from Ken Morrison and Will Ross saw the defensive shape change considerably in the final third and despite the best efforts of John Allan in the St Duthus goal, he could do nothing to prevent Fort's second on 75 minutes. Taking the Saints defence by surprise, Davidson launched a superbly curled effort into the top corner of the net to make it 2-0. Within four minutes it was 3-0 as Scott Chisholm tapped home a cutback. By this point, the fitness of the Highland League side, now four league games into their season, was beginning to tell.
Nevertheless, the Saints never relented and whatever they lacked in fitness they made up for in effort until the end of the game. The Saints' trialist substitute spent the start of the final third at full back before switching to striker amidst all the positional changes and was unlucky not to score towards the end of the game as he found himself clean through on MacLennan, but his best effort flew wide of the post.
Dougie MacLennan, Craig Mainland, Richard Tawse, Adam Porritt, Glenn Fell, Danny Highet, Conor McPhee, Scott Chisholm, Liam Taylor, Justin Rodgers, Colin MacLean, Mark MacKenzie, Jack Lingard, Michael McRobert, Matty Murphy
Steven Martin, John Allan, Trialist, Ken Morrison, Trialist, Marty Farquhar, Graham Noble, Jamie Skinner, Will Ross, Paul Cowie, Scott Miller, Trialist, Trialist, Duncan MacKenzie, Trialist, Finn Chainey