Game: St. Duthus vs. Thurso (Macleod & MacCallum NCL)
Date: Saturday, September 7th, 2019
Venue: Grant Park, Tain (By The Links)
Weather: Sunny day (13°)
Referee: Eddie Nichol
Assistant referees: TBC
Thurso descend upon Grant Park this Saturday for what shall be the opening league game of St. Duthus' 2019-20 season. The clubs met twice in Tain last season - once at the Links in a memorable 4-4 encounter which marked the beginning of a memorable seven game unbeaten run in the league - and a second time at Grant Park in February, when Saints knocked their Caithness rivals out of the quarter-final of the Jock Mackay Cup in confident style.
A good showing in the very same cup last weekend against Bunillidh has left Saints in good spirits for this one, with momentum likely in their favour. Expected absences will force a handful of changes, however team selection still won't be easy for the manager as he welcomes Scott Miller and Finn As-Chainey back into the squad. New signing Mikey Rae is also expected to play a part.
Stuart Ross has been rightly quick to downplay Saints' good start last weekend, with a ball still yet to be kicked in this season's Macleod & MacCallum North Caledonian League -- but the ambition across the board will be clear as the club look to get off to a winning start, especially at home.
"The boys are buzzing for this one. They have continued to train really well and are very focussed on getting a result. We're still to see some of our squad in action for the first time, and these games can't come quick enough just now after a lenthty pre-season. Thurso are always a tough side to play against, as we've seen in recent seasons, so we'll have to be at our best from the get go and I've every confidence we shall be."
Thurso's curtain raiser against Halkirk United was postponed last week due to a waterlogged pitch, so they shall be looking to hit the ground running at the second time of asking and to put to bed a run of winless visits to the Royal Burgh. Speaking to the John O'Groat Journal this week though, Thurso manager Stevie Reid bemoaned a spate of absences, expecting several of his squad to miss the match due to a music festival at Dunnet.
"A lot of our players have to work at the event," explained the Thurso boss. "We will just have to go with what we have. But it's not all doom and gloom – we have a lot of good young lads who can come in and do a job."
The game kicks off at 2.30pm and supporters are encouraged to arrive prior to kick off to ensure parking.