St. Duthus secured their place in the Jock Mackay Cup semi-final with an assured performance to beat Halkirk United 4-1 at Grant Park on Saturday.
There were a number of changes to the side who lost to Thurso. Andreas Broomfield dropped out of the squad and making his first start this season was Finn As-Chainey. Craig Munro returned to the starting lineup in place of Stefan MacRitchie who was absent for the game, and Paul Beaton stepped in at left back while Mikey Rae moved forward to take the place left by the unavailable Jake Lockett.
In unforgiving 40mph gusts, Saints played across the wind in the first half and threatened the most early on. A Craig Munro corner led to the first chance of the game, Ben Bruce getting down low to steer a header just over the bar. At the other end, Halkirk striker Korbyn Cameron was allowed space on the edge of the 18 yard box to fire towards goal, but Saints' stopper Stephen Campbell was up to the task, getting down low to collect.
A nice piece of skill from Paul Beaton on five minutes fed Ben Bruce clean through on goal, but after being closed down by Sean Milligan he fired over. It took only eight minutes more for the home side to take the lead as Jon Campbell pounced on a defensive lapse to break clear and score the opener - his second of the season.
St. Duthus continued to dominate and after chances for Jon Campbell and Cammy Mackintosh had both gone abegging it was left to Ben Bruce to extend the lead, the striker firing under Milligan from inside the box after collecting a pass from Mikey Rae.
Ben Bruce was unlucky not to add to his tally
Rae turned scorer just a minute later after Halkirk had failed to deal with pressure from Finn As-Chainey. From 20 yards, the left midfield man made no mistake with a superb strike to find the bottom corner.
The persistent Ben Bruce called Milligan into action again on the 40 minute mark after twisting and turning inside the box, to no avail on this occasion.
There was despair amongst the home ranks two minutes before the interval when a Halkirk cross struck the back of Craig Munro's arm before referee David Alexander stunned Saints by pointing to the spot. Halkirk's Mark Webster took the penalty kick, and despite a good save from Campbell at the first time of asking, Ben Gordon immediately headed into the far corner on the rebound to make it 3-1, amidst cries of encroachment.
With the wind no less forgiving in the second half, Saints looked to simply retain control of the match. Ben Bruce continued to look dangerous for St. Duthus, breaking past Alan Davis with ease on the left flank after being played in by Craig Munro. Milligan again though, was able to thwart the Saints' striker with a low block inside the six yard box.
As Halkirk fought to get back into the game, Webster had a shot on goal which was easily held by Campbell before a Cameron shot across the face of goal whizzed just past the post. At the other end on the hour mark, that man Bruce seemed certain to score again as he cantered past the Halkirk defence and round the goalkeeper, but he could only watch in agony as his neatly rolled effort cannoned off the post and trundled wide.
The fourth and decisive goal came on 71 minutes and it was the goal of the game. A neat pass from Adam Allan played to Jon Campbell saw the midfield man fend off the challenge of Cameron before laying off to Cammy Mackintosh, and the home captain made no mistake with a stunning first time shot into the top corner which gave Milligan zero chance.
Cammy Mackintosh's goal wrapped up the win for Saints
It could have been more in the latter stages were it not for Milligan again, saving from Rae on 75 minutes before substitutes Scott Miller and Liam Rostock both tested the Halkirk keeper. Jon Campbell too was denied another after finding space just inside the box as he shot into the hands of the keeper.
Upon full time, the conclusion was that it was a good day at the office all round for St. Duthus. The win confirms Saints' place in the semi-final of the Jock Mackay Cup where they will meet Inverness Athletic at the Inverness Royal Academy Sports Centre on October 5th. In the meantime, they will immediately meet the Anglers again, traveling to Halkirk in league action next Saturday at Morrison Park.
Stevie Campbell, Adam Allan (Robbie Murray 74), Paul Beaton (Aiden Stainke 87), John Skinner, Charlie Macdonald, Jon Campbell (bkd 77), Mikey Rae, Cammy Mackintosh, Ben Bruce (Liam Rostock 74), Craig Munro (bkd 43), Finn As-Chainey (Scott Miller 59)
Sean Milligan, Alan Davis, Ian Ross, Steven Sutherland, Craig Kennedy (Louis Webster 32), James Mackintosh (bkd 48), Ben Gordon (Murray Mackay 74), Mark Webster (bkd 61), Korbyn Cameron, Bobby Gunn, Ryan Forbes
Sub not used: Gregg Mackay
Referee: David Alexander (Inverness)
Match Gallery: https://www.flickr.com/gp/gjw75/9t78n5 (GJW Sport)
Match Highlights (Produced by Highland Sports Media)