Game: St. Duthus vs. Orkney (Macleod & MacCallum NCL)
Date: Saturday, November 2nd, 2019
Venue: Grant Park, Tain (By The Links)
Weather: Persistent heavy rain (10°)
Referee: Molly Alexander
Assistant referees: David Ross & Ian Ross
Tomorrow's "dress rehearsal" will no doubt further shape the title race as Jock Mackay Cup opponents St. Duthus and Orkney go head to head in the Macleod & MacCallum North Caledonian League at Grant Park, one week before they meet again in the final.
This weekend's battle for three league points will be played out on the Tain side's home turf. Stuart Ross's St. Duthus currently sit joint top of the league after six games alongside Invergordon who currently edge it on goal difference. Orkney on the other hand have played just three times (thanks to postponements and cup involvement) and have put 2 wins and 1 draw on record, sitting eight points behind Saints. With the league as tight as it is, both teams will undoubtedly look at this game as a "must-win" if title aspirations are to be kept alive.
As the only unbeaten side in the league so far, the form guide would suggest that Orkney are the favourites for this one, albeit by a small margin, with St. Duthus' defeat at home to Thurso in September as their only blemish. There is also the matter of fact that in the past three seasons, Orkney have claimed maximum points from their trips to Tain.
29th October 2016 - St. Duthus 1 Orkney 2
2nd December 2017 - St. Duthus 0 Orkney 2
29th September 2018 - St. Duthus 2 Orkney 3
The games between the teams have been very close and the finest of margins have been needed to separate the sides. The onus then shall be on St. Duthus to try to buck the trend and send their visitors back across the Pentland Firth to think again before the cup final. Manager Stuart Ross is relishing the chance to finally get a win over Orkney on home soil.
"We love our games against Orkney. Every game is a proper game of football between our teams as both like to play the ball on the deck and go about things in the right manner. We of course really want to keep our run going as the boys are playing really well and we don't want anything stop that. Training has been well attended and everyone is buzzing for Saturday."
Ross Tokely is expected to be the only absentee this weekend, but it is expected that Johnny Allan, Ben Bruce, Reece Paterson, Adam Allan and Paul Beaton will all be available for selection again after missing last week’s win against Bunillidh. Orkney will be without star man James Pickles who was red carded for a second bookable offence in last weekend's 4-4 tussle with Golspie.
The game kicks off at the earlier time of 12.45pm at Grant Park, down by the Links. Food and drinks will be on sale at the game as usual.