St. Duthus held their place at the top of the Macleod & MacCallum North Caledonian League with an assured home display against Inverness Athletic. After an even first half, Saints took hold of the game to run out 3-1 winners.
John Allan returned to take up the goalkeeper spot following a one game absence, and up front Ben Bruce returned having missed all of the action in November due to a knee injury.
A Liam Rostock corner caused Inverness problems in the opening minute when Ben Bruce headed goalwards, but a swift clearance off the line prevented an opener.
Saints would have to wait just two more minutes to go 1-0 up. The goal came following clever work again from Rostock, who cut inside from the right flank and played Stefan MacRitchie in on goal, and the midfielder cooly chipped the ball over an onrushing Sandy Stephen.
With five minutes on the clock, it could have been 2-0 but for the woodwork. Breaking clear on goal, Cammy Mackintosh let fly with a curling effort which cannoned off the upright.
A brief calamity at the other end handed Athletic a life line at the other end a minute later. A corner sent into the box was punched awkwardly by Johnny Allan and battling for the same ball Will Ross outjumped John Skinner and accidentally headed into his own net.
St Duthus kept the pressure up and Stephen had to be on the ball to block a chance for Liam Rostock on 15 minutes, getting down low to block the striker's effort on the edge of the box, before Ben Bruce fired the rebound over the bar. Another chance for Bruce just inside the box was turned away by Stephen moments later.
Reece Paterson had his head in his hands on the half hour mark with the woodwork again coming to the safety of Inverness. Meeting a low free kick into the box from MacRitchie, Paterson's connection at the near post came back off the upright and into the grasp of Stephen.
Saints had another chance shortly before the break. A long free kick from Will Ross was flicked into the area by Ben Bruce, but Liam Rostock's eventual volley towards goal flew wide.
Rostock made his presence felt early in the second half again and turned provider for the next goal. Winning a free kick just outside the box, he curled the ball towards the far post and Will Ross headed beyond Stephen to make it 2-1.
A long free kick from Rostock dipped over the defence and almost hit the target on 50 minutes as Saints continued to heap on the pressure.
The third eventually arrived after good work from Jon Campbell down the right, who beat his man and squared the ball for Ben Bruce to evade his marker and direct the ball into the bottom corner. The strike was Bruce's 12th goal of the season for the club.
Bruce nearly scored a second after getting on the end of a Cammy Mackintosh square ball on the hour, but his chance flew just over the crossbar. Moments later, he was thwarted again by a good low save from Stephen.
Jon Campbell narrowly missed the target with a long range shot on 70 minutes after dispossessing Lewis Creighton, the midfielder's chance sailing just over the crossbar.
John Allan, Robbie Murray, Adam Allan, John Skinner, Will Ross, Jon Campbell, Stefan MacRitchie (Dean Allison 70), Cammy Mackintosh, Ben Bruce (Paul Beaton 83), Reece Paterson (Alan Geegan 79), Liam Rostock
Sandy Stephen, Andrew Sutherland (Liam Creighton 75), Martin Mainland, Liam Dymonds, Ryan Stewart, Martin Macdonald, Jordan Morrison, Martin Bain, Phil Macdonald, Russell Macintyre, Dominick Edwards
Referee: John Nicolson
Match Gallery: https://www.flickr.com/gp/gjw75/993649 (GJW Sport)