A JUBILANT St Duthus squad plan to celebrate with a Christmas jumper night out this evening following a triumphant 3-1 win over Inverness Athletic at Muir of Ord's Pavilion Park. Scott Miller was the hero of the day with a second half hat-trick to sink the Navy Blues.
Manager Stuart Ross made two changes following the team's midweek win over Lossiemouth. Garry Macleod returned from suspension and Scott Miller was recalled to the starting eleven, taking the place of trialist Louis Webster and Paul Cowie, the latter dropping to the bench. Will Ross, returning from illness, took a place as a substitute, as did defender Ewan Ross who missed out on the trip to Grant Park.
The game began in meaty fashion with both sides acutely aware of the task at hand. Some neat passing from the Inverness men saw them take the initative early on and they looked to take the advantage with a series of balls into the box, but Steven Martin and his capable defence of Kenny, Skinner and Macleod were up to the task before the Saints started to take control.
On the quarter hour, a quick turn and an incisive pass from Jon Campbell set Scott Miller free on goal and with that he offered up the first chance of the afternoon with a shot across the face of Ryan Renwick's goal. Moments later, Liam Rostock forced the first save of the game with a powerful shot from 20 yards which Renwick had to push away to safety. Just two minutes later, Renwick had to react well again after Campbell played Miller in for another chance, before the ball was again turned away for a corner.
The series of St Duthus attacks continued and a full half hour had been played before Inverness offered a reply, Roddy McPhee shooting over from outside the box. At the other end, a shot from Campbell flew towards the far post and the advancing Adam MacDonald looked like he was going to knock the ball home from close range, but Renwick again was on hand to prevent the chance.
Lorne Mackay, for Inverness, shot at goal with a tame effort on the edge of the box with ten minutes of the first period remaining - an effort easily held by Martin - and at the other end, Cammy Mackintosh blasted the ball over the bar.
A speculative overhead kick for the Inverness men trundled wide just before the half ended with a barrage of St Duthus attacks. Liam Rostock capitalised on a slack piece of defending to break free on goal, but his effort flew just over the crossbar. Ken Morrison was quick to find Miller with a good through ball right on half time as Miller once again found himself clean through, but Renwick thwarted the forward yet again to ensure the teams went in 0-0 at the break.
Half time: Inverness Athletic 0, St Duthus 0
Straight out of the traps in the second half, Scott Miller finally got his just deserts, with a finish to match, after Barry Kenny played a long pass to the striker's feet, and he lashed the ball straight down the middle of the goal, leaving Renwick with no chance to give the Saints a 1-0 lead.
Inverness looked for an instant reply, and turning on the edge of the box, Terence Brady rifled a left footed shot at goal, which Martin had to tip over the bar. Any hopes of an Inverness equaliser were thwarted five minutes later when a second goal for the Saints arrived. Sending a low free kick into the box, Liam Rostock found the feet of Miller who turned the ball into the far corner to double the advantage.
A Rostock corner fell to Campbell shortly after and the midfield man fired an effort into the arms of Renwick. Despite being caught offside on a couple of occasions, Miller was undeterred in his quest for his hat-trick, and on 63 minutes it seemed like he had done just that, but after breaking clean through on goal, he shot over the bar.
The Saints were dealt a blow on 66 minutes though, when a Terence Brady cross from the left wing coasted past the Tain defence and beyond Martin, trundling into the far corner of the net. With their tails up following their goal, the Inverness pursuit for an equaliser accelerated, and with that the action began to take a turn for the ugly as no fewer than five cautions were handed out for a combination of dissent, unsporting behaviour and recklessly dangerous play. On 84 minutes, Athletic's forward Lorne Mackay was dismissed for "adopting an aggressive attitude", as he all but ended any chance his side had of levelling the scores.
Liam Rostock, who had played well throughout the game, was determined to get his name on the scoresheet and he nearly did so when he got on the end of a Cammy Mackintosh cross before forcing another Renwick save. From a free kick moments later, his chance brushed the side netting.
Four minutes into stoppage time, St Duthus finally put the game beyond doubt with a third goal, and it was the star man Scott Miller who did the needful by securing his treble and writing his name in history as the first post-revival Saints player to net a hat-trick for the club. Another neat through pass from Jon Campbell played the striker in on goal, and after taking a touch to control the ball he placed the ball neatly into the far corner, smacking the stansion on the way.
Full time: Inverness Athletic 1, St Duthus 3
As commanding as we have seen them this season, St Duthus were deserved winners and in earning the three points - their first while on the road in the league - they climb to fifth place in the North Caledonian League table. Next up is a visit to Orkney as they look to continue their upturn in form. A win next weekend could see them jump into the top half of the table. Before that though, the team will travel to Station Park in Nairn on Monday for a midweek friendly match against Nairn County Under 20s.
Ryan Renwick, Mark Queen, Martin Mainland (bkd 53) (Ayah Rattanaphithak 80), Euan Gray (bkd 79), Michael McRobert (Jason Golabek 49), Ryan Rutherford, Roddy MacPhee (bkd 82), Elliot Mitchell (bkd 44) (Andrew McPherson 65), Terence Brady, Lorne Mackay (bkd 77, s/o 84), Jack Mulgrew (Jordan Hailes 89)
Steven Martin, Adam MacDonald, Joe Sutherland (bkd 30) (Ewan Ross 55), Garry Macleod, John Skinner, Jon Campbell, Ken Morrison (Paul Cowie 63), Cammy Mackintosh, Scott Miller (bkd 90+1), Liam Rostock, Barry Kenny (bkd 88)
Subs not used: Martyn Farquhar, Liam Mcleod, Will Ross
Referee: John Nicolson
Assistants: Daniel Jack & Callum McCruden