St. Duthus picked up their first win of the season at Grant Park on Saturday, netting four goals with two in reply to send Inverness Athletic home to think again. Ben Bruce was the star of the show, netting twice, while Jake Lockett and trialist Daniel Christie grabbed a goal each.
With both Ryan Renwick and John Allan unavailable for the game, Danny McCarthy made a one-off return as a trialist between the sticks. There were returns also for Ross Tokely, Ben Bruce and Adam Allan who missed out the week prior. Barry Kenny also came back into the side for the first time this season, replacing Lewis Smith who dropped to the bench.
There were pre-match presentations for Saints' management team Stuart and Andrew Ross, along with physio Ian Christie, who each received a special edition hand filled bottle of Balblair whisky to mark their 100th game in the dugout for the club. There was a kind gesture from Inverness Athletic also who handed the Ross brothers a bottle of Glenmorangie each for their achievement.
St Duthus laid siege on the Athletic goal from the kick-off and they nearly took the lead just two minutes when a Ben Bruce shot had to be deflected past the post. The pressure paid off in the sixth minute when Paul Gair's corner kick picked out danger man Ben Bruce at the far post and the Saints' striker headed home.
It continued to be one-way traffic and after Saints' trialist Daniel Christie fired over the crossbar, Connor Smith forced a fine finger tip save from Ryan Slaney in the Athletic goal. Ross Tokely was not far away with a long range effort which whizzed past Slaney's right hand post as the onslaught continued.
But from Athletic's first real attack of the game in the 16th minute Luke MacKay picked the ball up in the middle of the park, took and couple of strides forward and unleashed an unstoppable shot from fully 25 yards which flew into the top corner of the net.
But even at 1-1 Saints remained the aggressors, and Jake Lockett was unlucky not to do better after breaking clear on goal, Slaney moving quickly off his line to thwart the danger. From the resultant corner, Barry Kenny's downward header flew just wide.
At the other end a Stewart free kick caused panic in the Saints' goal-mouth and Kieran Duffty had two efforts blocked in quick succession; Kenny and Adam Allan coming to the rescue.
But it was Saints who restored their lead in the 24th minute. Breaking down the left side, Bruce reached the by-line and launched a cross for Lockett to nod into the net.
From a long Danny McCarthy kick out, Bruce looked to be in for his second, but after taking the ball down and controlling to nip past Slaney, his shot agonisingly rolled across the empty goal and past the goal line.
Saints' stretched their lead five minutes later after more clever play from Bruce who twisted and turned inside the box before laying the ball to Jake Lockett. The winger found space to cross for Christie who arrived at the far post to rifle the ball into the net, making it 3-1.
It seemed like Saints were cruising until the visitors were thrown a lifeline in the 43rd minute. Reducing the score to 3-2, MacKay slid the ball through for Thomas Lewis who beat his marker and buried a low drive into the far corner of the net.
Athletic came at Saints in the second half, with Jake Bell particularly unlucky in the 51st minute when he cut inside and fired a shot off the outside of the post, and sub Lewis MacLeod came close when he forced a fine save from McCarthy moments later. From the rebound, Lewis ended up sticking the ball in the net but the chance was ruled off-side.
The was more work for Saints to do in the 68th minute when Athletic were awarded a penalty. The taker Duffty shot down the middle of the goal, but his effort was easily saved by McCarthy who kicked the ball back into play. A sigh of relief for Saints who were beginning to grab hold of the game once again.
MacKay came close for Athletic in the 70th minute when his turn and shot was deflected wide for a corner.
The final quarter of the match belonged mainly to Saints with Bruce a constant threat up front. In goal for Athletic, Slaney was in exceptional form and really kept the game open for his side. On a number of occasions, he was forced to make point-blank saves from Bruce in particular as well as a goal-line clearance from Tokely when a fourth goal looked inevitable.
Man of the Match Bruce finally got the better of Slaney in the sixth minute of stoppage time with a clinical finish into the bottom corner, rounding off a great afternoon's work.