North Caledonian League
St Duthus 4, Inverness Athletic 2
INVERNESS Athletic are still waiting for their first league victory of the season after a below-par performance against St Duthus at Grant Park.
Athletic went into the match on the back of a superb cup win at Golspie the week before and hopes were high of registering another win on the road.
The visitors made four changes to last week's line-up. Veteran defender Niall Stott and youngster Dominic MacAulay were both unavailable while Liam Creighton and Cameron McCheyne dropped to the bench. Back in came the experienced Graeme Stewart along with Jamie Calder, while Matthew MacKenzie was on from the start. Former Clachnacuddin under-20s player Jake Bell made his first start for the club.
St Duthus laid siege on the Athletic goal from the kick-off and the pressure paid off as early as the sixth minute. Paul Gair's corner kick picked out danger man Ben Bruce at the far post and the Saints' striker headed home unopposed.
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 in 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.
The Athletic goal survived a real scare in the 21st minute when Jake Lockett broke clear on goal but Slaney was quick off his line to thwart the danger.
At the other end a Stewart free kick caused panic in the Saints' goal-mouth and Kieran Duffty saw two efforts blocked in quick succession.
But it was the home side who restored their lead in the 24th minute. Bruce got the goal-line and crossed for Lockett to nod into the net. The Athletic defenders claimed the ball had gone out for a goal-kick but their protests went unheeded and the goal stood.
Saints' stretched their lead eight minutes later after Slaney did well to turn a Bruce effort onto the post but the ball stayed in play and when it fell to Christie he rifled the ball into the net to make it 3-1.
Athletic were thrown a lifeline in the 43rd minute. MacKay slid the ball through for Thomas Lewis who beat his marker and buried a low drive into the far corner of the net.
Half Time - St Duthus 3, Inverness Athletic 2
Athletic looked a different team in the second half and they were and Bell was unlucky in the 51st minute when he cut inside and fired a shot off the outside of the post.
Athletic had claims for a penalty turned down shortly afterwards when MacKay appeared to be pole-axed inside the penalty area but nothing was given.
Lewis MacLeod was just on the park for a minute when he forced a fined save from Saints' trialist keeper Danny McCarthy. Lewis ended up sticking the ball in the net but he was ruled off-side.
Athletic had a great chance to level matters in the 68th minute when the were awarded a penalty. Duffty was felled in the box after being put through by Lewis. Duffty elected to take the spot kick himself but his effort was easily saved by McCarthy.
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, however, belonged mainly to the home side with Bruce a constant threat up front. But Slaney forced to make a number of point-blank saves from the marksman plus a goal-line clearance from Tokely as a fourth goal looked inevitable.
Athletic did have a chance late on when sub Ewan MacDonald's crossed for the industrious Duffty but his effort was blocked by some desperate defending.
Bruce finally got the better of Slaney in the sixth minute of stoppage time with a clinical finish into the bottom corner as Athletic were left to reflect on a disjointed performance.
Full Time - St Duthus 4, Inverness Athletic 2
St Duthus – Danny McCarthy (T), Adam Allan, Gary Millard, John Skinner, Barry Kenny, Paul Gair, Connor Smith, Daniel Christie (T), Ben Bruce, Ross Tokely, Jake Lockett.
Subs – James MacKay, Lewis Smith, Alan Geegan, Adrian Voigt, Aneek Khan.
Inverness Athletic – Ryan Slaney, Liam Smith, Matthew MacKenzie; Jamie Calder, Cal White, Graeme Stewart, Kieran Duffty, Charlie Thompson, Thomas Lewis, Luke MacKay, Jake Bell.
Subs – Liam Creighton, Ewan MacDonald, Cameron McCheyne, Lewis MacLeod.
Referee – John Nicolson.
Inverness Athletic manager Jason Golabek was bitterly disappointed with his side's display, he said: “I don't think we deserved anything from it. We were sloppy and gave away cheap goals. I'm really disappointed to be honest. We were better in the second half, but if you give yourself too much to do in the first half and start games the way we did you get nothing from it. With the chances they had they could have had about eight goals. I wasn't happy with that at all. If the penalty goes it it maybe changes things but we were all over the place – we weren't following runners and decision making was poor. It just wasn't good enough today. We'll get ready for next week, we go again against Thurso, but there is work to do.”
Match Report by John Macleod
Picture Credit Stuart Wilson @ SW Photo