North Caledonian League
Inverness Athletic 7, Bonar Bridge 0
INVERNESS Athletic were in seventh heaven after their first league win of the season - a ruthless 7-0 demolition of Bonar Bridge on the 4G pitch at Inverness Royal Academy.
Dom MacAulay stole the show with a magnificent hat-trick but there were no failures with everyone playing their part in a memorable victory.
MacAulay led the line on his return to the side. Craig Morrison partnered Liam Symonds at the heart of the Athletic defence after veteran pivot Jamie Fraser failed to shake off an injury.
Ryan Slaney was also back in goal, while Kyle Munro kept his place after coming on as a sub against Halkirk the week before.
Athletic went at Bonar from the kick-off. Munro got on the end of a Cal White free kick in the fourth minute but his glancing header drifted just wide of the upright.
Harry Shewan released MacAulay a minute later but he failed to trouble Nat Valante in the Bonar goal.
MacAulay came close in the eighth minute when he took a Lewis pass in his stride but his effort was deflected past for a corner.
It was one-way traffic and the breakthrough came in the 12th minute. Athletic won a corner on the right which MacAulay swung over. After a bit of a melee in the box Morrison bundled the ball over the line for the opener.
Ryan Slaney was a virtual spectator in the Athletic goal as his team-mates continued to press.
The home side duly doubled their lead in the 21st minute following a disputed throw-in. Bonar felt the shy should have gone their way but Shewan quickly found MacAulay, who cleverly turned his marker and lashed a shot into the far corner of the net for a truly outstanding goal.
The Eriskay boy almost scored again a couple of minutes later after he latched onto a Shewan through ball but Valante pulled off a great save to deny him.
But MacAulay could not be stopped and the youngster made it 3-0 in the 28th minute when he drilled the ball low into the net giving the Bonar 'keeper no chance.
Slaney had his first real taste of action in the 39th minute when he easily held a long-range effort from Jack Mitchell.
The first half ended with another piece of trickery from MacAulay which almost led to a goal.
Bonar brought on Aiden Stainke for the injured Paul Sangwin at the start of the second half.
The second 45 had hardly got going when Athletic increased their lead in the 48th minute. MacAulay flew in from the left touchline, left his marker for dead, and fired a shot high into the net to complete his hat-trick.
Liam Smith replaced Cal White in the left back position almost immediately, while Bonar's Archie Cameron came on for Paul Macdonald a few minutes later.
The goals kept coming and Athletic stretched their lead in the 58th minute when Munro controlled a MacKay flick-on and powered a shot into the far corner.
That was the signal for Athletic boss Jason Golabek to make more changes. In a triple swap, Cameron McCheyne, Ryan Walker and Jordan Shaw came off the bench, while Reece Shaw, Munro, and MacKay were rested.
The subs did not disrupt the flow of the game as Athletic continued to power forward.
Walker was soon in the action with a curler which just cleared the crossbar.
At the other end Bonar's Gregor MacKay tested Slaney with a stinging shot which the 'keeper did well to tip over.
But normal service was resumed in the 75th minute when Thompson got on the scoresheet when he finished off a fine four-man move.
The industrious mid-fielder was on target again in the 83rd minute when he got on the end of a 40-yard diagonal from McCheyne before picking his spot to complete the scoring.
It could well have been double figures in the end had it not been for the heroics of the Bonar keeper who pulled off a number of top class saves throughout.
Inverness Athletic – Ryan Slaney, Harry Shewan, Cal White, Craig Morrison, Liam Symonds, Reece Shaw, Luke MacKay, Charlie Thompson, Dominic MacAulay, Kyle Munro, Thomas Lewis.
Subs – Liam Smith, Cameron McCheyne, Ryan Walker, Jordan Shaw, Ryan MacLeod.
Bonar Bridge – Nat Valante, Fraser MacLeod, Dylan MacCulloch, Gary Shand, David MacGruer, Jack Mitchell, Tommy McClenaghan, Gregor MacKay, Paul MacDonald, Bruce Urquhart, Paul Sangwin.
Subs – Aiden Stainke, Archie Cameron, Justin MacDonald.
Referee – David Alexander.
Athletic manager, Jason Golabek was delighted with his team's performance:
“I'm over the moon for the players,” he said. “To see their smiles after the game was great after the hurt over the past few weeks."
“Unfortunately for Bonar, they came up against an angry animal today. The players were ready and focussed - I knew what was going to happen, it all just clicked - credit to them.”
He added: “It has been coming. I thought we deserved something from the Halkirk game last week but it was a stepping stone for today. The players were disappointed last week, but I'm delighted for them - it was a clean sheet as well."
“I just thought with Dom coming back today through the middle and Thomas with his pace on the left would cause them problems and it did."
“I was very, very impressed with what I watched today. Everyone of them was excellent, I couldn't pick anyone out today.”
Report by John Macleod
Picture Credit Stuart Wilson from SW Photo