Thurso 0 V Halkirk United 3 – report by Iain Grant
Halkirk extended their recent cycle of success over their county rivals as they claimed a place in the SWL Cup semi-final on Saturday.
Nine of the last 12 derby matches have now gone their way after they belatedly broke their duck against the Vikings.
The Anglers took seven years dating from Thurso’s launch in 1998/99 to get one over their neighbours. They have in recent seasons being playing serious catch-up.
On Saturday, they stunned their hosts by scoring twice in a minute before the game had settled into a pattern.
The initiative remained with them thereafter with Martin Banks’ second late on less a clincher then providing the icing on the cake.
Chris Sutherland had got the opener to continue his recent hot streak in front of goal.
Thurso saw plenty of the ball with the hard-working Michael Petrie and second half sub Ryan Begg catching the eye.
But they posed little threat at the business end with Anglers keeper Graeme Williamson having a largely undisturbed afternoon.
Halkirk, by contrast, regularly unsettled the opposing defence with the promptings of Michael Bremner and Martyn Cook and the movement and pace of Grant MacNab, Banks and Sutherland.
In the opening minutes, Sutherland was unable to connect with MacNab’s inviting layback and Bremner’s long-range feed was marginally too strong for MacNbab.
Home keeper Asa Sinclair was called into action to palm clear a MacNab dig from the edge of the box.
The wide right flank was to prove a particularly productive area for Halkirk to exploit during the first half.
Both goals stemmed from it though the first on 12th minute came off Thurso possession.
Sean Stewart was pick-pocketed by Sutherland who was afforded an unobstructed run-in before calmly cutting the ball between Sinclair and the left upright.
The Vikings were still reflecting on that setback when they fell further behind. MacNab’s diagonal sent Sutherland haring down the right wing and his early cutback was swept in at the near post by Banks.
Thurso were luckless on 17 minutes when Jimmy Budge’s back-header from Petrie’s free-kick looked a winner all the way.
But his attempt picked up the merest of deflections off a defender which was enough to see it brush just past the left post.
a MacNab header at the other end finished just wide of the target before Sinclair was again to the fore when he flung himself to keep out Banks’ close-in strike from Sutherland’s cross.
The Anglers were by far the zippier and looked good value to increase their lead. They would have done so on 28 minutes had Sutherland been able to provide the finish which clever build-up involving Banks and Jack Halliday deserved.
Jimmy Budge saw a decent hook-shot fly just over before Sinclair required to pull off another reaction stop to deny Halliday after Thurso were again cruelly exposed on their left side.
Banks and MacNab were booked for dissent either side of the interval while Derrick Shearer joined them in the book for a foul he committed within a minute of coming on.
On 50 minutes, Sinclair made a meal of gathering a free-kick as the game slipped into a largely insipid affair with both sides guilty of giving up possession cheaply.
Sutherland fired a foot wide with a snap-shot and Banks was inches away with a curling effort as United sought a killer third.
Stuart Florence’s sally down the right on 67 minutes set up MacNab whose 25 yarder zinged fractionally wide.
Any lingering hopes the home men nourished realistically evaporated on 73 minutes when they were left to soldier on with 10 men.
Shearer was the guilty party as his cynical block on Banks just outside the penalty box as he raced on to a Bremner pass left ref Graham Elder no option than to show the Castletown man a second yellow card.
Graham MacNab’s looping header was turned over the bar by Sinclair before the visitors made it 3-0 10 minutes from time when Halliday played in Banks who ran on before tucking the ball past Sinclair.
Thurso – Sinclair, Stewart, Sutherland (Shearer h/t), Smith, Forbes, John Budge, Harrold (Begg h/t), Bremner, J. Budge, MacGregor (Miller 74) Petrie.
Halkirk United – Williamson, G. Sinclair, Davidson, Florence, C. Sinclair, Cook, Halliday, Bremner (Budge 80), C. Sutherland, MacNab (Howden (80), Banks. Sub (unused – Murray).
Ref – Mr G. Elder.