Balintore 0 V Thurso 2 – report from Iain Grant
Thurso completed a league double over Balintore on Saturday to keep alive their hopes of a top four place in the North Caley League.
First half goals from Michael Petrie and Marc MacGregor saw off a spirited home outfit who are still searching for their first victory of the season.
The Vikings had yet another new central defensive partnership with absentees seeing Stuart Sinclair making a rare appearance alongside Sean Stewart.
They also gave an outing to Polish forward Lukas Geruzel whose appearance off the bench was enough to convince manager Stevie Reid that he could prove a useful addition for the remainder of the campaign.
Seaboard Park is normally firm but it was unable to cope with heavy rain in the lead-up to the game and the surface quickly cut up.
The visitors had passed up a couple of half-chances before Petrie grabbed his first goal of the season.
Graham MacNab, returning to fitness after a spell out injured, created the chance with a probe down the right flank.
His pull-back dovetailed with Petrie’s late run and he fired past keeper Eddie Shearer.
Thurso kept the upper hand and a foray forward by defender Martin Sutherland almost paid dividends when his lusty strike skimmed just over.
While the Vikings had the bulk of the play, their hard-working opponents harried and hounded to restrict the quality of supply to MacNab and Marc MacGregor.
They were however undone on 36 minutes by a sprightly passage of play prompted by Chris Wann.
He exchanged passes with Ryan Begg before releasing MacNab whose centre allowed Marc MacGregor to side-foot the ball past Shearer.
At the interval, Reid reminded his troops of their previous game in the Jock Mackay Memorial Cup when they led 2-0 at the same stage at home to Balintore and ended up hanging on for a scratchy 3-2 win.
There were no such fade-out this time though visiting keeper Asa Sinclair was called on to pull off a couple of decent saves to keep his goal intact.
The Vikings spurned chances to rack up a more convincing victory. Marc MacGregor fired narrowly wide before hitting a post and then ballooning a clear opening over.
Begg marred an otherwise impressive display when he was unable to beat Shearer when put in the clear.
Garuzel, a 28-year-old Norscot worker, has not played for some time but showed some nice touches when he entered the fray for the closing half-hour. He went close with a left-foot effort which was blocked though showed his ring-rustiness when he failed to connect with another chance with his less favoured right foot,
Manager Reid was happy enough with the win, which puts Thurso into joint fourth.
He said: “Balintore are stuffy side and made it difficult for us though we should have ran out easier winners. “It was decent overall performance and again we fielded a pretty young side.”
Thurso have work to do if they are to secure a high enough placing to qualify for next season’s North of Scotland Cup.
They have a tough run-in with their remaining three matches being away to Golspie Sutherland and Dingwall Thistle and at home to Muir of Ord Rovers.
Thurso – A. Sinclair, Sutherland, Harrold, S. Sinclair, Stewart, Petrie, G. MacGregor, Wann (Garuzel 60), Begg, M. MacGregor (M. Sinclair 70), MacNab (Miller 72).
Ref – Mr G. Dearie.