Yesterday’s score…..North Caledonian League – Thurso 1 V Muir of Ord Rovers 2 – Vikings goal from Lucasz Gerazel
Thurso 1 v Muir of Ord Rovers 2 – report from Iain Grant
The Vikings were unable to sign off their North Caley League campaign with a victory against title-chasers Muir.
The visitors prevailed to keep alive their championship hopes though they had to endure a nervy climax before securing the three points.
Such a tense finale seemed improbable as Muir took a firm hold of the contest midway through the first half.
When they were awarded a penalty while two goals to the good, the outlook looked decidedly bleak for the home outfit.
But they were thrown a lifeline when veteran defender John Skinner skied the spot-kick at the changing room end.
Within minutes, Thurso’s Polish marksman Lucas Gerazel struck to put his side right back in the mix.
There was little between the sides in terms of possession and territory after the break but the Vikings’ continued challenge was sustained to the death as a result of a man-of-the-match display by keeper Asa Sinclair.
Thurso started with yet another rearguard, with Sean Stewart and Kyle Ross coming in for the injured Lewis Harrold and unavailable Shaun Forbes.
The enforced changes contributed to a hesitant opening which Muir exploited to conjure up a clutch of openings in the opening period.
Right winger Eddie Fuller was a particular threat with his jinking runs and dangerous deliveries from wide out.
A mistake by Ross on four minutes led to Daryl Henderson bearing down on keeper Sinclair who was not required thanks to a block from the back-tracking Stuart Sinclair.
Two minutes later, Muir went in front when Ewan Dance’s powerful header at the far post from Fuller’s driven cross gave keeper Sinclair no chance.
At the other end, MacNab netted after a classic piece of hold-up play from Gerazel but the former had strayed just offside before the ball was played through to him.
Fuller almost created a replica of the first goal on 18 minutes when he scooted past Stewart before crafting a centre which Gillies MacKenzie was a hairbreadth way from what would have been a scoring connection.
Asa Sinclair made his first important intervention on 22 minutes when he got the merest of touches needed to turn Kevin Leitch’s snap-shot behind.
Muir went two up on 28 minutes when the home defence was posted missing as Kevin Fraser was allowed to drive forward almost to the edge of the penalty box before squaring to Dance.
The striker coolly committed keeper Sinclair before side-footing the ball into the gaping net.
Dance went close with a header before his side was given a golden chance to effectively seal the contest.
But Skinner fluffed his lines after Stuart Sinclair’s late tackle in the box on the quicksilver Fuller.
The miss was magnified on 38 minutes when Gerazel’s header from Lee Elder’s centre went over the line before Davie Brennan hacked clear.
He was cautioned for his over-vigorous protest with Elder and Fraser joining him in ref Graham Elder’s book before the interval.
Thurso started the second half in determined mood and Gerazel came within a whisker of the equaliser when his header from Michael Petrie’s assist eluded keeper Bob Rose only to come back off the face of the crossbar.
Thurso may have seen at least as much of the ball after the turnaround but Muir continued to show the greater goal threat.
MacKenzie should perhaps have done better than head into the side-net after his late run was picked out by the evergreen Davie Ross.
MacKenzie then fired just over before keeper Sinclair got down well to foil Dance.
The keeper went on to throw himself to his left to parry Fraser’s vicious strike and then again thwarted Dance’s hat-trick when he turned the striker’s 20 yarder past his near post.
Dance was out of luck once more when his header from a corner found the junction of the bar and the left upright.
On 75 minutes, the home keeper continued his heroics, this time spreading himself to block from the inrushing Fraser.
The roll-call of Muir chances makes it sound like an one-sided affair, which it wasn’t.
But, for all their possession, Thurso were unable to seriously trouble a flint-like defence, commanded by old stagers Brennan and Skinner.
The last action in the Muir box came two minutes from time when Rose bravely took a steepling cross, under serious pressure from sub Martin Sinclair.
A good-tempered second period brought just one more booking for Thurso’s Chris Wann.
Home manager Stevie Reid said: “Once again, we paid the price for getting off to a horrendous start.
“The goals we conceded were soft and we got a major break when they missed the penalty.
“We then battled our way back into the game and I thought the second half was pretty even.”
Thurso – A. Sinclair, Manson, Stewart, S. Sinclair, Ross, Petrie,Miller (Wares 67), Wann, Garazel, MacNab, Elder (M. Sinclair 61).
Muir of Ord Rovers – Rose, Geegan, Leitch, Skinner, Brennan, Ross, Fuller, Fraser, Dance, Henderson (Farquhar 77), MacKenzie (Calvert 80). Sub (unused) – MacGruer.
Ref – Mr G. Elder.