Match report – Thurso 0 v Sutherland United 3 – NCL – 14.9.13 – report by Iain Grant
Scorers: Sean Henstridge (13), Garry MacLeod (31), Craig Ross (85).
LAST year’s North Caley champions’ misfiring start to the new season continued on Saturday as newcomers Sutherland United celebrated their maiden victory.
Thurso’s opening three matches, all at home, have yielded just one point and one goal scored against six conceded.
The Dornoch-based visitors, who have a core of experienced performers with Golspie Sutherland, exploited a flaky Vikings defence to go in at the break thanks to strikes from Sean Henstridge and Garry MacLeod.
A largely uneventful second half ended with Craig Ross adding a third to return with a morale-raising convincing win to add to the 3-3 draw they earned at Golspie in their opening fixture.
Alan Bokas was the first keeper forced into action after he had to dash out to prevent Thurso’s Marc MacGregor getting on the end of Robert Gunn’s through ball.
Before opening the scoring, SU went desperately close when Colin Davidson was robbed by Henstridge whose centre found Aaron Smith unmarked on the centre of the six yard box. Smith’s first-time strike produced a fine block by spread-eagled keeper Graeme Williamson.
Further defensive uncertainty was the prelude to the visitors going in front with Smith darting down the right flank and having his searching, far post cross swept past Williamson by Henstridge.
Thurso almost levelled in the first play from the restart when Michael Petrie got a clear sight of goal and had his effort well held by Bokas. Marc MacGregor screwed an angled effort wide before play switched to the other end when Williamson had an anxious couple of seconds after Henstridge beat him to a long ball and stepped past him near the junction of the penalty box and bye-line. The former Halkirk and Golspie striker found the angle too tight and by the time he had fed the ball across the goalmouth, defenders had got back to crowd out Smith as he sought to get in a shot.
Thurso were starting to dominate possession with David Cowie’s shot-on-the-turn stretching Bokas. A classy bit of wing play from Cowie then created an inviting opening for Gunn who was unable to provide the finish the build-up deserved.
Thurso’s bright spell counted for naught when SU doubled their lead when Garry MacLeod’s lofted free-kick from wide on the right eluded friend and foe with Williamson, under pressure from Craig Mackay, misreading the flight of the ball as it soared into the back of the net.
The Vikings were unlucky not to reduce the deficit before the break with MacGregor foiled after he was put in the clear by a clever prompt from Sean Stewart. MacGregoor clipped the ball past Bokas but his attempt lacked power and Blair Duncan was able to shepherd the ball to safety from in front of his own line.
MacGregor went close again when his connection from Colin Sinclair’s long-range feed was kept out through the combined efforts of Bokas and Kevin Lewis.
Henstridge headed narrowly over before Kyle Ross was relieved not to put through his own goal with a miscued clearance
SU comfortably absorbed the pressure exerted on them and sealed victory late on when Shaun Forbes’ misplaced header fell to Craig Ross who forced the ball home after his initial shot was blocked by Williamson.
Thurso were denied even a crumb of comfort when Stewart’s long-ranger whistled just wide of the far post in the final action of what was another bad day at the office for the defending champions.
Thurso – Williamson, Florence, Stewart, Sinclair, Davidson (Forbes 77), Ross, MacDonald, Petrie (Sawyer 70), Gunn, MacGregor, Cowie. Sub (unused) – Wann.
Sutherland United: Bokas, G. MacLeod, Duncan, Mackay, Lewis, Innes, Smith (MacKenzie 80), L. MacLeod (MacDonald 55), Henstridge (E. Ross 75), C. Ross, MacRae.
Ref: Bob Gunn.