Thurso FC Season 2001/02


Thurso won their first Cup trophy when they won the PCT North Caledonian Cup 2-1 V Alness United at King George V Park, Golspie on 6th April 2002


North Caledonian League Championship

Saturday 18th of August 2001

Golspie Sutherland............3..............V Thurso F.C.......................1...............

Goalscorer - Alan Murray

King George V Park, Golspie


Report by Iain Grant


Golspie rode their luck before taking charge of Saturday's MSIS North Caledonian League encounter.

Thurso made a promising start to their first outing of the campaign and with Alan Murray and Gavin Bremner both hitting the post and Thurso coming close on three other occasions before the home side went ahead.

The Vikings were aggrieved at Golspie's 21st minute opener when Darren Pullen appeared to be yards offside when he netted from a header.

Within 10 minutes, Golspie had tripled their advantage with Gary Morrison first heading home and then chipping Gray after a defensive lapse.

After the break, the visitors came close several times before finally breaking through 11 minutes from time with a glorious strike from Alan Murray.

The striker capped a jinking run with a 20 yard strike which flew into the top left-hand corner.

Manager Alistair Budge was happy with how his new-look side gelled on their first outing of the season.

"Given that it was the first time they have played together, I thought there was a lot of positives.

"We kept the ball well given that we were up against a side who just about all have Highland League experience."

The manager has a few headaches for Saturday's home clash with Balintore, which kicks off at 3 p.m.

Jonathon Makhouli has joined Graham Reid and Kevin Warner on the injury list though Bobby Thorburn is expected to recover from a knock.

Mr Budge is keen to blood several youngsters, including Lee Mackay who has been shaping up well in training.

Team v Golspie : Gray, Baker, Thorburn, Moar, MacBeath, Inrig, Steven, Bremner, M. Murray, Makhouli, A. Murray.

Subs -- MacGregor, Coghill, Cassidy


North Caledonian League Championship


Saturday 25th of August 2001

Thurso F.C...................2...................V Balintore..................1............

Goalscorers P.Makhouli and Martin Baker(pen)

At The Dammies, Thurso


Report by Iain Grant


Thurso scored their first MSIS North Caley League success with this win in which they had the chances to prevail by a much more comfortable margin.

Gavin Bremner and stand-in striker Graham Reid had both hit woodwork before the Vikings took the lead after 33 minutes.

Reid's header had put Balintore defender Sean Carrison under pressure from Makhouli.

Carrison only succeeded in steering the ball towards goal with Makhouli claiming the final touch on the goal-line.

The visiting goal continued to come under threat before the break with Thorburn and Inrig both going close before Reid came out second in a 1-on-1 with keeper David Matheson.

Reid had the ball in the net after 66 minutes but it was chalked off offside.

Balintore had a decent spell midway through the second half with Ross Powell finishing off a driving run after 70 minutes with a shot which Michael Gray was happy to see flash wide of his goal.

The visitors' goal came under siege in the final 15 minutes with Luke Cassidy unlucky with a shot and Martin Murray missing a snip before Martin Baker converted an 88th minute penalty.

Two minutes into injury time, Balintore got one back when Powell banged home a 25 yard free-kick.

Manager Alistair Budge was delighted with the side's first win and with how the new players have settled in.

"What I'm particularly pleased about is the number of chances we're creating. The boys put in a good shift and look to be enjoying their football."

Mr Budge is resigned to losing keeper Gray to Brora Rangers and is currently reviewing his options for a replacement.

There is no North Caley programme on Saturday and the manager is hoping injured duo Alan Murray and Kevin Warner will be fit for their next match away to Bonar Bridge.

North Caledonian League Championship

Saturday 8th of September 2001


Bunillidh Thistle............1..............V Thurso F.C.......................0...............

Played at Couper Park, Helmsdale

North Caledonian League Championship

Saturday 15th of September 2001

Thurso F.C...................4................V Dornoch................2..........

Goalscorers - George Groat and Alan Murray (3)

At The Dammies, Thurso

Match report from Iain Grant


Thurso recovered from their previous week's reverse to Bunillidh to extend their 100% record against a side still seeking their first point in the MSIS North Caledonian League. An off-the-field shake-up has seen Dornoch revert to an all-local policy which appears to have given them fresh impetus.

The Vikings, who themselves have had to undergo a makeover, found the visitors lacking in neither spirit nor stamina. That said, the victory should have been more decisive but for a series of gilt-edged chances which went abegging. Dornoch sought to deploy their back line well up the park which regularly left them exposed to quick counters which released lively front-runners, Alan Murray and newcomer George Groat.

Thurso had already missed a couple of snips before Groat gave them an 11th minute lead with as debut goal. After 18 minutes, Dornoch's defence was again breached with Murray running through and lifting the ball over Alec Clark.

Dornoch threatened fitfully with Ian Moffat and John Mackay unable to hit the target after working openings on the edge of ther box. A minute into the second half , the home camp got a wake-up call when defensive hesistancy let in Roddy Mackay who scored with a fine strike from 12 yards. The goal gave heart to the visitors but their defence was once again breached after 55 minutes when Murray ran through to round Clark and put his side 3-1 up.

John Mackay was just off-target for Dornoch just before the home side made the points safe after 75 minutes. Good play by Martin MacGregor cut out a clear opening for fellow substitute Luke Cassidy. Cassidy's shot was well saved by Clark only for Murray to follow up to net his hat-trick.

Seven minutes from time, Murray made an early claim to net the sitter-of-the season award. He conjured up Premier League memories of Van Vossen and Braatback after MacGregor's through ball left the striker net three yards only for him to scoop the ball high over the bar with an empty net at his mercy.

Shepherd popped up to get Dornoch's after 87 minutes with a fine strike into the top left-hand corner.

Vikings manager Alistair Budge was happy with the general play but less so with the strike-rate.

"We must have missed half-a-dozen clearcut chances. "They tried to defend too high up the park and were caught out. "That said. Dornoch competed a lot better than they have against us in the past. They gave us a good game and at 2-1 it was a bit too close for comfort. "We are strill knitting together and it a bonus to have George Groat in the side -- he put in a really good shift, as did Willie Inrig."

Bobby Thorburn is a doubt for tomorrow's Chic Allan Cup second round tie in Bonar Bridge after he picked up a leg knock against Dornoch.

Team v Dornoch -- I.Begg, Thorburn (S. Reid 77), Moar, G. Reid, Robertson
(Macgregor 63), Inrig, Steven, Bremner, Groat, J.Begg (Cassidy 70), Murray.

Other NCL Scores

Invergordon 4 V Bonar Bridge 2
Balintore 3 V Bunillidh Thistle 0
Alness United 5 V Halkirk United 0

Chic Allan Cup Second Round

Saturday 22nd of September 2001

Bonar Bridge.............1...........V Thurso F.C.....................3.................

Goalscorers - Alan Murray, Martin MacGregor and Luke Cassidy

At Migdale Park, Bonar Bridge

Match report from Iain Grant


Thurso pulled off a comfortable win on Saturday to progress to the semi-finals of the Chic Allan Cup.

The home side were fortunate not to be on the end of a rout with their woodwork peppered throughout the afternoon as the Vikings launched wave after wave of attacks. Within a minute, the visitors were ahead when Alan Murray headed home Gavin Bremner's corner kick.

Bonar were still reeling from that setback when they almost went two behind following a quick counter which saw Murray beat two players before crossing for Graham Reid. Reid headed the ball into the path of Willie Inrig whose shot came back off a post. The Vikings went further ahead on the quarter-hour mark after George Groat intercepted the ball on the half-way line and sent Luke Cassidy darting up the wing. His cross was cleverly back-heeled by Bremner for Martin MacGregor to power home from 20 yards.

Inrig, twice, and Cassidy, had both been denied by the woodwork before the Thurso pressure eventually produced the elusive third goal. Bremner's deep corner was met by a powerful header from Murray with Cassidy pouncing to net from the keeper's parry.

That put the visitors on easy street with central defender Shaun Moar allowed the luxury of an upfield foray in which he exchanged passes with Murray before unleashing a 30 yarder which found the inside of the post.

Groat was then denied by the same post in the aftermath to a fiercely struck free-kick from Reid. Murray had ashot cleared off the line before Bonar got one back after 80 minutes with Duncan Matheson prodding the ball home from close range.

Thurso almost restored their three goal lead when MacGrgeor set up Groat whose effort was half-cleared into the path of substitute Graham Potter who was unlucky to see his shot rebound to safety off the outside of a post

After match comment

Manager Alistair Budge singled out youngster Martin MacGregor and the experienced Gavin Bremner for special praise in what he rated as a good all-round display.

"We're playing quite well and are continuing to creat no shortage of chances. On another day, we could have hit double figures. "I was happy how we dealt with Bonar who are a pretty physical side."

Bobby Thorburn is expected to be fit for tomorrow's MSIS North Caledonian League match in Alness. Fellow defender Martin Baker is also back from holiday but Cassidy is unavailable. Manager Budge knows it will be a tough test against a side who have cracked in 19 goals in their last three outings. "Alness are obviously going well but our boys will be up for it are they are looking forward to the challenge.

Team v Bonar -- I. Begg, Reid, Gray, Moar, Inrig, Bremner, Murray, J. Begg,
MacGrgeor, Cassidy, Groat.
Substitutes -- Robertson, Cassidy, Potter.

Other NCL matches

Invergordon 12 V Dornoch 0

Other Chic Allan Cup games

Tain 0 V Halkirk United 4
Bunillidh 0 V Alness United 9
Balintore 1 V Golspie 5

Chic Allan Cup Semi-finals - Thurso F.C V Golspie Sutherland and Alness United V Halkirk United

North Caledonian League Championship

Saturday 29th of September 2001

Alness United.............5...........V Thurso F.C.....................0.................

Alness United - Keith Sutherland (1), Ross Jack (1), Colin MacLean (1), Steven Graham (1) and Steven MacLean (1).

Jocky Begg and Alness keeper Andrew Ridgers - sent off

At Alness

Match report from Iain Grant


The Vikings suffered one of their biggest ever defeats on Saturday as they became the latest to suffer at the hands of a side which is firing on all cylinders. Even the red-carding of home goalkeeper Andrew Rodgers in first half injury time failed to quell Tommy Regan's men who went on to add three goals after the break.

While Alness were good value for a win, the margin certainly flattered them in a game soured by several unsavoury incidents.

Thurso's main goal threat came from Alan Murray who created the first chance after six minutes when he was impeded as his pace threatened to take him clear.

After 12 minutes, Alness were ahead when their first attack saw a far post cross expertly volleyed home by Keith Sutherland. A minute later, tempers boiled over after Rodgers was caught by Murray's boot as the keeper tried to head clear just outside his box. After a free-kick was awarded, Rodgers set upon Murray as the striker lay on the ground. The upshot was a yellow card for the striker and no action against the keeper, who required treatment for a head gash.

Murray was forced to retire after 36 minutes in the aftermath of a scything tackle from Neil Mackay. Alness grabbed their second after 45 minutes after Thurso's defence got in a fankle from a Maclean corner and Ross Jack pounced to net with a cracking finish.

The half ended with Rodgers being red-carded for a dreadful challenge on Jocky Begg just outside the box.

The visitors made a bright start after the turnaround and went close several times before the home side struck the killer third goal after 58 minutes.

Dave Smith put Colin Maclean clear down the inside left channel and he was allowed to continue unchallenged before firing past Iain Begg.

Steven Graham. and Steven MacLean added further counters with Thurso's misery complete with Jocky Begg's 80th minute sending- off for a second booking.

Vikings manager Alistair Budge believed there was little to choose between the teams apart from in the chance-taking department. "I have to give Alness their due their finishing was ruthless. They had six attacks all game and scored from five of them. "We had more chances but didn't take them."

On Saturday, Thurso entertain Halkirk at Sir Georges Park. Kick-off is at 3 p.m.

Thurso v Alness: I. Begg, Reid, Moar, Gray, Baker, MacGregor (Sinclair 83) ,
Bremner, Inrig, Groat, Murray (Jarvie 36) , J. Begg.

Other NCL Scores

Invergordon 3 V Tain 1
Bonar Bridge 3 V Bunillidh 2
Balintore 3 V Dornoch 1


North Caledonian League Championship


Saturday 6th of October 2001

Thurso F.C..................2.................V Halkirk United...............1...........

Goalscorers - Willie Steven and Philip Makhouli

At The Dammies, Thurso

Match report from Iain Grant


These teams have produced some memorable clashes since the fixture started with Thurso's emergence on the scene three seasons ago. Saturday's MSIS North Caley League game was not one. Dour, hard-fought and doughty are among the derby game cliches which immediately spring to mind.

United made a sparky start in their quest for their first victory over their county rivals. But they soon ran out of ideas as the Vikings started to dominate the midfield and they just about deserved their late winner from substitute Phil Makhouli.

The main talking point was in frst half injury time when home manager Alistair Budge was sent off for his vocal protest at a penalty award which led to Halkirk's equaliser. John Martin hit the inside of the post and Colin Banks had a low, raking drive well saved by Michael Gray as Halkirk enjoyed the early whip hand. Allan Murray had several efforts on goal before the game went into stalemate mode before exploding into life at the end of the half. A dangerous looping cross from Steven Reid was well held by Michael Gray either

A minute into injury time, Thurso went ahead when Jonathon Makhouli picked out Steven's run into the box. Receiving the ball with his back to goal, the midfielder span round and thrashed an angled shot past Swanson into the top right-hand corner of the net.

Thurso were relishing the prospect of an interval lead when they were caught napping at the restart.

As Banks ran on to a long through ball on the edge of the box, he went down under Shaun Moar's crunching challenge. Referee Danny McWilliam's penalty award drew an apoplectic response from Mr Budge who forcefully insisted that his defender had fairly won the ball. Moar's booking was followed by the manager's dismissal with Gordie Reid waiting for the red mist to clear before steering the ball high into the net for the equaliser.

Free-kicks looked the most likely route to goal for both sides as defences took the honours for most of the second period. Gavin Bremner and Martin Gunn went close with strikes from the edge of the box Halkirk defended ever more deeper in the closing stages as Thurso mounted a wave of attacks.

Murray headed a Bremner corner just over before having two efforts well stopped by Marc Swanson. Three minutes from time, the home camp was celebrating as Gavin Bremner's cross was headed on by Murray to Phil Mahouili who fired home from close in.

Disappointed United boss Richard Hughes reckoned his troops did enough to deserve at least a draw. "It was a typical derby game with both sides cancelling themselves out for long spells ," he said. "We had chances in the first half and they came back and enjoyed the best of the second hald. "I thought a draw would have been fair in the end."

Mr Budge said his side recovered well from a low-key start. "They had a good start. They seemed more up for it than we were and looked sharper. "We gradually got back and I was pleased with how we played in the second half."

Thurso -- M. Gray, Baker, Moar, B. Gray, Reid, Steven (P. Makhouli 69), MacGregor
(McBeath 86), Inrig, Murray, Bremner, J. Makhouli (Cassidy 83).

Halkirk -- Swanson, Sutherland, G. Gunn (Weir 56), Blair, Martin, Coghill, S. Reid
(Shearer 62), G. Reid, Banks, M. Gunn, M. Coghill ( Munro 80). Ref -- Mr D. McWilliams.

Other NCL Scores

Balintore 0 V Invergordon 4
Bunillidh Thistle 0 V Golspie Sutherland 3
Bonar Bridge 9 V Dornoch 1
Alness United 2 V Tain 1

Chic Allan Cup Semi-final

Saturday 20th of October 2001

Thurso F.C..................1.................V Golspie Sutherland................2..........

Goalscorer - Willie Inrig

At The Dammies, Thurso

Match report from Iain Grant


Thurso missed out on a place in the Chic Allan Cup final after losing out to a very strong Golspie side at Sir Georges Park on Saturday.

Goalkeeper Brian Mackay, from Bettyhill, had a baptism of fire as the visitors threatened to kill off the contest almost before it had begun. Less than a minute had gone when Mackay's first job was to pick the ball out of the back of his net.

A slack pass was seized on by Golspie stalwart Darren Pullen who sent Stuart Pearce romping down the right flank. His teasing cross saw Robbie MacDougall arrive just ahead of Brian Gray to sent a shot which went in off the top of Mackay's flailing right arm.

Thurso were still at sixes and sevens when they went perilously close to going two down after three minutes. A needlessly conceded free-kick gave Pullen the chance to try his hand from 30 yards. His sweetly struck effort cannoned off the underneath side of the bar before striking Mackay on the back. It looked a certain goal but the keeper somehow managed to prevent the ball going over the line.

Golspie continued to mercilessly expose the home side's error-ridden start with Thurso indebted to George Groat for a clearing header at full stretch after seven minutes with Pearce ready to pounce. The pattern was broken with a Gavin Bremner free-kick which Shaun Moar headed on for Alan Murray to send a dipping shot past the post.

Golspie keeper Billy Neilson then had to look sharp to save at the feet of Murray. The visitors continued to look the more purposeful with a Pullen corner causing a few flutters after 22 minutes with Darren MacLachlan's header being nodded to safety by Moar near the right post.

The Vikings were then to enjoy a decent spell with Willie Inrig and Bremner helping them settle with some intelligent probes and through balls. They however stuggled throughout the afternoon to get in the back of the Golspie defence with the final ball into the box regularly coming to naught. The visitors doubled their lead after 32 minutes when an incisive counter-attack saw Andrew Laing pick up MacDougall's run into the box. As MacKay came out to narrow the angle, the striker fired in a crisp, low strike just inside the far post.

Having established a comfortable lead, Golspie failed to sustain their attacking threat after the resumption but they retained a solidity in defence which seldom looked in danger of being breached. Early half-chances at either end saw efforts by MacDougall and Groat comfortably saved.

Thurso had a let-off after 70 minutes when a free-kick glanced off Reid with the ball striking the outside of the right post and going out for a corner.

Eight minutes from time, Thurso were thrown a lifeline when a Bremner effort from the edge of the box deflected off Murray into the path of Inrig who ran through to fire past Neilson from close in.

Thurso manager Alistair Budge plans changes for Saturday's scheduled home clash with MSIS League leaders Invergordon.

Reflecting on the Golspie game, he said: "They caught us cold early on with the goal and could easily have got two up. "We came back well but too often we lacked a good, final ball to trouble their defence. "They are a strong, well-organised side and we're still experimenting a bit to find our best line-up."

Stuart Campbell is in the squad for Saturday's game, which kicks off at 3 p.m.

Thurso v Golspie: Mackay, Gray, Moar, Baker, Reid, Inrig, Bremner, Steven (MacGregor 60),
J. Makhouli (Cassidy 77), Groat (P. Makhouli 77), Murray. Sub (unused) -- MacBeath.

North Caledonian League Championship

Saturday 27th of October 2001

Thurso F.C..................1.................V Invergordon...............1...........

Goalscorer - Shaun Moar

At The Dammies, Thurso

Match report from Iain Grant


The rival camps were agreed that a point each was a fair reflection of the way this MSIS North Caley tussle had gone. League leaders Invergordon took a first half lead through a smartly taken goal from John Colquhon with defender Shaun Moar responding for the Vikings midway through the second period. There was precious other serious goal-mouth action as the respective defences regularly defused dangerous looking forays that fizzled out in the strike zones. The visitors made the more sprightly start but they lacked a cutting edge and it was Thurso who looked the more likely to open the scoring.

Iain Elder twice went close before the visitors went in front after 25 minutes when Colquhon collected the ball just outside the box and unleashed a cracking shot which beat home keeper Brian Mackay all ends up.

Mackay commanded his box well and was alert enough to make a good block from a tasty effort from Fraser Munro after 38 minutes.

After 56 minutes, Thurso drew level from the unlikely source of Moar. The creator was Gavin Bremner whose driven cross against the wind was met by the inrushing defender whose header flashed past Stewart.

The last decent chance fell to substitute Stuart Blumfield after 65 minutes. A surging run by Bremner down the left side ended with Phil Makhouli setting Blumfield in on an obstructed run on goal. The experienced Stewart got his angles spot on and he spread himself to block the youngster's shot with his feet. Invergordon enjoyed the better of the closing period but though they enjoyed the bulk of possession, they failed to cause problems for a defence, which was well marshalled by Moar.

Thurso manager Alistair Budge agreed that a draw was a fair result. He said: "It was a pretty hard game for both sides with the pitch cutting up and there really wasn't much between the two sides. "They started the better and finished stronger than we did but overall we probably had more chances than they did." Mr Budge signled out keeper Brian Mackay, defender Moar and midfielder Inrig as his best performers.

Weather permitting, Thurso make the trek to play Bonar Bridge this Saturday.

Brian Gray, who missed out on the Invergordon game because of an injury sustained in training, and Martin MacGregor, who was unavailable, are set to rejoin the squad.

Thurso v Invergordon Line-up: Mackay, Warner, Moar, Baker (McBeath 60), Reid, Inrig,
Bremner, Cassidy (P. Makhouli 60), Groat, J. Makhouli, Elder (Blumfield 60).


North Caledonian League Championship


Saturday 3rd of November 2001

Bonar Bridge...............1............V Thurso F.C.....................2..............

Goalscorers - Ian Elder and Geordie Groat

At Migdale Park, Bonar Bridge

Match report by Iain Grant


The visitors were relieved to escape with a victory which takes them into fourth place in the MSIS North Caledonian League. Vikings' manager Alistair Budge later acknowledged that his side rode their luck against a side which has strengthened significantly since Thurso's last trip to Bonar in the cup six weeks ago.

The lively home side had the opportunities to have established a commanding lead by half-time. But they were frustrated by some profligate finishing and several top-drawer reaction stops from keeper Brian Mackay.

Thurso rubbed salt in the wounds after Iain Elder capitalised on a quickfire break to put his side in front after 25 minutes. The breakthrough stemmed from a jinking run down the left wing by Martin MacGregor. His feed to Jonathon Makkhouli saw the latter's cross being met by Elder who got in front of his marker to net with a measured finish.

Shortly afterwards, Thurso had the chance to double their advantage when Graeme Reid got brought down in the box. A penalty was awarded but Reid was unable to convert.

In the course of the half, Thurso had a couple of other half-chances and Gavin Bremner was unlucky with a rasping 25 yarder on the half-hour mark which the Bonar keeper did well to tip over.

But the bulk of the serious action was at the other end with the visitors indebted to Mackay for his lightning responses as well as grateful for some quite dreadful misses. Bonar were also unlucky to have what looked like a perfectly legitimate goal chalked off for a dubious offside flag.

Thurso improved after the turnaround and deservedly went two up midway through the second period. Willie Inrig picked out the forward run of Shaun Moar who set George Groat free with a well-judged pass. With Bonar's defence unsuccessfully appealing for offside, Groat strode through to net.

That should have made the game secure but the visitors had to endure a rather fraught closing 20 minutes. Their cause was not made easier when Groat's volley of abuse to an assistant referee saw him red-carded.

Bonar pressed hard but the visiting defence, again superbly anchored by Moar, held firm until the last minute when Brian Fraser forced the ball home from close range.

Manager Budge said Bonar have improved a lot since the last clash between the sides. "They were a completely different team and it's going to be difficult for teams to come here and win," he said. Mr Budge added: "We certainly rode our luck in the first half and we could easily have been 4-1 or 5-1 down at the break. We were chasing shadows for long spells "We played a lot better int he second half and the boys dug in well at the end, especially when we were down to 10 men."

Mr Budge singled out keeper Mackay and Moar as his best performers. The manager is still experimenting with different formations and is planning more changes for tomorrow's scheduled cup clash away to Halkirk.

Striker Alan Murray is still sidelined and Groat is suspended for the PCT first Round clash. Elder is back offshore but Willie Steven, Brian Gray and Martin Baker are all set to return.

Thurso v Bonar: Mackay, Warner, Moar, Reid, MacGregor (Potter 80), Inrig, Bremner,
J. Makhouli, Groat, P. Makhouli (Blumfield 60), Elder (Cassidy 60).

Other NCL Scores

Halkirk United V Dornoch - called off due to waterlogged pitch
Bunnillidh Thistle 3 V Balintore 3
Tain 0 V Invergordon 1

North Caledonian League Championship

Saturday 17th of November 2001

Invergordon...............2............V Thurso F.C....................1...............

Goalscorer - Jonathan Makhouli

At Invergordon - 2 p.m kick-off

Match report by Iain Grant


This win allowed Invergordon to go nine points clear at the top of the MSIS North Caledonian League.

The visitors were mightily relieved to return with a victory from Saturday's match in which they had for the first time to come from behind to extend their unbeaten run in the championship. Thurso led through a Jonathon Makhouli goal with Martyn Cooper restoring equality near half-time and then cracking home what proved the winner midway through the second half.

The home side never gave up and were denied the chance to draw level when they were denied what looked like a stone-wall penalty claim in the dying throes of the game. Invergordon went into the game on the back on their impressive 4-0 victory over Golspie the previous week. But any hopes of a similarly easy passage on Saturday were soon dispelled.

An even contest saw Thurso defender Graham Reid rob Norman MacMillan as the latter sought to profit from the first opening of the afternoon. Luke Cassidy then had a snap shot palmed to safety by visiting keeper Graham Stewart.

After 20 minutes, a sweeping Thurso move started by Kevin Warner ended with Willie Inrig unleasing a terrific 35 yarder which cannonned off the outside of a post. Another attack saw Brian Gray feed Willie Steven whose interchange with Phil Makhouli provided Cassidy with the space to drive in a fierce shot which was deflected for a corner.

The breakthrough was only delayed with the immedaite aftermath of the corner seeing Jonathon Makhouli volley home from 18 yards. Invergordon pressed hard without working a clear opportunity until two minutes from the interval when they scored from a free-kick. Phil Makhouli slipped as he tried to clear with the ball landing kindly for Cooper to net.

A minute later, Thurso keeper Brian Mackay pulled off a brave, point-blank stop to deny MacMillan. The visitors thenm went ahead on 65 minutes with a free-kick again doing the damage with Cooper this time netting with a header.

The respective defences were little troubled thereafter though Thurso were denied what looked a clearcut peanlty in the last minute when substitute Stuart Blumfield's netbound shot from 18 yards struck a defender's outstretched arm.

Manager Alistar Budge had no complaints about the workrate and application of his troops whom he believed were worthy of at least a draw. He said: "I think we gave a good account and made it very difficult for Invergordon. "Most of the boys did well and I thought Shaun Moar stood out and Brian Mackay again did well in goals."

Thurso have a few problems going into tomorrow's PCT Cup first round clash with Halkirk. Cassidy is unavailable while Jonathon Makhouli (ankle) and Martin Baker (groin) are both doubtful. Gavin Bremner is however set to return from injury while George Groat is now free from suspension.

Mr Budge is preparing for a typically tense derby affair. He said: "Halkirk have been playing well and scoring a few goals. "We've been defending well and creating chances but have been struggling to score goals. It's gpt all the makings of another close game."

Thurso v Invergordon: Mackay, Gray, Moar, Reid, Warner, Baker, Inrig,
P. Makhouli (Blumfield), Cassidy (Jarvie), Steven, J. Makhouli (Potter).

PCT Cup First Round

Saturday 24th of November 2001

Halkirk United..............3.............V Thurso F.C....................5...............

Goalscorers - Graeme Reid, Martin Baker(pen), Martin MacGregor, Willie Steven and Philip Makhouli

At Recreation Park, Halkirk

Match report by Iain Grant

United on Saturday had the misfortune to be at the receiving end of one of the biggest turnarounds in recent North Caledonian history. Going in for their half-time cuppa three goals to the good, they could be forgiven for anticipating how they were going to celebrate what would have been their first ever success over their neighbours.

A spirited first half, in which buzz-bomb winger Mark Munro threatened to tear the visiting defence apart single-handed, looked to have booked United's ticket into the quarter-finals of the PCT Cup. But there was a major sting in the tail as the Vikings regrouped and kept their self-belief to battle their way back from what at one point looked to be a quest for respectability.

After getting two goals back, Halkirk had little time to draw breath before the scores were level, with two late goals from converted striker Willie Steven and Phil Makhouli sealing their fate.

Mark Munro was a constant threat down the right flank and as early as the third minute was clean through only to be denied after his effort was deflected to safety off the flailing feet of keeper Brian Mackay. A minute later, the home men were ahead when Colin Banks found space just outside the box to rifle in a shot which went in off the underside of the bar. Thurso's defence was being pulled every which way and they could easily have gone further behind within two minutes. Keith Blair set Stevie Reid away into yet another unguarded sector with his neat pull-back ending with Banks firing narrowly past the post. Apart from a couple of useful darts,Thurso looked bereft of ideas in possession and continued to look jittery at the back. Mark Munro was again foiled by Mackay after 13 minutes when he drifted past three defenders as if they were not there and sent in a fierce, angled drive.

Mackay embellished his fine reaction save by getting up to keep out Banks' improvised back-heeled follow-up. Mark Munro created and scored Halkirk's second after 20 minutes. Enjoying the freedom of the right-hand side of the park, he looked to have set up his brother Derek in front of goal with a swerving, low cross.

Makhouli drilled a shot over the top on the hour-mark as Thurso at last started to show some attacking threat. Five minutes later, Steven almost got one back when his first shot was blocked and his second struck the inside of the left-hand post.

Halkirk took full advantage of the let-off in the ensuing action which saw Derek Munro let fly from the edge of the box. The ball bobbled off a defender with Stevie Reid nipping in to flick the ball over Mackay and into the net from eight yards.

Three minutes from time, Makhouli and George Groat were both unable to capitalise when given clear opportunities. Willie Steven then volleyed a Martin Baker assist narrowly wide as the visitors continued to show signs of life.

Mr Gray however need to deploy all his motivational skills at the interval to convince his temporary charges that they were not chasing a lost cause. A half-time shake-up saw Stuart Campbell introduced wide on the right; Groat redeployed to police dangerman Mark Munro and Steven pushed further forward. The effects were soon apparent with Mark Munro's threat nullified to th extent that he was soon replaced and Campbell setting up the goal which set off the Thurso revival.

Campbell's first involvement was a teasing, early cross after 48 minutes which Steven was just unable to convert.

Marc Swanson, seldom involved before the interval, was now overworked and he was relieved to see defenders twice coming to his aid to block shots by Steven and Groat in the 53rd minute. Two minutes later, Campbell's foray down the right saw his low cross met by a thunderous 20-yarder from Graeme Reid which he buried in the bottom, left-hand corner.

Halkirk's only chance after 62 minutes could have stopped the visitors' revival in its tracks but Derek Munro could not find the target with a header from a well-flighted chip from Banks.

After 64 minutes, Sutherland was foxed by Martin MacGregor's footwork on the bye-line with the big defender resorting to strong-arm tactics to down the youngster after he wriggled free. The clumsy challenge gave Thurso a penalty with Martin Baker wasting no time in banging the spot-kick high into the net.

Halkirk were in freefall and two minutes later, Thurso had drawn level when the hard-working Makhouli set up Graeme Reid. The defender's raking shot from a tight angle was parried by Swanson with MacGregor left with the simple task of guiding the loose ball into the unguarded net.

Less than a minute later, Steven was sent clear with his flick beating Swanson but rolling just past the right-hand post.

Halkirk player/manager Richard Hughes introduced himself into the action to help steady the ship. Operating in midfield, he almost made a sensational early impact when, with seemingly nothing on, he let fly with a siege-gun effort from 45 yards which Mackay was mightily relieve to see clear his bar by a matter of inches.

The constant pressure at the other end again paid dividends seven minutes from time when MacGregor opened up the Halkirk defence for Steven to run in and shimmy past Swanson before netting.

Halkirk's misery was complete injury time when MacGregor again did the spadework with substitute Jocky Begg unselfishly laying off for Makhouli to rifle home.

Thurso on Saturday are away to Tain.

Halkirk: Swanson, Sutherland, Gunn, Blair, Martin, C. Munro, Reid, Coghill
(Henderson 55), Banks, D. Munro (Hughes 77), M. Munro (Bain 64).

Thurso: Mackay, Gray, Moar, Reid, Warner(MacGregor 20), Baker, Inrig,
Steven (Begg 85), Bremner (Campbell h/t), Groat, Makhouli.

Other scores

Bunillidh Thistle 5 V Dornoch 0 (1st round)
Invergordon 2 V Bonar Bridge 1 (2nd round)
Balintore 0 V Alness United 5 (2nd Round)
Tain 3 V Golspie Sutherland 1 (NCL)


North Caledonian League Championship


Saturday 1st of December 2001

Tain St. Duffus.............2..............V Thurso F.C....................2.............

Goalscorers - Phil Makhouli and Brian Gray

At Grant Park, Tain

Match report by Iain Grant

Thurso came within a minute of returning home with what would have been a highly satisfying victory in this MSIS North Caley clash on Saturday. The Vikings were 2-0 ahead only to concede two late goals which earned a point for the home outfit. The first half ended in a goal-less stalemate

Phil Makhouli shot the visitors in front after 70 minutes when he netted from close range. Within five minutes, defender Brian Gray got on the end of Martin MacGregor's cross to make it 2-0.

Thurso looked odds-on to win but they were rocked when a Derek Fraser corner was nodded home by Ally Mackenzie with seven minutes remaining. The coup de grace was delivered in the final minute from the same source with Martin Rooney rising to power home a corner from Kenny Fraser.

Thurso tomorrow entertain Bonar Bridge in a league game , which kicks off at 1.30 p.m.

The only other game played last Saturday saw Alness close the gap on leaders Invergordon after they cruised to a 7-1 home win over Bonar Bridge.


North Caledonian League Championship

Saturday 8th of December 2001

Thurso F.C.................1................V Bonar Bridge...................0..............

Goalscorer - Phil Makhouli

At The Dammies

PCT Cup 1st Round

Saturday 15th of December 2001

Thurso F.C....................3...............V Tain St. Duffus.................0...............

Goalscorers - Willie Steven (2) and Willie Inrig

At The Dammies

report by Iain Grant


Thurso extended their unbeaten run to four with this PCT Cup victory which sees them through to a semi-final away to Golspie. After a cagey first half-hour in which neither side threatened to take control, the first goal was always going to be crucial.

Willie Steven's cracking headed finish broke the deadlock and when Willie Inrig chipped in with a second in the dying throes of the first half, the contest was effectively over. Tain, who travelled with a weakened squad, were on the back foot thereafter and were thankful to have their defence breached just once more, late on, when Steven weighed in with second of the game.

The early sparring saw Willie Inrig's free-kick too straight to trouble Tain keeper Ian Young and David Calderwood going close at the other end with a snap shot just inside the box. After 20 minutes, Alastair Mackenzie missed a snip to put the visitors ahead when his attempt to connect from close in ended in an embarrassing fresh air swipe with his right boot.

Thurso's Kevin Warner was the first casualty of the day when he required treatment for a head knock after a clash with Paul Skinner. Uncertainty at the heart of the Thurso defence almost proved costly when Thurso keeper Brian Mackay'a half-clearance ended with Mackenzie drilling wide from a promising position. Thurso responded with a decent effort from Phil Makhouli which ended going just wide.

The home side's sustained pressure was rewarded after 32 minutes when Brian Gray's sortie down the right saw his early cross picking out the forward run of Steven whose firm downward header flashed past Gray. A messy flair-up in the Tain penalty-box after 40 minutes after Makhouli was impeded led to referee Willie Sinclair turning down appeals for a penalty. Instead, he gave an indirect free-kick which, as is so often the case with such awards inside the box, came to nothing.

The last action of the half saw Thurso forge further ahead when Tain failed to properly deal with a corner and Willie Inrig was on hand to lash an 18 yarder into the net. Mackenzie completed what for him was a fraught half by finding his way into Mr Sinclair's book for dissent.

It would be wrong to say Tain thereafter gave up the ghost as they enjoyed decent spells of possession but their attacks after the break were few and far between and packed little punch. Mackay was glad to see a Calderwood effort from 30 yards land on the top of the net as he furiously back-pedalled after 49 minutes. A full-stretch saving tackle was also needed from Shaun Moar to cut out a cute, back-post cross from Calderwood after 62 minutes with several unmarked attackers ready to pounce.

In between, Steven came close to heading home a Martin MacGregor centre and Inrig was denied a run-in after George Groat was caught offside. Tain's rearguard appeared to over-commit men to deal with breaks down its flanks so that it struggled to cope with direct breaks though the centre. From one such counter in 65 minutes, MacGregor sent Steven through on goal with the midfielder's attempted chip finish clearing Young but also the bar. Moar and Makhouli then set up Inrig for a decent chance which he spurned.

The third arrived after 85 minutes when Inrig's through ball ended with Steven's shot from eight yards deflecting off Young high into the net.

A minute later, Calderwood got his marching orders for what was a crude, late challenge on substitute Luke Cassidy.

Duncan Gray, standing in for suspended manager Alistair Budge, was happy with a workmanlike performance. He said: "Tain had chances to go ahead and they were a bit better than us early on. "The game changed after we got the two goals and though Tain had a fair bit of the ball in the second half, they never looked particularly threatening. Brian Mackay was never really tested."

Thurso: Mackay, Gray (Bremner 50), Moar, Baker, Warner (Campbell 65),
Inrig, Reid, Groat, Makhouli, Steven, MacGregor (Cassidy 80).

Ref: Mr W. Sinclair.

Thurso on Saturday play Halkirk in a MSIS League match, kicking off at 1.30 p.m.


North Caledonian League Championship


Saturday 5th of January 2002

Thurso F.C................1............V Bunillidh Thistle....................1............

Goalscorer - Willie Steven

At The Dammies, Thurso

Match report by Iain Grant


Thurso's first-foots followed up their early season victory in Helmsdale by wresting a hard-earned point from Saturday's match at Sir Georges Park. The Vikings were left to reflect on a hatful of wasted opportunities to capitalise on a decent start which had seen Willie Steven fire them into a 15th minute lead.

Bunillidh lived up to their reputation as thrawn and feisty opponents and their efforts were rewarded by Gordon McAllister's equaliser 17 minutes from time. The visitors could have even more reason to celebrate had the same player not spurned a clear opening late on. The game went ahead after a thaw removed any problem with frost or ice but left a soft, spongy surface which in the worst parts turned 'pass and go' into 'stop and stick'.

A combination of excess over the festive period and a lengthy absence from both competition and training showed throughout a largely shapeless game in which too many players looked out of sorts. Groat's run down the right ended with a driven cross which Makhouli deftly knocked past a defender to allow Steven to sidefoot the ball wide of Bokas. There were two chances in quick succession to double the advantage but neither Makhouli nor Steven were able to take advantage.

Home keeper Brian Mackay was rarely in action though he did well after 20 minutes to hold an adventurous lob executed by youngster David Cowie. The lively Cowie was again a threat after 38 minutes when he beat Groat on the right before seeing his powerful shot well held by Mackay.

A minute later, there was another let-off at the other end when Makhouli latched on to a precision pass from Stuart Campbell. As he beat defender Jamie Russell, the ball broke invitingly into the path of Groat who should have taken the keeper out of the equation and not given him the chance to turn his shot away for a corner. Two minutes from the break, Inrig sent Makhouli in on goal but Bokas again came out on top, this time beating the shot away with his body.

On the stroke of half-time, Bunillidh manufactured a decent chance with David Cowie setting up substitute Fraser Hutchinson only for the latter to wastefully shoot past. The second half brought little respite to the fans with not much to excite and more of the same stodgy build-up play and off-key finishing.

Substitute Martin MacGregor was only fitfully involved but he had a great chance to secure the points for his side after 70 minutes. He found himself in the clear and passed the ball past Bokas as the keeper came out to meet him just outside the box. Unfortunately for MacGregor, his effort lacked power and a defender was able to get back and clear the danger.

Thurso were rudely roused from their collective time-out when they lost the lead after 73 minutes. A route-one ball over the top ended with substitute Callum Swanson manufacturing a cross tight on the bye-line 10 yards from goal. With the home defence not at the races, the Watten man squeezed the ball across for McAllister to poke home from close range.

After 83 minutes, McAllister passed up a glorious chance to secure victory when he fluffed a chip after finding hemself 1-1 with Mackay. The only real scare came with two minutes left when a MacGregor strike from just inside the box produced a fine reaction stop from Bokas.

Afterwards, Thurso manager Alistair Budge -- still subject to a technical area ban -- reflected on more points lost to lowly Bunillidh who have proved something of a bogey side for the Caithness men. Mr Budge rated it as the poorest display of the season.

"They never really got going at all -- the boys do not seem hungry enough," he said. "We can blame the pitch and the fact that we had not played for a while but the fact is that they were up for it and we were not."

Thurso have major problems as they prepare for tomorrow's PCT Cup semi-final away to Golspie. Keeper Mackay is unavailable through work commitments while there are major doubts over defenders Shaun Moar and Brian Gray. Midfielder Inrig also picked up a knock in training.

Thurso v Bunillidh: Mackay, Gray (MacGregor 29), Warner, Moar, Baker, Inrig
(Bremner 62), Reid, Campbell, Groat (Farmer 67), Makhouli, Steven.

Ref: Mr G. Bain.

PCT Cup Semi-Final

Saturday 12th of January 2002

Golspie Sutherland................0...............V Thurso F.C.................1...........

Goalscorer - Graeme Reid

Match report by Iain Grant

Thurso put their indifferent North Caley league form behind with this morale-boosting win which propels them into the final of the PCT Cup. Graham Reid's headed goal seconds before the interval proved decisive in knocking out the holders and inflicting the first reverse of the season on their own turf.

The Vikings had to withstand a bombardment late on as Golspie laid siege in a bid to force the game into extra-time. The final chance fell to Gary Reid whose stinging shot from the edge of the box looked a winner only to fly wide of the post by a matter of inches.

Earlier in the half Thurso had stand-in keeper Alex Thomson to thank for racing out to make a brave block after Stuart Pearce bore in on goal. It was one of the few clearcut openings manufactured by Golspie despite them having the lion's share of pressure and possession in the second half.

What proved the winner had come on the stroke of half-time after a superb cross from Gavin Bremner invited a powerful header from Graham Reid which bulleted high into the net.

In a game where clearcut chances were at a premium, Makhouli came close to notching a second for the visitors a minute after the break. Released by Willie Inrig, the striker ran on to fire in a shot which cannoned back of a post.

For most of the second half, it was one-way traffic towards's Thompson goal. After denying Pearce after 58 minutes, the keeper was happy to see both Gary Reid and Robert MacDougall miss the target from close range. Substitute Scott Mackay was foiled by another good block from Thomson after 70 minutes.

Mackay then chipped on to the roof of the net after being set up by substitute Kevin Miller, the erstwhile Wick Academy defender. The Thurso defence stood firm against incessant late pressure to hold out for victory.

Post match reaction

Vikings manager Alistair Budge, still subject to a technical area ban, gave credit to his stand-in Duncan Gray for both devising the right game-plan and lifting the side following the previous week's disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Bunillidh.

"We were very poor against Bunillidh," said Mr Budge. "But the boys did very well on Saturday. They battled hard right through the game and especially in the closing 10 minutes when it was a bit of a backs-to-the-wall job. They all put in a hard shift."

Mr Budge praised Thompson for his display between the sticks. He said: "Alec had two really good saves but it's fair to say that for most of the match, the defence shielded him really well. "The midfield also stuck to their task very well while Willie (Steven) and Phil (Makhouli) were always trying to create something up front."

A downside to the win was Inrig's latest booking which means he is suspended for tomorrow's league match in Dornoch and which could also rule him out on the final versus Alness. Brian Gray and Jonathon Makhouli are still out injured while Shaun Moar will face another late fitness test before knowing if he can make it against Dornoch. With regular keeper Brian Mackay working and Thompson unavailable, the Vikings are again on the look-out for a keeper though striker Luke Cassidy is set to return to the squad.

Thurso v Golspie: Thompson, Reid, Moar, Baker, Warner, Inrig (Farmer 70), Bremner,
Campbell, Groat, Makhouli (Macleod 78), Steven. Substitute (unused) -- MacGregor.

North Caledonian League Championship

Saturday 19th of January 2002

Dornoch................1...............V Thurso F.C................4............

Goalscorers - Geordie Groat, Martin Baker (pen), Des MacLeod and Willie Steven

Match report by Iain Grant

Dornoch would have been forgiven had they hauled up the white flag 10 minutes before the interval of Saturday's MSIS North Caledonian clash. By then, they were two goals down and had seen two of their players red-carded for footballing equivalents of hari kiri. Credit, then, to the bottom-of-the-table side for not collapsing in the face of hopeless odds.

They showed enough collective grit to limit Thurso to two further goals and even had the temerity to record a late strike of their own. Given the circumstances, it proved something of a hollow victory for the visitors whose poor conversion of chances in front of goal encouraged Dornoch's resilience.

The day had started promisingly for the home men who manufactured two excellent openings within the first 10 minutes. Young stand-in Thurso keeper Iain Begg produced a superb reaction save to keep out a snappy 12 yard shot from Gordon Sinclair. Then, one of several incisive runs by the lively Jamie MacLeod saw him skip by several defenders and end up on the edge of the box with just Begg between him and the goal. MacLeod, as was to happen on several occasions, forced his shot wide.

Thurso's first serious attack after 11 minutes produced the opening goal when Phil Makhouli's pin-point cross was headed home by George Groat at the near post.

Shortly after the restart, the lead would have been doubled had Makhouli's attempted finish matched the quality of the defence-splitting pass from Gavin Bremner. Willie Inrig and Phil Makhouli then combined well after 17 minutes to set up Willie Steven who clipped a shot just wide of the target. The second goal duly arived after 24 minutes when Steven was clumsily brought down in the box as he ran on to Kevin Warner's through ball. The offender John Cowie was sent off before Martin Baker buried the spot-kick.

The second half inevitably saw the home side entrenched for long spells in their own half as they engaged in a damage-limiting operation. Substitute Luke Cassidy and Phil Makhouli both passed up decent chances and then Des Macleod and Steven got in each other's way as they sought to net an inviting cross from Cassidy.

A powerful 20 yarder from Cassidy produced a good save before MacLeod made it 3-0 after 66 minutes with a composed finish. Twelve minutes later, good battling by Cassidy was the prelude to an opening for Steven who fired in a shot which went in off the underside of the bar.

Mackenzie did well to get to a Steven free-kick and then deny Cassidy as the visitors sought to further press home their advantage. It was however Dornoch who had the final say five minutes from time when John Mackay hit the jackpot with a dipping 30 yarder which beat Begg on his right-hand post.

Post match reaction

Vikings manager Alistair Budge said the game could have had a different complexion had Dornoch got an early breakthrough. He said: "They had a really good chance which Iaid did really well to save. Had that gone in, it could have changed the game totally. "They had a decent team which showed a lot changes from when we last played though the game was dead after the two sendings-off." "It was a bit of a stop-start affair after that. We lost our shape a bit and it turned into a pretty sloppy game after that."

Pitch conditions-permitting, Thurso will play host to Tain on Saturday when a win would allow them to leap-frog into third spot. Martin MacGregor is due to return but Steven and Stuart Campbell are unavailable while Inrig is suspended for the game which kicks off at 2p.m.

Thurso v Dornoch: Begg, Reid, Moar, Baker, Warner, Inrig , Bremner (J. Makhouli 53),
Farmer, Groat (Cassidy 53), P. Makhouli (Macleod 60), Steven.

Other NCL Scores

Halkirk United 1 V Alness United 3
Bonar Bridge 2 V Invergordon 3
Golspie Sutherland 5 V Balintore 1
Bunillidh Thistle 2 V Tain 0


North Caledonian League Championship


Saturday 9th of February 2002

Balintore...............0...............V Thurso F.C................3...........

Goalscorers - Geordie Groat, Willie Steven and Des Macleod

At Balintore - kick-off - 2.30 p.m

Match report by Iain Grant


This win takes the Vikings into third spot in the MSIS North Caledonian League and extends their unbeaten streak to eight games. A George Groat breakthrough midway through the first period was added to after the break by goals from veteran Willie Steven and youngster Des Macleod to produce a comfortable victory.

Thurso were quickly out the traps with an interception from Kevin Warner embellished by a cleverly diguised pass to Phil Makhouli whose cross ended with a flashing header from Steven coming off the outside of a post. With most of the play in the Balintore half, it was no surprise when they fell behind after 20 minutes. Gavin Bremner's well-flighted 35 yard free-kick was knocked on Graham Reid to Groat who hammered home from close range.

Balintore almost got on terms with their first decent attack of the game which ended with Gordon Lowe's strike being kept out by a fine one-handed save from Brian Mackay.

Thurso almost extended their lead two minutes from half-time when a Brian Gray cross was headed across goal by Reid to Macleod whose shot was well saved.

Half-time - Balintore 0 V Thurso 1

Despite playing with the strong breeeze in their faces after the interval, the visitors retained the whip hand. Next to threaten was defender Shaun Moar who played a series of 1-2s before unleashing a thunderbolt of a shot which cannonned back off the bar.

Thurso got their second on the hour-mark when Warner and Bremner combined well to release Makhouli whose pace took him clear down the right. His neat cutback found Steven who despatched the ball into the right -hand corner of the net.

Substitute Stuart Blumfield made a quick impact with a powerful surge downfield ending with his attempt on goal being met with a fine save. Thurso's third with less than quarter-of-an-hour left stemmed from Gray's clearance from a Balintore free-kick.

Ryan Farmer gathered and set off on a loping, diagonal run before he picked out Bremner. The latter sqaured to Warner whose chip fell into the path of the inrushing Macleod who finished with aplomb.

Balintore's defence continued to come under sustained attack with the closing minutes seeing Cassidy having a shot booted of the line and Blumfield hitting the woodwork. The win continues the unbeaten stretch of Duncan Gray who has been in temporary charge during manager Alistair Budge's suspension.

Mr Gray will be hoping to end his stint in the same way as he begun it with an away win over county rivals Halkirk. Jonathon Makhouli is still out but Willie Inrig returns after suspension for the second round Morris Newton Cup-tie, which kicks off at Recreation Park at 2.30 p.m.

Thurso v Balintore: Mackay, Gray, Baker, Moar, Makhouli, Bremner, Warner, Reid,
Groat (Farmer 60), Steven (Blumfield 60), Macleod (Cassidy 75). Sub (unused) -- MacGregor.

Morris Newton Cup 2nd Round

Saturday 16th of February 2002

Halkirk United.............1...........V Thurso F.C.....................6.............(A.E.T)

Goalscorers - Lee McDougall (3), Willie Steven (2) and Willie Inrig

At Recreation Park, Halkirk - 2.30 kick-off

Match report by Iain Grant


United on Saturday looked set to finally cast off the derby jinx which has dogged them since Thurso's arrival on the North Caley scene in 1998. Halkirk led for most of this Morris Newton Cup second round clash and there were less than three minutes left at Recreation Park when substitute Lee MacDougall netted with a headed equaliser.

That triggered a mix of deja vu and self-doubt in the home ranks to allow the Vikings to run riot in extra-time. Before Christmas, Halkirk blew a 3-0 interval lead to go down 5-3 in the league to their county neighbours. Whatever metaphysical forces could be work in extending the Vikings' unbeaten sequence to 11, Halkirk could have counted themselves more than a shade fortunate had Derek Shearer's early tap-in separated the teams on Saturday.

They rode their luck on a clutch of occasions with the woodwork twice coming to stand-in keeper Graham Gunn's assistance while George Groat made a solid claim to the miss of the season. That said, Halkirk, while pinned back for long spells after the interval, twice came perilously close to grabbing what would well have been a killer second. The pitch passed a morning inspection with the weather mercifully remaining dry and so not exarcerbating an already sticky surface.

Within a minute, Phil Makhouli had a decent chance but Gunn came out well to block the striker as he raced towards the box. Manager Richard Hughes included himself in the starting line-up and he was soon in action with a neat interchange with Shearer, only to be called back by referee Derek Marshall's failure to play an obvious advantage.

The animated start continued when canny play by Stevie Reid on the left after five minutes saw his cross break for Shearer whose crisp shot on the turn flew just wide of the far post. After seeing a series of Thurso attacks wither at the vine through offside calls, sweeper Shaun Moar took matters into his own hands. He swept up field before launching a 35 yarder which surprised Gunn who was beaten as he dived to his right. The ball pinged off the right post and across the face of the goal to safety.

United went ahead after 13 minutes when Thurso keeper Brian Mackay was fooled by a 40 yard free-kick from Gordie Reid. Torn between trying to make a catch or tipping it over, Mackay succeeded in palming the ball on to the bar. With the keeper hors de combat, Shearer was left with a simple tap-in.

Half-time - Halkirk 1 V Thurso 0

Groat had a decent chance to equalise soon after the restart but he was unable to steer his shot on target. Both goalmouths continued to see plenty action with Brian Gray just off-target with a chip and then Mackay doing well to gather another well-struck free-kick from Gordie Reid. The swirling wind made for an uncomfortable afternoon for both keepers and Gunn was relieved after 35 minutes that Groat was unable to exploit his failure to gather a high cross from Graeme Reid.

If Halkirk enjoyed the better of the opening 25 minutes, the visitors gradually turned the screw for the remainder of the half. Willie Steven was prominent in a number of decent build-ups which saw Groat and Willie Inrig go close. The half ended with a booking for Halkirk youngster Gary Coghill for persistent fouling.

Thurso were quickly on the offensive after the resumption and within the first minute Martin Baker struck a post from a corner. The ball rebounded across goal, presenting Groat with what looked an unmissable opportunity. Instead of shooting into the unguarded net, he chose to try and wrongfoot a defender and the gilt-edged opening was lost. The home side defended increasingly deep as the game wore on though they were to prove dangerous on the break as Thurso took risks as they pressed forward in search of an equaliser.

A 56th minute free-kick from Steven almost did the trick for them. Gunn saved well but had to rely on a mix of luck and some brave defending to prevent Gray, amongst others, from netting in the ensuing frenetic melee in the six yard box.

Two minutes later, a Halkirk counter saw Shearer whip in a diagonal through-ball which saw Gavin Bremner make the hard yards back to make a vital interception, with the unmarked Coghill poised to collect on the edge of the box. Thurso huffed and puffed without creating clear openings and were almost two behind after 66 minutes when Mackay was nearly caught out by a long-range attempt by Gordie Reid. The keeper misread the flight of the ball which he spilled behind him only to regather right on the goal-line.

The last of series of wicked corners from Bremner saw Gray, unmarked six yards out, unable to control a header as the ball flashed towards him from the right. The Thurso goal then had two close things with Shearer just off target with another searing shot and then Gavin Henderson just failing to make up the ground to get the vital touch to Gordie Reid's far-post cross. Thereafter, it was backs-to-the walls time for United as they sought to protect their lead.

The introduction of MacDougall and Stuart Campbell gave more width to Thurso's play while Martin MacGregor was sent on to support Steven through the middle. Six minutes from time, Gunn's gauche flap at a high cross, saw the ball spinning back towards his goal with the keeper indebted to Colin Munro for getting back to hoof the ball to safety.

Gunn partially redeemed himself a minute later when he did well to hold Moar's header on goal from MacDougall's corner.

The equaliser came out of the blue with little apparent danger beckoning before Baker crafted a long-hanging cross which invited MacDougall to race in and send a header wide of Gunn and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.

Full-time - Halkirk 1 V Thurso 1

That setback, coming on top of what for Halkirk is the depressing history of the fixture, holed them below the water line. Within four minutes of extra-time, they had conceded another two goals and had effectively unfurled the white flag.

MacDougall came close before Steven put the Vikings ahead with a spectacular effort with his back to goal from near the penalty spot which flew high past Gunn into the net. MacDougall then made it 3-1 after he ran on to Baker's slide-rule pass to beat Gunn low to his right. Just before the second turnaround, Steven grabbed his second after MacGregor had done the spadework.

With the home side in the doldrums, Thurso went to score twice more with MacDougall completing his hat-trick with a superbly executed scissors-kick and Inrig getting the last after being set up by Bremner. Henderson was the second man booked in what was a competitive but never ill-tempered affair.

The game completed a nine game unbeaten run for Duncan Gray, standing in for Alistair Budge during his now-spent suspension. Mr Budge thought Halkirk's luck in the derby fixtures had finally turned.

He said: "I really thought it was going to be their day. I had just about given up hope as we had hit the post several times and had a string of near-things but there didn't seem to be any way through. "We finally got the break with the equaliser and after we went ahead in extra-time, their heads went down. "They had given everything and our fitness came through in the end."

United manager Hughes and his team were left bewildered at the turn of events. "I felt really sorry for the boys as they put so much into it," said Mr Hughes. "Everything seemed to be going in our favour and while they had a number of close things, we had the chances late in the second half of normal time to kill the game. "In extra-time, we lost two bad goals and then we collapsed -- the energy just seemed to drain away from us."

Halkirk: Gunn, Henderson, Blair, Bain, Martin, G. Coghill (Sutherland 82)
S. Reid, M. Coghill, G. Reid (Munro 76), Hughes (Banks 65), Shearer.

Thurso : Mackay, Gray, Reid, Moar, Baker, Bremner, Inrig, Warner (Campbell 65),
Groat (MacDougall 57), Steven, Makhouli (MacGregor 65).

Ref: Mr D. Marshall, Inverness.

Thurso's semi-final opponents are Invergordon, whose 1-0 win over Balintore owed largely to a show-stopping display from keeper Graham Stewart.


North Caledonian League Championship


Saturday 16th of March 2002

Thurso F.C...........2...........V Alness United.................0...............

Goalscorers - Willie Steven and Geordie Groat

At Sir George's Park, Thurso - 3.00 p.m kick-off

Match report by Iain Grant


Thurso extended their unbeaten run to ten with this MSIS North Caledonian League victory which badly dents the Easter Ross outfit's hopes of defending their title. A home win did not look on the cards after a first half dominated by the youthful visitors who regularly appeared to have an extra man on the park. Their slick movement and passing however broke down at the business end where they only manufactured three decent scoring opportunities.

Thurso struggled to get much going before the break and only late on were able to bring wide man Martin MacGregor into play in an attacking role. The home side improved after the interval but were indebted to a defensive howler which presented Willie Steven to fire them ahead after 68 minutes.

The reverse unsettled Alness and it was no surprise when George Groat shortly afterwards grabbed a second. There was a surprise recall for Michael Gray who replaced regular Thurso keeper Brian Mackay, missing with a shoulder injury. The erstwhile Brora Rangers keeper was soon involved in the action and he was relieved his goal survived intact from the aftermath of a seventh minute corner when Martin Kenny almost forced the ball home from close range.

Seven minutes later, Michael Gray had to be alive to the threat of Keith Sutherland who surged into the box on the end of a return pass from Steven Graham. The keeper came out to block the shot but had to rely on his brother Brian to deny Donald Sutherland netting the rebound. After a busy start, the game went dead for a long spell with Alness playing the better football but struggling to break down a stubborn defence. Shaun Moar was outstanding in sniffing out danger with many promising attacks being snuffed out by his well-timed tackles and interventions. Apart from a snap shot by Kevin Keith which was comfortably gathered by Michael Gray, there ws little of any conquence until the 37th minute. A cracking move down the right flank ended with a cross swung over to Sutherland, who had time and space on the edge of the box. He was undone by a clumsy first touch which saw the golden chance snatched away as quickly as it opened up.

The Vikings pepped up in the closing quarter with MacGregor finally getting some ammunition to create some danger down the left side.

Half-time - Thurso 1 V Alness 0

The first chance after the break fell to Alness with Sutherland desperately unlucky not to find the target. The striker's shot-on-the-turn from 10 yards eluded Michael Gray but also crept inches past the keeper's right-hand post. Thurso were finally managing to enjoy some decent possession with Alness's pressing need for a victory making their play more ragged and disjointed as their hunger turned to frustration.

Groat had an unobstructed sight of goal after 61 minutes thanks to a Steven head-flick but he fatally hesitated, giving a defender time to get back to clear. Two minutes later, Graham flashed a searing shot just wide of the target and then MacLean set up Kenny who was foiled by a brave smother by Michael Gray. The opener was a disaster for Alness with keeper Andrew Rogers sold short by a pass-back. The keeper ran out from his box to be met by a solid challenge from Steven with the striker helped by a favourable run of the ball which he steered into the unguarded net. Steven was shifted into the midfield by a reshuffle soon after the restart which saw Luke Cassidy come on to partner Groat up front.

Alness were again out of luck after 70 minutes when a sweetly struck, angled left-foot rocket from MacLean flashed past Michael Gray's left-hand post. After a dearth of penalty box action in the first period, the fans were spoiled after the break. The basketball-type sequence continued with MacGregor profiting from Willie Inrig's through ball, with Rogers doing well to parry his first shot and then get down to keep out his follow-up.

After 74 minutes, Thurso scored the killer second. Cassidy was the instigator as he skipped down the right and delivered an inch-perfect cross for Groat to shake off his would-be marker and side-foot home from six yards.

Alness kept plugging away but it was to be one of those days when they did not get the breaks in front of goal. Graham looked set to score after 80 minutes but he was undone by a top-drawer save from Michael Gray.

Thurso shaped to extend their lead in the closing five minutes with Cassidy and Des Macleod both closing close. What had been a generally well-tempered match was spoiled in the latter stages by bookings for Cassidy and Graham for late tackles.

Full-time - Thurso 2 V Alness 0

Thurso manager Alistair Budge was delighted with what was his first win versus Alness. He said: "They looked the better team early on. We were really solid in defence but were not really creating anytthing. "I thought we were lucky to get to half-time at 0-0 but we started to get things going after the break and the opening goal gave us a big lift in confidence. "They made two mistakes and we capitalised on them while Michael Gray made two great saves to keep them out."

Tomorrow, the Vikings entertain Tain at Sir Georges's Park at 3 p.m.

Steven (eye) and MacLeod (groin) are doubtful but midfielders Jonathan Makhouli and Gavin Bremner are set to return.

Thurso v Alness -- M. Gray, B. Gray, Baker, Moar, Reid, Warner (Cassidy 69) Inrig,
Makhouli (Campbell 60), MacGregor, Steven, Groat (MacLeod 75).

Ref: Mr D. Anderson.

Mr Budge left immediately after the game to travel to a SFA course in Glasgow taken by two senior members of Manchester United's back-room staff. Under-19 coach Dave Williams and chief scout Les Kershaw ran the all-day session on Sunday for 250 coaches throughout Scotland.

Match report by Davie Hobbs No.1 Fan

yesterdays match was a very scrappy and untidy affair with both clubs struggling to come to terms with the playing surface which although having dried out considerably was still difficult for payers to keep their feet and turn quickly.neither team really played anything of great note with several players from both teams never getting into the game(maybe both sides had the forthcoming cup final in the back of their minds).

The few hardy true football supporters whohad turned out to watch their local team were glad of joans usual great service providing hot drinks,pies etc which were greatfully devoured.


Anyway enough of my ramblings into the second half both teams started slowly but after about fifteen mins alness started to get into the match and only great defending by MR.RELIABLE "STRETCHY"AND GRAHAM REID plus some lousy finishing denied alness going at least two up.

This seemed to give thurso the wakeup call they needed and they really started to get a hold of the game and a mistake by an alness defender who under slight pressure from willie"the head "steven made a mess of a pass back and willie sniffing a chance of a goal was onto the ball like whippet after a rabbit and calmly finished off by stroking the ball into the net.NICE ONE WILLIE. 1-0 THURSO and thurso's tails were up and some inspired substitutions by the manager alistair budge (on his return after his long self inflicted absence ,learn to channel that agression alistair)led to a brilliant move up the right hand side which saw Phillip "SMOOTHIE" MAKHOULI(hey how about that i spelled his name right)put over a great cross for GEORGE"JEKYL N HYDE"GROAT who cooly finished in style with a little tap into the net under close attention from an alness defender,THURSO 2-ALNESS 0. George flashed his trade mark smile which he normally reserves for the women and ran back to the half way line.

Alness give them their due never gave up and forced a few uncomfortable moments in the thurso area and up the alness left hand side where an alness player was allowed to wander freeely in to much space for comfort and should of been picked up far sooner (dont repeat this slackness in th e final lads concentrate for the full ninety mins). the game became a bit scrappy again near the end with some late and rash tackling goin from both sides but thurso finished the victors.



Full-time - Thurso 2 V Alness 0

Thurso v Alness -- M. Gray, B. Gray, Baker, Moar, Reid, Warner (Cassidy 69) Inrig,
Makhouli (Campbell 60), MacGregor, Steven, Groat (MacLeod 75).

Ref: Mr D. Anderson.


North Caledonian League Championship

Saturday 23rd of March 2002

Thurso F.C.................5.................V Tain St.Duffus...........0...........

Thurso F.C - Willie Steven (2), Lee MacDougall (2) and Martin MacGregor (1)

At Sir George's Park, Thurso - 3.00 kick-off

Match report by Iain Grant


Thurso's impressive run continued on Saturday when they cruised to their third successive MSIS North Caley League victory against Easter Ross sides. As with the previous wins over Balintore and Alness, the Vikings recovered from a low-key start to end up on top thanks to a mix of inspiration and perspiration. Willie Steven kept on course to be his side's leading scorer with the stand-in striker adding two top-drawer finishes to push his total to 12. Lee MacDougall also notched a double with the other falling to youngster Martin MacGregor.

Thurso had done little of note before MacGregor fired them into an ill-deserved lead after 10 minutes. Gavin Bremner had announced his return with a raking 25 yarder after three minutes but it was Tain who looked the more sprightly in the opening exchanges. A pass-back from Martin Baker caused more than a few heart flutters in the home defence when it took a rogue stot off the surface and past keeper Michael Gray before creeping the other side of a post. Kevin MacBain then passed up a decent opportunity when his rushed shot flew over the bar from 15 yards.

The opener came after Brian Gray sent Jonathon Makhouli racing down the right side with MacGregor meeting his cross to score from six yards.

MacGregor's next entry in the referee's book was to mark his yellow-carding after a tousy tussle with Tain's Derek Fraser after 21 minutes.

The game was lit up on the half-hour mark by a superb strike by Steven for his side's second goal. Willie Inrig had cut the defence open but Steven still had a lot to do as the high ball steepled towards him on the edge of the box. Steven cushioned the ball on his thigh before promptly dispatching an angled drive which whizzed past keeper Ian Young to nestle in the far side corner of the net.

The rest of the half was largely unforgettable apart from a well-strUck MacBain effort from 35 yards which just cleared the bar with Michael Gray beaten.
Half-time - Thurso 2 V Tain 0

Thurso stepped up a gear after the break when the visitors were denied a sniff of the ball for long periods. The side has now fully adapted to the 3-5-2 system, which on Saturday had Macgregor and Makhouli operating to good effect on the flanks. Graeme Reid came close to extending the lead after 54 minutes when his effort from a tempting MacDougall cross ended just wide of the target.

Two minutes later, the pressure finally told when MacGregor put MacDougall in on goal. The erstwhile Brora Ranger looked to have lost his chance when he seemed to go too wide of Young but he somehow contrived to bend the ball from near the bye-line into the net.

Thurso were fully in command and Reid again came close after 60 minutes, this time his headed effort on goal producing a good save from Young. After 67 minutes, Steven got his second when he rose to meet a MacDougall cross with a powerful header which bulleted past Young high into the net.

Young was a busy man and he did extremely well to palm Brian Gray's header over his bar after a 70th minute corner. Two minutes later, Brian Gray almost did the trick at the other end when his ill-judged pass-back required his brother Michael to scurry back to make a full-length dive to tip the ball past a post.

Normal service was resumed five minutes from time when MacDougall loped into the box and fired in a right-foot shot which beat Young all ends up.

Thurso's sixth win on the bounce delighted manager Alistair Budge as much for how it was achieved as the margin of victory. He said: "We had a sticky start but we got better as the game went on. "In the second half, we kept the ball for long periods and just wore them down -- it was a really good display. "The big difference between the sides was in the quality of our finishing, which was first class. "

Mr Budge rated Steven's first goal as one of the finest in the four year history of the club. His main problem just now is who to leave out of the squad as the side hunts a trophy to reward its strong finish to the campaign. Thurso tomorrow bid to get to their second final of the season at home to league leaders Invergordon in the Morris Newton Cup.. Stuart Campbell is the only absentee for the semi-final, which kicks off at Sir Georges Park at 2.30.

The other semi sees Golspie Sutherland entertain Bonar Bridge.

Thurso v Tain -- M. Gray, B. Gray, Baker, Moar, Makhouli, Inrig (Cassidy 65),
Reid, Bremner, MacGregor (Warner 65), Steven (Blumfield 75), MacDougall

Match report by Davie Hobbs No.1 Fan



Hi its me again folks,well it was a cold day again at the dammies as thurso took on tain.The day started of with joan turning up latebut better late than never and i certainly needed a warm cup of tea while watching this match.After a scrappy start and thurso escaping loosing an early goal after a pass back by martin baker was missed kicked by keeper gray and narrowly passed the post (gray blamed it on a bobble on pitch aye that'll be right!).

Thurso shortly after this ran up the field and a cross ball was finished off by martin macgregor and thurso were one up.

Thurso then enjoyed a lot of the play and after about 25 mins thurso went two up after some inventive play by willie the head steven ended with him lofting the keeper.Thurso continued to dominate but went in just the two goals in front.

Into the second half and thurso continued where they left off dominating the match with tain putting up token resistance and THURSO went on to score three more goals one by willie"the head" steven(yes you guessed it he scored with his head) and two more from old polished head himself lee McDougall making another welcome return to the thurso team one of which was set up by a great through pass from young martin macgregor who certainly has great vision and just needs to learn how to shrug of challenges from the opposition and im sure he will haveagreat future ahead of him in football!

Thurso used all three substitutes (luke cassidy,kevin warner and stuart blumfield)thurso also gave a starting position to jonathon makouli and gavin bremner.

Next week sees THURSO take on Invergordon in the cup kick off at 2.30 see you all there folks!


Saturday 30th of March 2002

Morris Newton Cup Semi-Final

Thurso F.C.................0.................V Invergordon.............0......... (Invergordon win 6-5 on pens a.e.t)

At Sir George's Park, Thurso - 2.30 kick-off

Match report by Iain Grant


Thurso's bid to reach their second North Caley cup final of the season was thwarted after they lost out in a penalty shoot-out at Sir Georges Park on Saturday. The sudden-death exit was doubly frustrating for the Vikings as they had enjoyed the better of the 120 goal-less minutes in the Morris Newton Cup-tie. Man-of-the-match Graham Stewart largely responsible for sustaining Invergordon's interest in the tourney in normal play. His three top-drawer saves apart, the former Wick Academy keeper's confident handling and organisation of his defence played a key role in his side's victory.

The visitors started the brighter with Thurso's defensive anchorman Shaun Moar required on several occasions to step in to defuse potential problems created by Invergordon's main dangermen Brian Scobie and Norman MacMillan. Thurso's main early goal threat came from midfielder Graeme Reid. After 15 minutes, he met a Lee MacDougall cross with a header which gave Stewart his first chance to demonstrate his sure handling.

Seven minutes later, MacDougall chose the direct route to goal, coming off his wing and cutting inside before firing a searing shot from the edge of the box. Stewart somehow managed to get down low to his left to deflect the ball round the post. Reid had another chance three minutes later but he over-stretched as he met Willie Steven's crafty back-post cross. Reid was again racing in on goal after 27 minutes, this time at the end of a diagonal through ball from MacDougall. The midfielder did not fancy having a crack with his left peg, instead opting to try to cut across goal. That allowed the defence to regroup and snuff out the opportunity.

Thurso were in the driving seat and it was not until the half-hour mark that their goal came under any serious threat. Tommy Campbell did the spadework on the right with Fraser Munro's resultant header being too straight to seriously trouble Michael Gray. Before the break, the hard-working Jonathon Makhouli had an effort on goal pouched by Stewart.

Half-time - Thurso 0 V Invergordon 0

Five minutes after the interval, Thurso almost capitalised from the Invergordon keeper's one gremlin of the afternoon. Stewart got in a fankle with the ball at his feet with George Groat nipping in to rob the keeper and square across goal to the inrushing MacDougall. The keeper atoned for his error and spared his blushes by scampering back to block MacDougall's shot.

After 52 minutes, MacDougall, a constant menace down the left, swung over a teasing cross which produced a wayward clearance from the back-tracking defender Kenny MacAskill. His sclaff could have gone anywhere but, fortuitously for the visitors, spiralled backwards directly into the grateful arms of Stewart.

Thurso's purple patch continued two minutes later when Groat was sent clear on Stewart. Groat appeared to have got the better of the keeper and wheeled away thinking he had scored only to realise that the keeper had managed to get his fingertips to divert the ball away from goal. Gavin Bremner immediately followed up only for his 25 yarder to clear the bar.

The bumpy pitch denied Thurso the lead after 55 minutes when Groat released Reid who had a clear sight of goal. As with Gary McAllister's notorious Euro 1996 penalty miss versus England, the ball took a rogue stot off the turf just as he prepared to shoot and his weak effort was easily saved by Stewart.

Invergordon had to wait until 61 minutes to have their first real chance which was wasted when Munro shot tamely wide.

The visitors' offside trap was breached after 67 minutes when Martin Baker ran through himself and squared to Steven who shot past. MacDougall was then just off-target with a cracking 25 yard strike before Bremner's long-range effort was copmfortably gathered by Stewart. Jonathon Makhouli was unable to convert either of two decent opportunities which came his way in the space of three minutes. After 79 minutes, his header from a MacDougall cross was too close to Stewart. Then, a long throw from Brian Gray was flicked on by Reid to Jonathon Makhouli bearing in on the back post with the goal at his mercy. His pate is not the most polished part of his football anatomy but he should have done better than hit the inside of a post with what was to be the last clear opening of the game.

Full-time - Thurso 0 V Invergordon 0

The first attempt on goal in extra-time came from the visitors with Munro's feed to Steven MacDonald producing a good stop from Michael Gray. Martin MacGregor was prominent with some fine jinking runs and he almost provided the telling pass for MacDougall only for the latter to squander the opportunity through a rare lapse of control. Phil Makhouli was unlucky with an eight yard volley after 110 minutes which whistled just over the top with Moar having the same result after uncorking a 25 yarder three minutes later.

Full-time of extra time - Thurso 0 V Invergordon 0 - Penalty shoot-out

The pace of the game took its toll on players from both sides and it was two weary sets of players who prepared for the penalty shoot-out. Invergordon had the advantage after MacGregor hit the bar and Baker's effort went wide after Brian Gray had converted Thurso's first kick. Steven, Reid, MacGregor and Jonathon Makhouli all scored but Phil Makhouli had his spot-kick saved by Stewart.

Thurso manager Alistair Budge was frustrated at losing a game which his side dominated for long spells. He said: "We were well on top for most of the game but it just wasn't to be. "Graham Stewart made two or three wonderful saves and our finishing let us down at other times. "Our back three were outstanding and we played some excellent possession football when we denied them the ball for long periods."

Mr Budge said Invergordon's backroom team rated Thurso as the best footballing side they have played this season. His job now is to get his side focused tomorrow's PCT Cup final at Golspie versus Alness. He said: "Technically, they are a very good team and I believe that on their day, they are the best team in the league. "It will be tough but we have been playing well and our confidence levels are high. "We'll be looking to make a good start and hopefully get a goal in front."

Youngsters Luke Cassidy and Des MacLeod could return to the squad with the only doubt surrounding Kevin Warner. Thurso, league winners two years ago, are gunning to land their first knock-out trophy.

Thurso v Invergordon -- M. Gray, B. Gray, Baker, Moar, J. Makhouli, Inrig (MacGregor 77),
Reid, Bremner (P. Makhouli 80), Groat (Warner 77), Steven, MacDougall

Match report by Davie Hobbs No.1 Fan



Todays match started of much the same way as the last two matches at homewith nothing too much to write home about from either side in the firsthalf.

Into the second half and as the match went on both sides up the pace and overall thurso had the better chances to win the match but just couldn't put the ball in the net,jonathon makouli coming the closest hitting the ball of the post with a dipping header and the invergordon keeper (ex academy player graham stewart )pulling of a fine save to his right hand side from a willie steven follow up shot.

The match ended nil nil and went into extra time and golden goal came into play but again thurso even though having the majority of play couldnt make it count and so the dreaded panalty shoot out was next upand still thetwo teams couldnt be seperatedand so the penalty shoot out went to sudden death with graham stewart saving from philip makouli to deny thurso a!nothre place in a cup final.




PCT North Caledonian Cup Final


Saturday 6th of April 2002

Thurso F.C..................2................V Alness United................1.........

Thurso F.C - Lee MacDougall (1) and Phil Makhouli (1)
Alness United - Ross Jack (pen)

At Golspie - kick-off - 3.00 p.m

Match report by Iain Grant

A late Phil Makhouli winner ensured the PCT Cup headed over the Ord after Saturday's final in Golspie.

Thurso had led through Lee MacDougall before a hotly disputed penalty converted by Ross Jack 14 minutes from time put Alness back on terms. There were just three minutes left when a loose ball in the box was pounced upon by Makhouli whose shot-on-the-turn powered past keeper Andrew Rogers.

The opening 15 minutes was played at a break-neck pace as each side went all out to seize the initiative. The frenzied midfield action was matched by animated histrionics from the respective dugouts, but there was precious little in the way of serious goalmouth activity. A weak, back-post header from Jack and a blocked shot from Thurso's Willie Steven were the sum total of the offensive threats during this period.

The first real danger came after 16 minutes when indecision by James Winter almost cost the Easter Ross side dear. Lee MacDougall nipped in to dispossess him and he was homing in on goal when the defender's desperate lunging tackle saw him whip the legs away from the Thurso striker just outside the box. Referee Willie Sinclair, after a brief confab with assistant Gary MacMillan, decided that the offence merited no more than a booking.

MacDougall's resultant free-kick cannoned off the defensive wall. Four minutes later, Thurso were a lick of paint away from taking the lead. Gavin Bremner's corner saw Graeme Reid soar above his marker to bullet a header against the underside of the crossbar. The deflection fell kindly for keeper Rogers who, though prone on the six yard line, was able to scramble the ball to safety with an outstretched arm.

After 25 minutes, Alness's Martyn McAllister carved out his side's first decent opening when his inswinging cross invited a header from Keith Sutherland which was too direct to trouble Michael Gray. Just before the half-hour mark, a promising move at the other end petered out when Steven failed to make good contact with MacDougall's centre and the ball looped harmlessly over the bar. The Vikings were by now dominating proceedings with Reid adding security to the back three and Martin Baker settling well into his new role on the wide right of the five man midfield. Alness' frustration at the way the game was going was reflected in a booking for Jack for a reckless lunge on Reid. The former pro was fortunate to stay on the park after a subsequent foul on Kevin Warner.

Alness did threaten occasionally on the counter and after 34 minutes Keith Sutherland should have tested Michael Gray after Stephen Maclean had set him up in front of goal. Two minutes later, a Willie Inrig through ball meant for Steven ended up falling for MacDougall whose powerful shot was saved by Rogers.

The keeper had a large part to play in the opening goal when he chose to meet Bremner's free-kick with a lusty punch. The ball ended at the feet of MacDougall 20 yards out whose spanking volley sped past the stranded keeper into the net. The half ended with several flash-points which resulted in bookings for Steven and Brian Davidson, of Alness.

Half-time - Thurso 1 V Alness 0

The pattern of the game changed dramatically after the interval. From being in charge, Thurso were soon very much under the cosh and struggled to recreate the poise and rhythm which characterised their efforts before the break. They were regularly conceding corners and free-kicks in their own half, which played into the hands of opponents who possessed a superior arsenal.

Thurso were indebted to Michael Gray who was often needed to display safe handling and bravery in a crowded goalmouth. Five minutes after the restart, the keeper had to race from his station to deny Stephen Graham by spreading himself and using his legs to block th netbound shot. MacDougall went close at the other end before Donald Sutherland should have levelled when he blasted high over the bar after being teed up by a Jack flick-on from a Davidson corner. Yet another corner after 56 minutes from Sutherland saw Michael Gray use every centrimetre of his reach to skilfully gather the spiralling cross at his back post with Ross ready to cash in on any mistake.

Maclean and Graham then missed half-chances as Alness pressed strongly for the equaliser. Thurso almost found the comfort zone when MacDougall's shot from a half-cleared free-kick was deflected just wide by Inrig. Shortly afterwards, MacDougall was caught in possession on the half-way line. Sutherland raced upfield with his long cross finding Jack whose lay-off to Sandy Wilson ended with the substitute firing over the top from close in.

After 69 minutes, good work by George Groat set up MacDougall whose right-foot effort was well saved by Rogers. There was no let-up in the frantic end-to-end action as Michael Gray did superbly well to keep out Maclean's free-kick.

The equaliser came when Wilson went down as Shaun Moar challenged him in the box. The heated protests from the Vikings counted for nothing and Jack stepped forward to dispatch the spot-kick.

Thurso always looked the more likely to score a second and it duly arrived in the aftermath to Baker's late free-kick. Rogers' punched clearance was nodded back into the danger zone by Reid as far as Makhouli who swivelled round to deliver the killer blow with the outside of his right boot.

Inrig became the fourth name in referee Sinclair's book as time ran out on Alness's bid to force the game into extra-time. It was fitting that Makouli should deliver the coup de grace as he had missed the crucial kick in the Vikings's previous cup semi-final penalty shoot-out versus Invergordon.

Manager Alistair Budge was elated at his side's debut cup triumph in a tourney that dates back to 1888. He said: "We started with all guns blazing and we were well worth our lead at half-time. "We were in control of the game but after the interval we let it slip a bit -- we just couldn't seem to get out of our own half for long periods. "We gave away loads of free-kicks and corners and had to absorb a lot of pressure but the penalty gave us a lift and seemed to make us redouble our efforts and we eventually got our reward."

He credited his defence for a battling performance, singling out Michael Gray and Reid for their contributions. He also praised Warner and Bremner for their tireless effort in the middle of the park and MacDougall, for his attacking flair.

On Saturday afternoon, Thurso entertain Golspie in the quarter-final of the Football Times Cup. Mr Budge intends giving youth run in the game with Martin MacGregor, Luke Cassidy and Des Macleod all in line for a starting berth in the game which kicks off at 2.30 p.m..

Thurso v Alness -- M. Gray, B. Gray, Reid, Moar, Baker, Bremner,
Warner (Makhouli 75), Inrig (Cassidy 89), Groat, Steven, MacDougall.

Ref -- Mr W. Sinclair.


Match report by Davie Hobbs No.1 Fan


The weather gods decide to let it shine for the trip to golspie for the cup final THURSO v Alness. Alness started off very brightly and had a couple of headers on thurso's goal! (alness were certainly up for this match)!

18 mins into the game and an alness united player gave away a free kick on the edge of their box( he was lucky only to pick up a yellow card as it could of easily been a red as he looked to be the last player plus the tackle was from behind). Thurso took a poor free kick and did not take advantage of the opportunity!

In the 23rd minute, Thurso keeper michael gray made a fine save from a ross jack header. jack is reeally good in the air and seems to float in the airand his hair never seems to move though this must be all the hair spray he uses although he didnt seem to appreciate my comments to him about his hair!

As the first half went on the alness tackling got harder and dirtier! In the 33rd min goardie groat made a run down the left hand side( you will have to improve your pace though if you want to win at the highland games this year geordie!)

In the 37th min Lee MacDougall had a great strike on goal and was unlucky not to score but lee made up for this in the 40th minwith a tremendous goal on the volley from a brian gray cross (in the words of lee's idol martin o'neil i really do mean this i really ,really do!)


INTO THE SECOND HALF AND ALNESS START OF THE SAME WAY THEY STARTED THE FIRST HALFand in the 48th min gray had to make a great save from what could of quite easily of been the equaliser! The first 15mins of the second half and THURSO were struggling to get into the game with some scrappy play!


32mins and alness were awarded a soft penalty (as they would admit themselves later in the pub!)and they tucked it away and it was game on 1-1.

ALISTAIR was at his finest SHOUTING on THURSO telling his players that they were better than thisand to show it on the pitch!!!

The THURSO players responded to this and in the 39th minute from a cross ball GRAHAM REID rose to flick on with his head in the box and substitute Phillip makouli cooly lifted the ball over the head of the alness keeper with theoutside of his boot and THURSO were back in front 2-1 all that was left was for the referee to blow his whistle andlet the CELEBRATIONS begin.

(a mention must be made at this point about the young substitutes luke cassidy,martin macgregor,des macleod and philip who swapped tips on hair gel and other beauty tips throughout the game behind the dugouts).

At the presentation LEE MACDOUGALL was awarded the man of the match ,a good day allround for THURSO who fought well as a team thriughout the match!


Other scores

NCL - Halkirk United 0 V Golspie Sutherland 1
Football Times Cup - Invergordon 0 V Bonar Bridge 1 and Dornoch 1 V Bunillidh Thistle 5

Football Times Cup 1st Round

Saturday 13th of April 2002

Thurso F.C.................1.................V Golspie Sutherland..............1...........(a.e.t - 3-4 on pens)

Goalscorers - Graeme Reid - (pen)

At Sir George's Park, Thurso - kick-off - 2.30 p.m

Match report by Iain Grant


Thurso on Saturday suffered the horrors of succombing to a second penalty shoot-out cup exit in the space of a fortnight. The crowd at Sir Georges Park were treated to a tense Football Times second round encounter which ended one apiece after 90 minutes. Extra-time produced a glut of chances with both sides feeling aggrieved not to have clinched the tie without recourse to the dreaded round of spot-kicks.

A fine spring day saw two evenly matched sides battle it out for the right to meet Halkirk in the quarter-final. The first opening was carved out by Lee MacDougall who set Willie Steven racing free down the inside left channel. As keeper Billy Neilson came to meet him, a defender managed to scurry back and get a telling block as Steven sought to pull the trigger.

John Smith was a pervasive presence in the early exchanges with the Golspie Number 3 nominally playing on the left side of the defence. He however appeared to have a licence to wander and he produced his side's first moment of danger after seven minutes when his cross-cum-shot flashed across goal.

Steven and MacDougall were proving a handful at the other end and twice their link-up play almost produced the opener. MacDougall shot wide on the first occasion when he would have been better feeding his unmarked strike partner. Then a MacDougall centre was headed powerfully just over the bar by Steven. The Vikings packed more punch in the first quarter with some good spells of possession and creative play which regularly picked holes in the visitors' defence. After 20 minutes, a glorious pass from Graeme Reid gave MacDougall a clear passage to goal. He shot low past the onrushing Neilson but the ball ended up a yard outside the right-hand post.

Smith was again to the fore after 28 minutes when he drilled a free-kick narrowly over and then saw his close-in diving header from a Darren Pullen free-kick hit the top of the bar.

In between these efforts, Thurso were inches away from taking the lead when Pullen was dispossessed and Gavin Bremner curling effort from the left scraped past the left-hand upright. Golspie saw more of the play as the half wore on with Pullen and Gary Reid increasingly pulling the strings in midfield. Michael Gray had to demonstrate sound handling to keep out a Pullen strike seven minutes from half-time. The keeper then did very well to tip a Robbie MacDougall free-kick over the bar and then thwart that man Smith with a suberb reaction save to turn away the latter's netbound shot-on-the-turn in the aftermath to a half-cleared corner.

Half-time - Thurso 0 V Golspie 0

A low-key start to the second half was almost enlivened after 53 minutes when MacDougall set up George Groat for an opening which ended with him hitting the side-net from as tight angle. Two minutes later, Steven came close to breaking the deadlock after defenders Colin Sutherland and Scott Mackay got in a tangle.

Smith then missed a decent chance when he headed a Reid free-kick over the top before Groat passed up an even better opportunity when he failed to beat Neilson with a free shot inside the six yard box. The latter miss looked event costlier when the visitors took a 69th minute lead when Kevin Warner was caught in possession and Pullen pounced to rifle a shot past Michael Gray.

Reid and Makhouli passed up half-chances before the equaliser 12 minutes from time which was created by substitute Luke Cassidy. His first action saw him skip into the box before being clumsily chopped down by Sutherland. Graeme Reid hammered the resultant spot-kick behind Neilson. The closing minutes saw Thurso hunt the winner with MacDougall twice going close.

Full-time - Thurso 1 V Golspie 1

Extra-time often produces 30 further minutes of stalemate but this was certainly not the case in this match. A pulsating contest developed with both sides committed to attack at the expense of leaving the back door open on occaisons. After 97 minutes, Scott MacMain looked several yards offside when he scampered through on a clear run on goal. As he homed in from the right flank, Michael Gray raced from outside his box to make a superb saving block with Martin Baker on hand to complete the clearance.

The focus then changed to the other goal with a Steven header being touched against the inside of a post by Neilson on 100 minutes. A minute later, the keeper did well to fling himself to his left to get to a stinging effort from Cassidy at the end of an attack launched by Brian Gray. On the stroke of half-time, Thurso looked set to forge ahead when MacDougall's cross was headed on by Steven to Gavin Bremner. Unchallenged 10 yards out, the long-range specialist failed to make good contact, with his shot not seriously testing Neilson.

Extra-time Half-time - Thurso 1 V Golspie 1

Golspie had the better of the second period of extra-time with Michael Gray doing well to pouch a MacMain's effort from the edge of the box. Reid was booked in the dying throes of the game for a foul on Pullen.

Full time - Extra Time - Thurso 1 V Golspie 1

The first six penalties were absolute belters with the conversions of Thurso's Brian Gray, Baker and Steven being matched by MacDougall, MacMain and Sutherland. Martin MacGregor then had his effort well saved by Neilson only for Pullen to pull his shot wide. Graeme Reid then saw his effort blocked with Mackay keeping his nerve to slot home the decider.

Penalty Shoot-out - Thurso F.C 3 V Golspie Sutherland 4

Thurso manager Alaistair Budge had no complaints with the way his side went about their business. He said: "I felt both sides really went for it and it could easily have ended up 7-6 to either side. "We had the more clear-cut chances buit we just couldn't put them away but Michael Gray also had two or three really excellent saves. "I think we gave a good account of ourselves and with the rub of the green could have come out on top."

Thurso, with no game tomorrow, finish their campaign with league matches away to Halkirk and at home to Golspie. The latter could yet be a title decider were Golspie to win their next two games. That would leave them requiring to beat Thurso to overhaul long-time leaders Invergordon.

Thurso v Golspie -- M. Gray, B. Gray, Warner (Cassidy 78), Reid, Moar, Baker, Bremner,
Groat, Makhouli (MacGregor 78), Steven, MacDougall. Sub (unused) -- Blumfield.

Ref -- Mr G. Bain, Wick.

North Caledonian League Championship and Millenium Cup Match

Friday 26th of April 2002

Halkirk United.............0.............V Thurso F.C..................1.............

Goalscorer - Luke Cassidy (1)

At Recreation Park, Halkirk - kick-off - 6.45 p.m

Thurso F.C win the annual Millenium Cup for the second year in a row !!!

Match report by Iain Grant

Halkirk's barren run against their neighbours continued as they wound up their MSIS North Caledonian League campaign on a low note. Friday night's weather conditions were such that it made it questionable whether this match should have gone ahead. A high-velocity, swirling wind regularly played tricks with the ball and badly disrupted the measured, passing game which both side favour. The players and officials were also subjected to perishing cold conditions which anti-climaxed shortly after the interval when a particularly intense hail storm led to referee Willie Sinclair righly taking the sides off for some much-needed shelter. It was an evening when gloves and leggings would have been less de rigeur than boiler-suits and balaclavas. Both teams deserve credit for serving up as entertaining a contest as could be expected. The wind direction, as much as could be discerned from its fickle nature, was diagonal towards the school.

The dilemma in trying to build up play from the back was to run the risk of a simple pass being blown off course by a rogue gust. The alternative was to play long and either see the ball vanish over the horizon or come steepling back to whence it came.

Thurso were the first to threaten and grabbed what proved the only goal of the game in seven minutes through Luke Cassidy. Cassidy had earlier been just off-target with a looping header from a George Groat centre. The breakthrough came after Halkirk were caught in possession and Reid took advanatge to send an early through ball to Cassidy. The teenage striker held his nerve as he ran through and side-footed the ball between keeper Marc Swanson and his left-hand post.

After 12 minutes, United defender Graham Gunn needed treatment after he bravely stood up to Willie Inrig's meaty free-kick which struck him full on the face. Groat was a lively presence for the visitors who forced the early pace though, like United, they were fighting a losing battle against the elements.

Halkirk's first opening was cut out by Colin Banks after 25 minutes when he set up Gavin Henderson for a low, raking shot which Thurso keeper Michael Gray was happy to see deflected past for a corner.

Before the interval, Graeme Reid and Inrig were prominent with decent efforts which flew just over the top.

Half-time - Halkirk 0 V Thurso 1

To compound the biting-cold temperatures, the amount of light fell noticeably to presage a spell of heavy sleet and hail showers in the quarter-of-an-hour after the resumption. This coincided with strong Halkirk pressure which produced a string of corners and free-kicks. With players covering their faces with their hands to shield them against hail, which was driving against them like ack ack fire, Referee Willie Sinclair wisely decided to call a temporary halt. The conditions abated to allow the teams to take the field after a two minute respite. Mercifully, the weather settled somwhat thereafter with neither trainer reporting any case sof hypothermia.

Thurso almost grabbed another goal after 69 minutes from a free-kick awarded when John Martin fouled Martin MacGregor wide out on the left. MacGregor got on the end of a setpiece, hurling himself to meet the inswinging cross on the six yard line. He made a good connection with his shot beating Swanson but rebounding off the centre of the cross-bar.

This was in the middle of a purple patch for Thurso with excellent inter-play between Cassidy and MacGregor after 60 minutes setting up Martin Baker for a fierce shot which he sent whizzing just over the bar.

Halkirk then came close to equalising when Derek Shearer's teasing corner ending with Banks firing narrowly wide. Michael Gray had to have his wits about him after 72 minutes when he had to deal with a snap 30 yard shot from Shearer. The ball took a bobble just before it reached the keeper who spilled the drive but did extremely well to regather as Banks closed in fast.

Play immediately switched to the other goalmouth where Groat sent in Inrig who had his netbound shot well blocked by Swanson. The last 10 minutes saw United press hard with their play having an urgency which was earlier lacking. With six minutes to go, Banks created space for Henderson whose low shot was held by Michael Gray. The keeper was to do even better three minutes later when he got down smartly a foot inside his right-hand post to hold Colin Munro's powerful drive.

Halkirk player/manager Richard Hughes said the horrendous conditions had marred the clash, which was for the Millennium Cup. "It really was a shame for both teams as the weather made the game a lottery."

Vikings manager Alistair Budge said afterwards: "The weather was the winner on the night and I think both teams deserve credit for the way they stuck to their tasks." He singled out Reid, Groat and Cassidy as his key men.

Halkirk -- Swanson, Gunn, Henderson, Blair, Martin, C. Munro,
M. Munro, Sutherland, Banks, Shearer, D. Munro (Hughes 70).

Thurso -- M. Gray, B. Gray, Warner, Moar, Baker, Inrig, Bremner, Reid,
MacGregor (Farmer 75), Cassidy, Groat.
Sub (unused) -- Macleod.

Referee -- Mr W. Sinclair.

Golspie picked up the Morris Newton Cup on Saturday after a surprisingly easy 4-1 win over Invergordon. A Robbie MacDougall hat-trick and a late counter from Andrew Laing sparked them to victory against Invergordon, who replied through Gordon Sinclair.

North Caledonian League

Thurso F.C 1 V Golspie Sutherland 1

It was agreed by The North Caledonian league committee and both clubs to declare the above match a 1-1 draw (which was the score between the 2 sides in the cup on 13/4/02) because the league championship was already won by Invergordon after their 2-0 win at Golspie the previous week.


North Caledonian League table - Season 2001/02







Goals For











Alness United








Golspie Sutherland
















Halkirk United
















Bunillidh Thistle
















Bonar Bridge