McElroy praises Halkirk work ethic after derby victory over Thurso
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Halkirk United manager Ewan McElroy praised the work ethic of his team after they came from behind to beat local rivals Thurso 2-1 at Morrison Park on Saturday in their final Football Times Cup group match.
Thurso were on the front foot in the first period and they took the lead just before the half-hour mark with a powerful near-post header from Michael Petrie. The Vikings had chances to add to their lead before the break but failed to take them.
However, it was a different story in the second half and James Mackintosh levelled the scores in the 54th minute with a blistering finish.
The Anglers had their tails up and Korbyn Cameron popped up with the winner in the 72nd minute when he netted with a back-post header.
“We had a slow start, which was almost to be expected as we hadn't trained since the Golspie game on the 14th,” McElroy said. “It took us about 20 minutes to get a foothold in the game.
“Credit to Thurso, they were the better team in the first half and they kept us under quite a bit of pressure. We had a couple of half-chances but were quite thankful to get in at 1-0.
“But in the second half we really turned it around. I thought the work ethic and the overall team performance in the second half was terrific – it was a real squad performance.”
McElroy praised his hard-working midfield trio of James Mackintosh, Mark Webster and Ryan Sutherland and said Cameron had been “a nuisance throughout”.
He added: “Both teams went all out for the win. Whenever you play your biggest rivals you're hopeful of getting something out of it.
“It was a well-attended game, so it was good to see so many people there.”
Thurso manager Stevie Reid says his players will need to be a lot more clinical in front of goal if they are to mount a serious title challenge.
“It has been the same problem in a lot of our games this season,” he lamented. “When we are on top we tend not to finish teams off.
"We played really well in the first half at Halkirk and should have been further ahead. But we just dropped off in the second half – it was quite unbelievable.
"Both the goals we lost were avoidable. We had chances to equalise before the end. No matter who you are playing, if you don't take your chances they will come back and bite you.”
Reid knows his players will need to up their game this Saturday against Orkney, who are the only unbeaten side in the league. However, Thurso are only a point behind the islanders and a win would see them leapfrog Orkney into third spot.
With the Dammies still unplayable, the match will be staged at Halkirk's Morrison Park with a 2.30pm kick-off.
“If we have any aspirations of kicking on this season it is a game we must win,” Reid said. “At our best we are a match for any of the teams in the league. It's a big game – we can't afford to switch off in this one.”
Thurso will be without the services of skipper Michael Petrie who was sent off against Halkirk after he picked up a second yellow card.
Rob Maclean and Alan Munro are still on holiday and also miss the match, while Connor Mackintosh is a doubt after he was forced to pull out of the Halkirk match with flu.
Buoyed by their derby win, Halkirk United head to Helmsdale for their league clash against Bunillidh Thistle. The Anglers have defeated Bunillidh 6-0 and 5-1 already this season but McElroy is taking nothing for granted.
“In our last victory against them I think the scoreline flattered us a wee bit,” he said. “They've got a changed squad, some new faces, and I expect a tough game on Saturday.”
Golspie ran out comfortable 5-1 winners against Sutherland rivals Bunillidh Thistle in their final Football Times Cup group match at King George V Park.
With Golspie already safely through the the final, there was only pride at stake in this derby, although it had its moments.
Liam Bremner gave Golspie the lead in the 20th minute and two goals early in the second half killed the match as a contest. Colin Sinclair came out of retirement to score his side's second goal and Grant Budge added a tap-in following a corner kick.
Eoghann Davie netted a fourth before Billy Cairns pulled one back for Bunillidh. Craig Ross completed the scoring in stoppage time.
“It was very convincing,” Golspie manager Andrew Banks said. “I thought it would have been a lot closer than it was. But considering the number of players we had out, we played well – it gives us something to build on for Saturday's match against Inverness Athletic.”
In the league, Bonar Bridge were on the wrong end of a 13-1 scoreline against Orkney at the Meadows in Dornoch.
Invergordon held out for a 1-0 win against St Duthus at the Recreation Grounds to go top on goal difference.
North Caledonian League fixtures for Saturday (kick-offs at 1pm unless stated): Bonar Bridge v Invergordon; Bunillidh Thistle v Halkirk United; Inverness Athletic v Golspie Sutherland; Thurso v Orkney (at Halkirk, 2.30pm).