Ruthless St Duthus reel in McElroy's Anglers
Halkirk United boss Ewan McElroy admits that his team had a tough day in losing 5-1 at the hands of St Duthus on Saturday, but insists there are still plenty of positives to take from it.
Facing one of the North Caledonian League title challengers, who were fresh from winning the Football Times Cup the previous weekend, was always going to be a big challenge for United.
Aidan Reid gave the Anglers a third-minute lead but they were pegged back within 60 seconds as Cammy Mackintosh levelled for the Tain side.
Further strikes from Jon Campbell, Ben Bruce (2) and Charlie MacDonald gave St Duthus a convincing victory.
However, despite the heavy defeat, McElroy refused to be downbeat.
He said: "There are plenty of positives to take from the game and the scoreline is not really fair reflection.
"The average age of our starting eleven was just 22 on Saturday and we need to keep that in mind looking forward.
"It's a learning curve for a lot of the boys and they know the main difference was St Duthus took their chances while we squandered ours.
"It's possible the boys got a bit ahead of themselves after we took the lead. We obviously started the game well but unfortunately we gifted St Duthus two extremely soft goals.
I think the opposition controlled the game and we really struggled to keep the ball
"To be fair, for 65 minutes I thought the boys were brilliant. They played some fantastic football, created plenty chances and were controllinglarge chunks of possession.
"The boys were frustrated going in at half-time trailing as in terms of football they were more than a match for St Duthus and exceptionally unlucky not to be awarded a penalty just before half-time.
"In the second half, we were pushing for an equaliser and created some good chances before St Duthus made it 3-1 on the counter with a well-worked move and neat finish.
"Once the third goal went in I think the opposition controlled the game and we really struggled to keep the ball."
Halkirk face lowly Bonar Bridge at home on Saturday in the first round of the North Caledonian Cup.
McElroy added: "Bonar will be desperate to get something out of the game. They have nothing to lose and I think they have added a few new bodies since we played them last.
"We obviously want to do well in every game and particularly so after a frustrating afternoon the week before.
"Stuart Sinclair and Ryan Sutherland are both out through injury. Bryan Reid took a knock and will be assessed towards the end of the week. Andrew Gow and Adam Gunn will hopefully both return to the squad."
Elsewhere in the North Caledonian League last weekend, Bonar Bridge were hammered 8-2 by Golspie. On target for Golspie were Liam Bremner (3), Sandy Sutherland (2), Eoghann Davie, Eddie MacGregor and a Craig Rae own goal.
Bonar's strikes came from Isaac Sayers and Ryan Hamilton.
Goals from Ken Morrison and Shaun Kerr gave leaders Invergordon a 2-1 win at Orkney after the islanders had led through James Pickles.
Saturday, February 1
(kick-offs 1.30pm unless stated)
North Caledonian League
Bunillidh Thistle v St Duthus
Golspie Sutherland v Inverness Athletic
Invergordon v Thurso
North Caledonian Cup
Halkirk United v Bonar Bridge
Orkney v Nairn County U20 (12.45pm)