Victory vital for Caithness as they seek to stay in touch
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A victory at Millbank on Saturday is vital if the Greens are to stay in touch with the early pacesetters in Caley Regional League 1.
Unbeaten visitors Grangemouth will face a Caithness side in wounded tiger mode after they succumbed to a second successive narrow defeat on the road.
Their 29-24 reverse against Orkney on Saturday at a windswept Pickaquoy was a bitter pill to swallow for head coach Ewen Boyd.
The visiting camp were buoyed by a gritty first-half display in which they faced the full force of the elements.
Turning round at 12-12 had put the odds in their favour but it was the islanders who bossed the second period.
Their fifth try in the final minute had them 29-17 up before a breathless denouement witnessed a red card for Orkney's Chris Guthrie and a converted try for the visitors, which netted them two losing bonus points.
The home side were twice pegged back in the first period with touchdowns for Evan Sutherland and Dougie Webster cancelling out tries for winger Scott Russell and hooker Scott Rendall.
The islanders capped off a sustained spell of pressure when prop Aly Linklater barged his way over.
The Greens restored parity when they worked an overlap to allow young winger Euan Macdonald space to dot down out wide.
Orkney finished the stronger and a second try by Linklater put them ahead again.
Guthrie's rollercoaster game saw the winger sin-binned before he went over for his side's decisive try and then was red-carded for a high tackle.
Caithness mounted a furious, injury-time flurry in a bid to secure some reward for their efforts.
It paid off when a succession of penalties had Orkney on the back foot and Cameron Ryder exploited a fractured defence to cross.
Ryder also kicked two conversions.
Boyd acknowledged that a promising first half had been undone by a disjointed, underwhelming display after the break.
"We competed really well in the first half when we had a roaring wind in our faces," he said.
"We had the wind in the second half but we didn't kick well and we allowed them out of their 22 too easily."
Boyd also believes his side's set-piece needs to improve.
He said: "The lineout, in particular, has not been functioning properly for a couple of weeks and needs to be better. It's something we need to address."
Boyd said that returning from Orkney with two match points on the back of a sub-par performance could be seen as a positive.
But he said: "Overall, we're disappointed for the second week in a row not to have won.
"It was pretty nip-and-tuck all the way until they pulled away a bit but at least we managed to get the late try which earned us two points.
"I thought we showed a lot of resilience in the first half and there were some good individual performances but we need to see the units coming together."
Boyd was encouraged by the impact of the four early twentysomethings on his bench.
Grangemouth have enjoyed a strong start to their campaign, earning two wins and a draw.
Their 44-27 home victory over Aberdeen Wanderers on Saturday saw them move second, two points behind leaders Orkney.
The Greens will again be without stand-off Marc Anderson whose hamstring pull is likely to see him sidelined throughout October.
Scrum-half Kris Hamilton is rated 50-50 to return from a foot complaint but there are no fresh injury concerns from last weekend.
The game kicks off at 3pm.