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Vikings lose out in first round of cup

By Iain Grant

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Thurso defender Stuart Sinclair at full stretch, but he just fails to stop a cross by Brora’s Liam Baxter at Sir George’s Park on Saturday.
Thurso defender Stuart Sinclair at full stretch, but he just fails to stop a cross by Brora’s Liam Baxter at Sir George’s Park on Saturday.

THE Vikings made an early exit from the AJG North of Scotland Cup on Saturday after their first competitive clash with a Highland League outfit at Sir George’s Park.

This was a significantly stronger Brora Rangers side to the one which went down 2-0 in a friendly at the same venue two years ago.

Manager Andy Mac-Leod has since added a clutch of new faces to give the Sutherland outfit a new, more competitive look.

The visitors struggled in a closely matched first half hour but the result of the first-round tie never looked in doubt after they took the lead through Liam Baxter.

By the time Michael Petrie scored for Thurso midway through the second half, his side was 3-0 down.

A penalty restored Brora’s three-goal advantage to give a final scoreline which was a fair reflection of how the game had gone.

As in the previous week’s friendly with Wick Academy, Thurso were without a handful of players who are in line to feature in their forthcoming North Caley League campaign.

Stevie Reid’s men, if anything, edged the opening in the first 30 minutes when they went close to going ahead on several occasions.

Stevie Morris had a header cleared off the line and Rangers keeper Steven Martin had to look sharp to turn Lee MacDougall’s close-in effort behind after the keeper failed to hold a raking shot from Mark Nichol.

Home keeper Asa Sinclair, meanwhile, did well to divert a spanking effort from James Murray behind.

On 24 minutes, Thurso looked set to take the lead when Nichol and MacDougall combined well on the left to send Jamie MacKenzie clear, only for the midfielder to be halted by a debatable offside flag.

The Vikings’ defence was not particularly hard-pressed before the opening goal on 32 minutes.

There appeared little immediate danger when Ally MacLeod’s bullet cross from the left flank was deflected in by Keith Baxter.

Inverness ref Graham Fraser was deaf to Thurso appeals the striker used a hand to turn it in. The visitors were celebrating again on 41 minutes when Ally Macleod got to Ross Suttar’s centre fractionally ahead of defender Stuart Sinclair.

The visitors stepped up a couple of gears in the second half and it was no surprise when James Murray set up Ally MacDonald to make it 3-0 on 63 ?minutes.

Thurso got a goal back four minutes later when a slick move ended with sub Chris Wann’s low centre allowing Petrie to drill home at the far post.

That helped steady the ship for the Vikings but they conceded again on 72 minutes when Stuart Sinclair tripped Murray in the box and Ross Grant ticked away the spot-kick.

Thurso almost got a second four minutes later when Nichol sent Petrie racing through on Martin but his netbound shot was blocked by a back-tracking defender.

Asa Sinclair capped a useful display when he flung himself to his left to deny sub Stuart Mackay getting on the score sheet late on.

Thurso: A. Sinclair, Shearer (Mackintosh 83), Harrold, McIntosh, S. Sinclair, Morris (Wann 60), Mackay, Petrie, Nichol, MacKenzie, MacDougall.

Brora Rangers: Martin, Moir, MacDonald, Macleod, Smith, Golabek, Grant, Suttar, J. Murray, Baxter, Kerr, McCarthy, Ross, Munro, E. Murray and Mackay.

Referee: G. Fraser, Inverness.

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