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Maclellan targets League 2 title to cap off successful revival of Tain club

By Niall Harkiss

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Tain Thistle manager John Maclellan hopes to be grinning from ear to ear by the end of their league decider against Melvich on Saturday.

A win over the amateur north-Sutherland side will secure the North West Sutherland League 2 title for the Jags, who currently sit a point clear of nearest rivals, Invergordon Social Club.

Tain Thistle boss John Maclellan has put faith in youth this season. Photo: Scott Macdonald/Tain Thistle AFC
Tain Thistle boss John Maclellan has put faith in youth this season. Photo: Scott Macdonald/Tain Thistle AFC

Victory at the Links will secure Tain their first trophy success since 2019, when they were crowned North West Sutherland league champions before entering a three-year period of abeyance.

Maclellan has been the main catalyst of the Jags' revival in 2023, juggling roles as player, manager and organiser for the amateur club's first season back in the North West Sutherland AFA.

He goes into this final league match full of confidence that his squad can get the job done.

Maclellan said: "We are going into this game with the correct attitude. We’ve won nothing yet and are fully aware that we have a big job to do. I have full faith in my players that they are capable of getting the job done and getting the club over the line.

"I’ve been particularly proud of how our young players have conducted themselves and performed this year. This Saturday at the moment we have three 16 year olds and two 17 year olds in the squad, along with my number two in the dugout, Alex McDonald, who has also been excellent.

"That’s one of the reasons that it was so important to get Tain Thistle going again – to give young players the chance to represent the area and provide a stepping stone to North Caley football and beyond. It’s also been brilliant to have the support of so many Tain legends, such as Marty Farquhar and Stevie Martin.

"Whatever happens on Saturday, I’m proud of the boys getting us into the position where we can potentially win the league on our first try back."

In the only other remaining League 2 match to be played, Inver will welcome Invergordon Social Club, with the away side looking to take advantage of any possible slip-up from Tain.

Should Thistle lose or draw their match, the Invergordon club would have a chance to take the title, with a win at Inver required to leap above the Jags on points.

Both Inver and Social Club could still finish on level points with their Tain rivals, but the head-to-head records between the clubs (Tain 6 Inver 4 and Tain 4 Social Club 2) would still see the League 2 crown go to Tain.

In other action this Saturday, Helmsdale United will host Lairg Rovers in League 1.

Last weekend, Lochbroom recorded a 5-3 win over Lochinver to move closer to safety from the relegation spot in League 1.

Ben Bruce, Robert Macrae, Ciaran Gilmour and Kyle Mackenzie were on the mark for the Wester Ross side with an own goal taking their total to five.

In reply, Lochinver netted through James Macleod, Jake Lockett and Christopher Campbell.

In League 2, Inver kept up their recent good form with a 6-3 win over Brora Wanderers. The highlight was a hat-trick from midfielder Alex Mackenzie. Johnie Beattie, Dave Macgruer and Aiden Stainke were also on target to compound their Sutherland opponents to a decisive defeat.

Invergordon Social were unrelenting in their match away to Melvich. Scott MacIver was certainly in the mood with four goals all told. Callum Murray added two of his own to further increase the tally, before Drew Sutherland and an own goal took the total to eight.

Wednesday night's League 1 match between Lairg Rovers and Golspie Stafford was postponed due to a bereavement.

North West Sutherland AFA fixtures for Saturday, July 22:

League 1

Helmsdale United v Lairg Rovers

League 2

Tain Thistle v Melcih

Inver v Invergordon Social Club

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