A Craig McGovern double helped ease Forres Mechanics to a 4-1 victory against Clachnacuddin at Mosset Park.
Forres manager Charlie Rowley felt his side should have put the match to bed sooner than it did.
He said: “If we had gone 3-0 up early in the second half then it would have gone a long way in making it a comfortable afternoon, but the Clach goalkeeper made two great saves.”
He added: “We had a sticky spell after Clach scored – we were a bit ragged. But in the end we showed our class and deserved the win with the chances we created.”
The home side took the lead in the 12th minute when a defence-splitting pass from Scott Moore was swept into the far corner of the net by talented Caley Thistle loanee Andrew MacRae. The Can-Cans continued to press and Clach keeper Dougie Mac-Lennan did well to parry a Craig McGovern shot before Martin Groat fired the rebound well over.
But the pressure paid off in the 34th minute when McGovern doubled the lead with a 20 yard piledriver following a Stuart Soane flick-on.
Clach’s Fraser Robertson almost reduced the deficit before the break but his effort cracked off the crossbar. Forres made a blistering start to the second half but MacLennan pulled off saves from MacRae and MacPhee before Graham Fraser rattled the crossbar with a header.
But it was Clach who reduced the deficit on the hour mark when Liam Shewan and substitute Jordan Andrew combined on the left and Alasdair Stark finished off the move from 12 yards.
Clach looked the more likely to score the next goal but it was the home side went 3-1 up in the 78th minute when McGovern cut inside and fired a low shot in at the bottom corner.
In a breakaway move in the 87th minute Soane added a fourth goal when he raced clear and coolly slotted past MacLennan.
Clach coach. Brian Mac-Leod said: “They were dominant in the first half – I don’t think we caused them many problems. We made a change of shape and personnel at half-time and it gave us a much needed spark. At 2-1 we were right back in it. I was fairly confident we would get a second but they hit us on the break for the third one and it killed the game.”