Invergordon kept their cool in the last-chance saloon to defeat Orkney 1-0 to win the North Caledonian League title on Saturday.
The high-pressure clash at the Recreation Ground offered the hosts a second chance to become the top NCL team just a week after losing 3-1 to Halkirk United, a game where a win would have sealed the championship.
Gary Campbell’s team expected a close contest against an in-form Orkney side, who only dipped out of contention in the past two weeks.
And the goal which made all the difference came on the stroke of half-time when Jordan Laidlaw netted from the spot for a 1-0 victory.
— North Caledonian FA (@NorthCaleyFA) April 2, 2022
Invergordon, whose last league success was in 2017, will take great satisfaction from this triumph, having been the front-runners in the last two years before Covid brought play to an end and denied them the chance of silverware.
Chase still on for second spot
It has been a terrific campaign in the 11-club division and newcomers last year Loch Ness gave it a real shot and still have a chance to finish as runners-up.
Halkirk United, who are their visitors to Fortrose this Saturday, could beat them to second position, should they avoid defeat and then beat Alness United in their final match on April 16.
Also in the league on Saturday, goals from Marc Macgregor and James Murray earned Thurso their second win of the week as they defeated Alness United 2-0.
In midweek, they beat last year’s champions Golspie Sutherland by the same scoreline and they have moved to seventh spot with two games remaining after being bottom a week ago.
Alness are now 10th, only kept off the foot of the table by Bonar Bridge’s inferior goal difference.
This week’s league fixtures are – Wednesday: Bonar Bridge v Thurso (8pm); Saturday: Orkney v St Duthus (12.45pm), Loch Ness v Halkirk (2pm), Thurso v Inverness Athletic (2pm).
Tain Saints lift North Caledonian Cup
Celebrations were also in full swing at the weekend for St Duthus, who beat Halkirk United 1-0 in the North Caledonian Cup final at Dudgeon Park, Brora.
These two teams, whose league form in the second half of the season suggests a title push next year, were so well-matched ahead of this showdown and it was no surprise it was another close meeting.
Finn As-Chainey, who bagged a hat-trick last week in a stirring 3-0 league win against Loch Ness, grabbed the only goal of the final just after the interval.
Alan Geegan’s Saints will make the league trip to Orkney on Saturday with a chance to pip their hosts to fifth place if they win.
Halkirk, who lost the Football Times Cup final on penalties against Thurso in November, will now aim to finish with a flourish and secure second spot in the league.
Meanwhile, Loch Ness midfielder Mark McKernie has been confirmed as the new manager of Golspie Sutherland.
Sam Mackay stepped down as Golspie’s boss after Tuesday’s defeat against Thurso and the club moved swiftly to make the former Brora under-20s coach their next boss as they set their sights on a fresh title push next season.