Invergordon kept a grip of the Football Times Cup as they edged out Inverness Athletic 3-2 in the final at Golspie on Saturday.
Last season’s North Caledonian League runners-up won three trophies last term, so went into the showdown at King George V Park as the strong favourites.
They actually lost 2-0 to Loch Ness in an earlier round, but were reinstated when the Fortrose club were expelled after being charged with playing an ineligible player.
Athletic, meanwhile, knocked out Thurso and Bonar Bridge to get to the final.
Goals on 31 and 38 minutes from Jordan Knight and Kyle Maclean gave Invergordon a 2-0 interval advantage in the showpiece.
Brodie Watson kept his fine scoring run going to haul Inverness into the match five minutes into the second half, but Ryan McFee’s goal on 81 minutes put Invergordon on the brink.
Athletic netted a second through Dominic Macaulay in stoppage-time, but it came too late for them to find a leveller.
Invergordon’s triumph adds to the unbeaten start to their league campaign.
Was not to be for the lads today. Absolutely gutted for them after that second half performance.
Congratulations to Invergordon on tbe cup win.
Match report to follow…. pic.twitter.com/IMJrwd7mHj
— Inverness Athletic Football Club (@InvernessAthFC) October 28, 2023
Fightback sees Fort William go top
There was plenty of drama in the North Caledonian League on Saturday as Fort William moved ahead of Invergordon to top the table on goal difference.
Yet they were given an almighty fright as they had to come from 2-0 down against Clachnacuddin reserves to win 3-2 at Inverness Royal Academy.
Aidan Mackinnon’s goal had the young Lilywhites ahead at half-time, and Ryan Walker’s penalty on the hour mark made it 2-0.
However, Fort dug deep and goals from Juan Cardona, Andrew Mclean and Davie Neil earned the Lochaber team full points.
Andrew McLean scored the equaliser with Davie Neil grabbing the late winner! https://t.co/5QAOV9LdZU
— Fort William FC (@FortWilliamFC) October 28, 2023
Invergordon have two games in hand.
Loch Ness draw, Halkirk win again
Elsewhere, defending champions Loch Ness needed a last-gasp goal from Allan MacPhee to salvage a 3-3 draw at Alness United.
Loch Ness were looking good with Sam Urquhart and Conor Macphee first half goals pushing them 2-0 ahead.
However, Alness, who thumped St Duthus 5-1 in midweek, pulled it back to 2-1 through Joel Burnett before half-time.
Luke Mackay then levelled early in the second half, before Burnett netted a second to shoot Alness 3-2 ahead.
A shock looked on the cards before MacPhee equalised on 90 minutes.
Loch Ness, who were deducted three points this season for the aforementioned ineligible player wrangle, are two points off the top.
Full time Halkirk 6-1 Orkney.
— Halkirk United FC (@HalkirkUnitedFC) October 28, 2023
Elsewhere, Halkirk United are firmly in title contention as their 6-1 rout of Orkney has them just one point behind Fort and Invergordon, with five wins out of six so far.
A 3-0 interval lead put Golspie Sutherland on course for their 4-3 victory away to Thurso in what was a battle of the bottom two, while St Duthus were 3-0 winners at Bonar Bridge, who Golspie have now climbed above.
This coming Saturday, Fort William travel to Alness, Invergordon host Clach, Halkirk United go to Golspie, and Loch Ness are home to Bonar Bridge.
FULL-TIME SCORES IN THE NORTH CALEDONIAN LEAGUE / FT CUP FINAL
Halkirk 6 v Orkney 1
Clach 'A' 2 v Fort William 3 (IRA 1.30)
Thurso 3 v Golspie 4
Alness 3 v Loch Ness 3
Invergordon 3 v Inverness 2 (FTCF)
Bonar 0 v St.Duthus 3#NCFA #NorthCaley pic.twitter.com/lj7gC1o2dn
— North Caledonian FA (@NorthCaleyFA) October 28, 2023