The top three sides in the North Caledonian League posted weekend wins – with Loch Ness staying out in front after beating Bonar Bridge 4-0.
In a game played at Dalmore Park in Alness, the defending champions grasped control with goals from Allan MacPhee and Chris Innes on 30 and 35 minutes.
The Migdale team worked hard to compete and held out again until 74 minutes when Stephen Rennie made it three just before Calum Neil wrapped up the result.
Five wins on the spin for Shane Carling’s unbeaten side leaves them three points ahead of Invergordon, albeit they have played two matches more.
Loch Ness were hit by a three-point punishment earlier in the season due to a player registration issue.
Bonar have not won since defeating Alness United 1-0 in early September, leading to them sitting just above rock-bottom Thurso.
⚫️ RESULT ⚫️
A great commanding performance from the boys today. All the best to @bonar_fc for the rest of the season. 🤝
More info 👇
— Loch Ness Football Club (@LochNessFC) December 9, 2023
Invergordon post narrow home win
Invergordon are also unbeaten as they ran out 2-1 home victors against Orkney.
This season’s Football Times Cup winners, and last season’s league runners-up, got off to a flying start against the islanders as Ryan McFee scored in the first minute.
Kenneth Morrison netted the hosts’ second goal five minutes before half-time, but Jason Scott’s response for Orkney with 20 minutes left set up a tense finish.
However, it’s victory number eight for Gary Campbell’s in-form aces who remain firmly in contention, especially with those two games in hand.
Orkney, who are seventh in the table, will aim to shrug off this latest narrow loss as they target improvement in the second half of the season under bos Charlie Alway.
Halkirk go seven-up to beat Clach ‘A’
Also looking every inch like potential champions for 2023/24 is Halkirk following their 7-1 rout of Clachnacuddin reserves at Inverness Royal Academy.
A stunning first half saw the Anglers roar to a 6-0 interval advantage thanks to four goals from Jonah Martens and one apiece from Aaron Wilson and Mark Munro.
Munro took the tally to seven on 64 minutes just prior to Aiden Davidson’s sole reply from the young Lilywhites, who are eighth in the division.
Third-placed Halkirk, who have just lost once this term, sit four points off top spot, with two fixtures in hand over leaders Loch Ness.
Full time in Inverness. Goals from Jonah Martens (4) mark Munro (2) and Aaron Wilson give the Anglers a 7-1 victory at Inverness Royal Academy.
— Halkirk United FC (@HalkirkUnitedFC) December 9, 2023
Late goals drama as Golspie net win
Recently-appointed Golspie Sutherland manager Andrew Banks, back for his second spell, made it three win from three as his team ran out 4-2 winners at home to Inverness Athletic.
A goal from Golspie’s Martin Banks just before half-time split the sides and it took until the final 20 minutes for the scorelines to rack up.
Robbie Murray’s penalty on 70 minutes and a goal from Alexander Mackay 10 minutes later made it 3-0 and it seemed as if it was job done.
However, a brace from Dominic Macaulay, including a penalty, hauled Athletic into the game with still five minutes remaining.
Golspie grabbed a fourth goal through Austin Keith late on to kill off Inverness, who remain ninth in the table.
Golspie are still sixth, but with games in hand on many teams above them.
MAN OF THE MATCH #NorthCaley
Today’s committee man of the match was a unanimous choice after an outstanding performance, capped off by netting the winning goal – Thomas Lewis. pic.twitter.com/Qbt4oVNcDC
— St Duthus Football Club (@StDuthusFC) December 9, 2023
Tain Saints dig deep for 2-1 victory
St Duthus are in fifth place thanks to their 2-1 home comeback victory against local opponents Alness United.
Alness, who are 10th, opened the scoring thanks to a goal from Euan Henderson late in the first half.
An away win would have seen United move up several places, but John Maclellan’s 70th minute equaliser was followed by a late Saints clincher from Thomas Lewis as they moved to within three points of Fort William, but have played two games more.
Fort’s home fixture against Thurso was postponed on Friday due to a burst water pipe in the Claggan Park changing rooms.
A big thank you to Highlife Highland and Highland Council for their quick response and ongoing work to make sure the changing/showering facilities are available for next week https://t.co/0epSqpsMWG
— Fort William FC (@FortWilliamFC) December 8, 2023
Sides seek to end year on high notes
This coming Saturday sees the final round of matches before the mini winter break, which includes Loch Ness hosting Thurso and Invegordon home to Bonar Bridge.
Teams will then return to action on January 6, with pick of the bunch being Loch Ness v Halkirk United.
FULL-TIME SCORES IN THE NORTH CALEDONIAN LEAGUE
Invergordon 2 v Orkney 1 (1.30)
Clach 'A' 1 v Halkirk 7 (IRA 1.30)
Golspie 4 v Inverness 2
St.Duthus 2 v Alness 1
Bonar Bridge 0 v Loch Ness 4 (Alness 12.00)#NCFA #NorthCaley pic.twitter.com/cFDBjxZMZA
— North Caledonian FA (@NorthCaleyFA) December 9, 2023