Locos got their season off to a winning start with a strong performance in Inverness. However, an injury to Nathan Meres, that delayed the game by half an hour after he was caught by a boot in the face, took some of the gloss off the result.
Perhaps inevitably, the game was a little fractured after restarting but Locos were able to extend the lead that their play to that point had fully merited, before the hosts netted late on. There was a definite new season buzz around before kick off at Grant Street Park as both teams had summer signings on display. Richie Hastings handed competitive debuts to Garry Wood and Logan Johnstone, while fellow new boy Fergus Alberts was on the bench. It was Locos who started brightest, Jay Halliday latching onto a forward ball just inside the area before hitting a shot that was comfortably dealt with by Martin Mackinnon in the home goal. Calum Dingwall was next to try his luck but his effort was well blocked.
The Railwaymen continued to press and Wood was the length of his studs away from Lloyd Robertson’s low cross after excellent work down the the right flank. The hosts then had their first effort of the game, Shaun Sutherland’s well hit shot was not far over the bar but was probably too far out to trouble Andy Reid anyway.
The breakthrough came midway through the first half. Johnstone was fouled25 yards from goal towards the left touchline. Up stepped Dingwall to fire the free kick into the top corner.
After Paul Brindle – returning to Clachnacuddin from Forres Mechanics in the close season – had headed wide, Halliday got on the end of a good flick by Wood but could only lift his shot over the bar. Locos were looking dangerous and they doubled their lead from another free kick. This one was too far from goal for a shot but Dingwall’s delivery wasn’t held by Mackinnon. Johnstone picked up the loose ball a teed up Robertson who finished calmly from 20 yards out. With ten minutes to half time, Locos were in a commanding position.
The second half started much as the first had ended, with Locos the more threatening team without creating many clear chances. Halliday headed goalwards but couldn’t generate enough power to trouble Mackinnon before Brindle showed good skill to create a bit of space for himself but snatched at his shot and could only put it over the crossbar.
Then came the injury to Meres. As he got his head to the ball down the right wing, he took a boot in the face and those around him were immediately concerned. The rain began to fall as he received treatment and both teams tried to keep warm. He was eventually stretchered off to warm applause with Alberts coming on in his place.
Five minutes after play got back underway, Locos came incredibly close to adding to their goal tally. A corner was cleared to newly appointed club captain Greg Mitchell who struck a powerful shot that crashed into the underside of the bar. As the ball then bounced around in the box, Wood flicked it over Mackinnon only to see that too to come back off the crossbar.
Alberts then had a chance to open his account but his shot was well smothered at point blank range. The third goal did come though. Robertson again got himself into a good position on the right and delivered into the box where Robert Ward hit a first time shot into the ground that looped over the keeper in.
With a little under 10 minutes remaining, the home side pulled a goal back. Locos couldn’t clear a corner from the right and, although Reid got down well to save one shot, Donald Morrison was on hand to slot home. That goal gave Clach a boost as they went in search of more but despite a big appeals for a penalty in the dying moments, they were unable to threaten Reid.
This was a good opening game for Locos, who dominated for large parts but Hastings will no doubt be disappointed by the nature of the goal conceded. Thoughts at the end of the game were for Nathan Meres with all hoping for a speedy recovery.