Forres Thistle 0 Rothie Rovers 1: Late heartbreak as Jags miss out on title
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FORRES Thistle missed out on winning the North Region Juniors Division Two title in heartbreaking fashion on Saturday.
The Jags went into the final game of the season with a two-point advantage over Rothie Rovers but, with Rothie having a game in hand, needed a win to secure the title.
A draw would have left Rothie needing to beat Burghead Thistle on the last day while Forres watched on.
With the game locked at 0-0, Thistle threw everything forward late on and were sucker-punched when Rovers striker Ewan Clark raced through to slot home the winner in the 93rd minute.
Manager Tony Ross said: "We threw everything at it towards the end and got caught out.
"It was all or nothing from our point of view – we had to go for it and try to win it on the day, we weren't going to rely on Burghead doing us a favour.
"Our changing room was a sombre place post-match but the guys have to remember the run they've been on since October. The fact we had a chance of winning the league is incredible.
"Congratulations to Rothie because it was a great title race. They were deserved winners but to take it to almost the last kick of the last game so shows how close it was."
The match was a nervous affair with few chances at either end. Thistle took the game by the scruff of the neck late on but struggled to create clear-cut opportunities.
Sean McIntosh's blatant 'Hand of God' goal on 75 minutes saw him pick up a yellow card, before Rothie – who seemed content with a goalless draw – were reduced to 10 men with five minutes to play.
But the visitors raced through in the 93rd minute to win the game thanks to Ewan Clark's tidy finish.
There was almost time for Thistle to equalise but Gregor Ewan's header came back off the post in the 95th minute.
A second place finish represents a good season for the Jags, who finished in the promotion places.
However, a league restructuring means they will be joined in a new-look 18-team Division One by all the teams they finished above this campaign in Division Two.
Having been denied promotion when coronavirus hit and the campaign was declared null and void, the decision to change the league set-up was hard to take for Tony Ross – who confirmed Thistle voted against it.
"We've been hard done by twice now," Ross said. "And I'm not the only person who has said that.
"It was also a disgrace from the league committee to publicise this before the league finished. It took the shine off the big game on Saturday.
"I feel like a lot of hard work has gone into nothing, we haven't got the reward for a great season. Promotion would have been fantastic but we haven't even got that.
"We're going to be in the same league as the likes of New Elgin and Whitehills, who finished at the bottom of our division."
On the restructure itself, he added: "We wanted to keep it the same. I'm not sure how they are going to squeeze 34 league matches in – it's going to be a headache in winter."
Thistle still have hopes of winning a trophy – but will need a favour from other sides if they are to reach the Elginshire Cup final, which will be held at Logie Park on May 15.