STEVEN Ross hit a hat-trick as Brora Rangers booked their place in the second round of the North of Scotland Cup with a thumping 9-0 victory over St Duthus at the Links.
It was not all plain sailing for the Highland League side, however. On a very tight pitch reduced in width for the game, Brora found it difficult to break down a packed Saints’ defence.
Andrew Greig did get a shot away in the 11th minute but Saints’ trialist goalkeeper Connor Hall made a fine save at his near post.
The home side felt they had a strong claim for a penalty eight minutes later when Will Ross appeared to be fouled in the box, but referee Stephen McDade saw things differently and booked the Saints player for simulation.
Saints threatened again a couple of minutes later when Jamie Skinner cut inside but his attempt at goal was easily saved by Brora keeper William Counsell, making his full first team debut.
Brora opened the scoring in the 26th minute when a Zander Sutherland delivery was knocked on by Steven Ross and Kyle MacLeod was left with the simple tap-in at the back post.
MacLeod almost doubled the lead a couple of minutes later but his close range header was brilliantly saved by Hall.
Saints had their trialist keeper to thank for keeping the score line down to a single goal at the break after further top class saves from Steven Ross and Greig.
Brora came flying out of the traps at the start of the second half and Hall had to deal with efforts from Greig and Sutherland which he somehow kept out. Jamie Duff then had a header cleared off the goal-line following a corner kick. But the ceiling collapsed on Saints as Brora rattled in four goals in a frantic six-minute spell.
Greig made it 2-0 in the 50th minute when he dinked past his marker and drilled a low drive into the far corner of the net.
Steven Ross scored from close in a couple of minutes later, then Greig netted again with another grounder which beat Hall at his near post.
The goals kept coming and Ross added his second of the tie with a clinical finish from inside the box.
Scott Graham got in on the act in the 74th minute when he knocked in a pass from fellow sub Craig Campbell at the back post.
It was 7-0 three minutes later when Saints’ skipper John Skinner turned a Greig shot into his own net.
Saints had a rare sight at goal a couple of minutes later but Will Ross was unlucky with his shot which clipped the outside of the post.
Sutherland and Campbell were then denied by the woodwork as Brora went in search of more goals.
Two goals in the final couple of minutes rounded off the scoring.
Sutherland finally got on the score-sheet in the 88th minute with a typically opportunist strike and Ross completed his hat-trick seconds later when he tucked away a Greig cut back.
Brora centre back Colin Williamson was taken to hospital with concussion after a late clash of heads, but was released later that evening.
Brora will now play the winners of the first round tie between Strathspey Thistle and Nairn County.
Brora manager, Ross Tokely admitted it took time for his side to get going.
He said: "They made it difficult for us in the first half; we weren’t doing the basics. We had a wee chat at half-time and it was miles better in the second half. We scored some good goals, and kept another clean sheet, which was pleasing. All credit to St Duthus for implementing their game plan so well. They are having a great season and we all wish them well."
Brora Rangers: Counsell, Pickles, Williamson, Duff, Morrison, S Lisle, J Ross, MacLeod, Sutherland, Greig, S Ross. Subs: MacDonald, Gillespie, Campbell, MacLean, Graham.