Bristow’s troops in five-goal thriller
Two penalties, a hat trick and a stunning comeback were on the menu as the Shetland footballers tasted victory over Hitra in the island games.
Bristow’s men in blue started the game brightly, with the Shetland players battling hard and pressing in the early stages.
Within the opening minutes the blues had a goal disallowed. A menacing free kick from the left was headed into the net by Erik Thomson, only to be ruled out by the referee for offside.
Hitra looked shaky and the Norwegian players were jumping into tackles and trying to win back possession.
The Shetland rearguard seemed solid, with some neat passes from defence.
But the nippy Hitra forwards were beginning to push for an opener and starting to cause Shetland problems.
On 15 minutes the Norwegian number nine latched onto a through ball, but his weak shot did little to test Erik Peterson in the Shetland goal.
Shetland were comfortable in possession and Leighton Flaws was threading some crisp passes out to the wings.
But it was Hitra who struck first on 18 minutes, against the run of play, picking up the ball in the box and dinking a shot over Peterson.
Hitra went on the offensive and on 25 minutes they were rewarded with a corner, as their more direct style of football was paying off.
But the blues defended stoutly and after a quick water break and a chance to regroup, were soon level.
Thomson, who had been grafting away up front, was felled in the box and the referee blew for a penalty.
Flaws stepped up and hit the ball hard and low past the keeper’s right, cancelling out the deficit.
Moments later an onrushing Peterson bravely dived at the feet of the Hitra striker to keep Shetland in the game.
Both players seemed to take quite a knock in the collision but the pair soldiered on, with Peterson back on his feet bellowing instructions and encouragement to his defenders.
Hitra pushed for a second and came agonisingly close before the break, cracking a shot against the crossbar from distance.
Another attempt went wide after a bursting run through the Shetland defence.
But it remained all square at the end of the half.
Bristow changed things round at half time taking off Joel Bradley for James Johnston and pushing Flaws into defence.
The tactical move proved decisive as Johnston brought plenty of drive in midfield and Flaws was still able to pick out the passes.
The Shetland boss later brought on Calvin Leask for Robert Smith and Jo Kay for Connor Regan to freshen things up.
It was a cagey opening to the second 45, though Shetland were able to settle and start linking passes together.
But on 65 minutes the blues lost possession in the middle of the park and Hitra hit on the break. Peterson stayed strong, saving at his feet to avert the danger.
On 75 minutes Leask flashed the ball wide as Shetland looked more likely to get the winner.
Hitra looked hungry too and Peterson parried a stinging shot over the bar.
Thomson was again causing problems for Hitra and won a free kick for Shetland at the edge of the box on 78 minutes.
Up stepped Flaws to curl the ball beautifully past the keeper’s right to make it 2-1 to Shetland.
The boys carried the momentum forward as the clock ticked on and at 83 minutes their endeavours were matched with a penalty.
This time Shane Jamieson was brought down in the box.
Flaws stepped up for his hat trick and coolly converted from the spot.
Minutes later it was 4-1, as Thomson chased down a clearance from the Hitra keeper to see the ball rebound against his legs and into the Hitra net.
An ecstatic Thomson rushed to the Shetland supporters to kiss the Shetland flag.
It was an impressive comeback from the blues as they comfortably saw out the rest of the game.
Bristow was delighted with the result.
He said: “It was one of those chances that we took which could’ve backfired, we took off two defenders and put on two of our midfield players.
“We just felt they way they played, they got back so quick and so deeply that we ended up having three men in and around one guy.
“It was a tactical reason to take off an out and out centre back and allow Leighton to go back in there and James was really influential when he came on.
“They were still dangerous in the second half but boy did we control it.
“I just thought we grew and grew as the game went on and Erik Thomson was immense.”
Bristow felt very positive going into today’s game against the Falklands.
“The big challenge now is to see how fresh everybody is and how much more we can get out of some key,key players.”