Footballers ready for cup clash with league leaders Halkirk
The Shetland football team begins its defence of the Jock Mackay Memorial Cup on Saturday in a quarter-final clash against current North Caledonian League leaders Halkirk.
The squad members are hoping this weekend will prove fourth time lucky as the fixture has already been postponed three times due to the weather and resultant travel disruptions.
New Shetland managers John Scott Christie and Allan Graham are taking down a 15-man squad for what will be their first competitive outing since their appointment last summer.
Despite the disrupted start to his Shetland managerial career, Christie remains in an upbeat mood ahead of the fixture.
He said: “It’s been challenging but very enjoyable. The pitfalls of playing in competitions on the mainland over the winter months are there for all to see but the team needs competitive matches to develop, along with all the other aspects of trying to progress the team.”
Christie also expressed his gratitude to his background staff who have provided great support over the last few months.
“Kevin Main has been a huge asset and has no problems telling us how it is. We are also delighted to have [physios] Ian Manning and Geoffrey Hay on board.”
The managers have admitted that they are not all that familiar with tomorrow’s opponents. However, they have been busy gathering information on their strengths and weaknesses.
“There was only one goal in the match last time the teams played but that was a friendly which can be notoriously hard to judge,” Christie said.
Halkirk are perched top of the league after six wins in eight matches this season and will prove testing opponents for Shetland.
It is a relatively familiar-looking squad with only a couple of players in line to make their first appearances for the senior team.
Thistle goalkeeper Saul Swanson and John Allan of Scalloway are both looking for their debuts while Spurs duo Paul Molloy and Sam Ward and James Farmer of Ness return to the squad.
Several of the regulars over the past couple of years are unavailable for selection. Captain Leighton Flaws, Celtic pair Finn Watt and Jordan Thomson, Ness goalkeeper Erik Peterson and Whalsay striker David Murray all miss out.
But despite the absentees the managers remain confident that the travelling squad has enough quality to progress to the next round.
The players will travel to Orkney tomorrow night and through to Halkirk on Saturday morning for the afternoon fixture before heading straight home on the Saturday night boat.
The squad again thanked their primary sponsor NorthLink Ferries for the continued support in fulfilling fixtures on the mainland.
Squad: Iain Devonald (Delting), Saul Swanson (Thistle); Robert Smith (Celtic), Josie Kay (Spurs), Joel Bradley (Celtic), Shane Jamieson (Celtic, captain), Richard Arthur (Whalsay); James Farmer (Ness), James Aitken (Celtic), Calvin Leask (Thistle), Connor Regan (Celtic), John Allan (Scalloway); Greg Tulloch (Whitedale), Sam Ward (Spurs) and Paul Molloy (Spurs).