Orkney 1, Shetland 2
HE MAY not have gained any of the individual plaudits, but Craig Dinwoodie was as responsible as anybody for Shetland maintaining a hold, if a slightly loose one, on the Milne Cup last Saturday.
Celtic youngsters Ross Moncrieff and Joe Leask took the acclaim for their early goals in both halves, while James Johnston deservedly picked up the man-of-the-match award, but the big Delting keeper’s diving save in stoppage time to push away Adam Stanger’s netbound shot ensured the closest of victories in the 100th anniversary match for the famous trophy.
Relieved Shetland boss John Johnson, who performed similar heroics between the posts on numerous occasions for both counties, admitted after the encounter at Kirkwall’s Pickaquoy that his side had scraped home against a tough tackling Orkney team who gave their all.
“I was relieved to come away with an exceptionally hard-fought win. Orkney in my opinion were slightly on top in the first half. In the second I thought we controlled most of the play until the last 10 minutes when Orkney threw men forward and were unlucky not to get a late equaliser on three occasions. Thanks to their new coaching team they were well organised, fought like tigers and had some very good footballers, especially Robbie Balfour up front who caused us no end of problems and scored their goal.”
Johnson was absolutely right of course. Orkney had played with a huge amount of heart, fighting to the bitter end, a far cry from some of their fragile performances which had gleaned only one victory in the past 17 years.
Indeed the showing of the men in red, who suffered the handicap of losing a goal in the third minute of each half, was one the late Pat Tully would surely have been proud of. The former coach, who died recently, had received worthy tributes from both Johnson and his Orkney counterpart Andrew Corsie in their respective programme notes.
The match was not one for the purists, but it was a contest which saw no failures in either side, if few stand-outs.
Orkney showed their intent in the second minute when a darting run down the left by Shetland
wing back Moncrieff was halted by a scything challenge by Keith Harcus, which earned the mid-fielder a yellow card from referee Shane Stanger.
The decision was a real blow for the player who had done so well to put the shackles on Shetland’s Johnston for large periods during last year’s game in Lerwick, for he simply could not afford another rash challenge.
Worse was to follow for Orkney as, from two phases of play following the resulting free kick, the visitors took the lead. Moncrieff, who had started with real intent, cut in from the left along the line of the penalty box before angling a shot past a stranded goalkeeper Davie Leonard.
Shortly afterwards Orkney won a free kick of their own on the edge of the Shetland box, but Wayne Monkman’s shot sailed well over the crossbar.
The game had begun at a furious pace, with the Orkney players in particular making their presence felt with some committed chal-lenges in their own half. “They’re trying to boot us off the park,” Johnson roared at referee Stanger from his position in front of the Shetland bench, while his assistant Bruce Crossan more diplomatically queried the situation with the fourth official.
In the 20th minute, a flowing move involving Johnston, Karl Williamson and Leighton Flaws ended with a good low cross by the latter which no-one could connect with.
Back came Orkney and five minutes later a dangerous inswinging corner kick was punched away by Dinwoodie and eventually cleared by Williamson.
Shetland’s Leask was unlucky to lose control when almost through on goal while at the other end Neil MacDonald’s crisp shot was well held by Dinwoodie. Not long after the keeper held a low drive from Steven Miller at the near post.
Orkney were pressing hard now and in the 38th minute they got the equaliser which most neutrals would consider justified, a cross from the left being nicked in past Dinwoodie by the ever-dangerous Robbie Balfour.
Shetland retaliated quickly and won a corner through good work by Johnston. The ball was crossed in, captain Merv Jamieson laid it back and his Delting team mate Ross Jamieson’s cleanly-struck volley fizzed about an inch over the bar.
With half time approaching Orkney put together a well-worked attack down the left side. The ball was cut back and it took a superb block by central defender Richard Arthur to stop a goalbound shot.
When play resumed after the break Shetland got the same result as their efforts early in the first half had produced – a crucial breakthrough. This time Leask was the man who did the damage, taking advantage of an excellent flick on by striking partner Ross MacDougal and managing to evade keeper Leonard before rolling the ball into the net. Some of the home support felt that Leask used a hand during the manoeuvre but referee Stanger appeared to have no doubts about awarding the goal.
On the hour mark Orkney came near to grabbing a second equaliser following a corner. Balfour’s downward header bounced before going inches wide with Moncrieff keeping a close eye on the ball from his position at the far post.
A couple of minutes later Ross Jamieson found Flaws who had made a trademark galloping run down the right flank but the wing back’s first touch was not so good and the ball ran through to the keeper.
Shetland made the first change of personnel in the 62nd minute, Dominic Mann replacing MacDougal who received a pat on the back from his manager with the accompanying words “good shift”. Orkney followed suit with George Keldie and Craig Gillon taking over from Harcus and Miller.
At this stage Shetland gradually seemed to be taking a hold on proceedings, with many feeling that superior fitness could be a telling factor.
But that theory was disproved with Orkney roaring back in the next few minutes, the introduction of experienced Steven Poke adding height and strength to their efforts.
Shetland did have a further chance in the 84th minute, when Flaws’ excellent cross was headed just over by Leask, but by and large the home team were in the ascendancy.
A vicious inswinging corner was well dealt with but the danger was only temporarily cleared and a similar set piece was won as Orkney began to pile on the pressure. This time Monkman’s downward header rebounded up and hit the crossbar before going over.
A minute later Monkman put another glancing header from a floated cross inches past the post and then came Dinwoodie’s moment of brilliance which clinched it for his side.
The Delting keeper was not finished yet though and when he comfortably held on to a well-struck free kick the Orkney players knew it was not going to be their day. The final whistle sounded as Dinwoodie cleared the ball upfield.
The presentations followed immediately with first the Orkney player-of-the-match award going
to striker Balfour. Then followed a lighthearted moment when Orkney’s most capped player, Colin “Paddy” Kirkpatrick, presented the Ian Manson Cup for overall man of the match to Shetland’s Johnston, the recipient gesturing to Kirkpatrick that their respective baldness may have influenced his decision.
It was now time for the main presentation and a delighted Shetland captain Merv Jamieson received the Milne Cup from Russell Croy, who had represented Orkney in 1948. The scoreline on that occasion – 2-1 to Shetland!
Shetland: Craig Dinwoodie; Kevin Teale, Richard Arthur, Merv Jamieson; Leighton Flaws, James Johnston, Karl Williamson, Ross Jamieson, Ross Moncrieff; Joe Leask (Gary Burns), Ross MacDougal (Dominic Mann). Unused: Paul Grant, Jordan Hunter, Scott Morrison, Josie Kay, Duncan Anderson.
Orkney: Davie Leonard; Jon Tait, Kevin Groundwater, Erik Bews; Steven Miller (Craig Gillon), Keith Harcus (George Keldie), Wayne Monkman, Adam Stanger, Chris Simpson; Neil MacDonald (Steven Poke), Robbie Balfour. Unused: Paul Bain, Scott Flett, Colin Risbriger, Duncan Gray, Douglas Omand, James Pickles.
• The squad for the upcoming Fort William game are reminded to attend a training session at Clickimin South on Tuesday (5th August) at 6pm. Anyone who is unavailable for training or the game itself can contact Johnson on 07979 840187 or (01595) 694428.