<b>Orkney 4, Shetland 0</b>
LAST Saturday at the Pickaquoy artificial hockey pitch the Shetland squad prepared themselves for a dogged battle against the auld enemy.
Orkney, who recently made it to the Scottish District Cup Semi-final, looked well organised and up for the challenge.
Playing for the Lady Hamilton Cup in the 76th senior inter-county match, the umpires Richard and David Wallis got the match underway promptly at 2pm in glorious conditions with temperatures of 22°C.
Shetland took the pass back and moved the ball wide, enjoying some early possession.
The Orkney team appeared a little surprised by the early Shetland challenge. However Shetland were unable to capitalise and Orkney soon began to press forward and work their way into the Shetland danger areas.
Orkney were awarded their first penalty corner in the 10th minute. This was worked well but the initial shot was high over the backboard, which was deemed illegal. Orkney continued to pressure the Shetland hit-outs, making it difficult for the defence to link with their midfielders.
Shetland then had a good run through the Orkney midfield – the ball was crossed releasing Shetland’s Zoe Irvine whose shot went over the bar. Orkney retaliated quickly and drove the ball deep into the Shetland defence. They were rewarded with a second penalty corner for a dubious foul. A great save from Shetland goalie Toni Sidgewick denied the initial Orkney shot but her defence failed to deal with the rebound which found Orkney’s Vicki Copland, who calmly slotted the ball home to make it 1-0 to Orkney.
Orkney were relentless for the next 10 minutes and really peppered the Shetland defence. Despite some valiant defending from Shetland’s Yvonne Manson, who saved a shot at goal with her stick over her head, and her colleagues Ava Sim and Maggie Irvine, it seemed like the second Orkney goal wasn’t far away. A cracking Orkney cross threaded through the players finding Orkney’s most capped player, number 28 Shona Slater, who belted the ball into the goal making it 2-0 to the home team.
Shetland coped well with the two quick goals and the midfield of Stacey Laurenson, Brenda Leask, Jillian Copeland and Sarah Grogan showed grit and determination. Shetland were making inroads into the Orkney defence. Players were closed down quickly and Shetland were unable to make their infiltration count.
Shetland then made a double substitution – Gayle Johnson on for Maggie Irvine and Kristan Robertson for Stacey Laurenson. Again play moved from end to end giving Shetland encouragement to push forward.
Shetland had a claim for a short corner denied in the 25th minute when the ball appeared to hit an Orkney foot in their defence circle. Gail Donohue replaced the hard working Julie Kirkness in the 28th minute, immediately making life a little tricky for the Orkney defence, with a cross from Kristen Jeromson on the right narrowly missing Orkney’s goal.
Toni Sidgewick made another terrific save from an aerial shot in the 31st minute before umpires halted the first half.
The second half began in much the same fashion as the first with Shetland pressing and linking well. Orkney’s defence – led by Karen Brough – had little trouble dealing with the advancing Shetlanders.
The Shetland team continued to battle hard, but lacked the instinctive and imaginative play in the Orkney circle which could have made all the difference.
A collision between Shetland’s braveheart Yvonne Manson and Orkney’s veteran Shona Slater looked bad initially and Orkney were forced to make a temporary substitution. Shetland made another defensive substitution – one junior replacing another – Rhiannon Inkster taking over from a resilient but bruised Ava Sim who had a terrific first cap performance.
Shetland pushed forward and were rewarded with a penalty corner in the 20th minute. A well rehearsed drill saw Shetland’s Stacey Laurenson smash the ball towards goal, only to be denied by the Orkney goalie Lynn Cursiter.
Orkney retaliated by relentlessly attacking the Shetland goal. Johnson and Sidgewick pulled off another two remarkable saves.
Kirkness was reintroduced for Donohue. In the 30th minute Orkney were awarded a killer blow penalty stroke. A shot at goal was saved on the line by Manson’s foot. Claire Irvine scored a cracker, low and right past Sidgewick’s outstretched pads.
With little time left on the clock Orkney worked another penalty corner. Again Shetland saved the initial shot but failed to clear the ball adequately and Lisa Groundwater leapt on the loose ball, making it a very unflattering scoreline for the visiting team.
Umpire Wallis blew for full time to the delight of the home team and a deflated visiting team.
Eileen Spence presented the hockey Hamilton Cup to Orkney captain Claire Irvine who was very poetic in her acceptance speech. Shetland’s captain Brenda Leask replied, praising her team for their marked improvement despite the scoreline, and the officials and helpers who organised the match.
The Jemima Walterson Cup for player of the match was awarded to Shetland’s athletic and impulsive goalie Toni Sidgewick. The Lesley Fotheringhame Cup for Orkney player of the match was received by Lisa Groundwater, while Shetland’s player of the match, chosen by her team mates, was Zoe Irvine.
A spokeswoman for the Shetland team congratulated Shetland on a spirited fight while acknowledging Orkney’s superior technical skills. Despite the scoreline, an Orkney supporter stated that “the gap was definitely closing”.
The spokeswoman thanked all the people behind the scenes both in Shetland and Orkney who helped organise the fixture. Well done to the five new caps for Shetland – Ava, Rhiannon, Kristen, Zoe and Kristan R. who acquitted themselves very well. With another opportunity to canvas support, the need for a second synthetic pitch in Lerwick was deemed essential for the continued development of Shetland hockey at all levels.