Cove Rangers 6, Shetland 2
By JOHN INNES
IT WAS a game Shetland had been eagerly awaiting since defeating Fort William in round one but despite having a vociferous following down on the ferry and already on the mainland, it was to be a nightmare afternoon.
Highland League champions Cove Rangers hit top form on their tight home surroundings to advance to a semi-final with Deveronvale at Banff.
Shetland manager John Johnson had no complaints about the outcome: “They were quite relentless and we wondered when this game was going to settle down. They just kept going at us.
“We got it back with two goals to make it 3-2 to them at one stage. I didn’t feel we deserved it at that point the way the game was going but we were back in the game.
“I felt we had a good shout for a penalty which could have brought it back to 3-3. But we made too many mistakes. Their passing moves and their crossing was exceptional.
“We have not been used to playing a team of that quality and with so many important league games on in the week leading up to the game, I didn’t feel we got a proper chance to prepare for what was coming at us. We certainly know we have to work hard on defending at set pieces.”
The match went against Shetland when in only the fifth minute former Scottish semi-pro winger Barrie Stephen’s in-swinging corner from the left was met at the back post by Robbie Henderson. In an unmarked position, he headed the ball downward into the net.
The visitors were yet to settle and seconds later Jamie Watt almost doubled the score with a low thunderbolt, but Craig Dinwoodie palmed the ball away to his left for defenders to sweep up.
It was 2-0 with 18 minutes gone when, following a corner on the right, the ball came out to Martin Johnston on the edge of the box. The experienced former Scottish League forward planted a 16-yard chip on the turn into the keeper’s left corner.
Jamie Watt made it it three after Dinwoodie spilled a cross from the right played at pace, last year’s Highland top scorer rolling home.
Back came the visitors with a corner on the right, knocked on from the edge of the box. Karl Williamson got the final touch to score, with vain attempts to clear the ball off the line.
It was game on in the 37th minute after a clumsy challenge by substitute Kenny McKenzie on Ross McDougall. Referee Morag Pirie rightly pointed to the spot and James Johnston did his usual immaculate job of sending a keeper the wrong way.
Any hopes of a dramatic turnaround were foiled on the hour. Kevin Webster, out on the left, flighted in quick dipping chip that left the Shetland number one picking the ball out of his net. It was the type of goal home wingers are used to scoring but the Delting custodian was definitely taken aback.
The Cove tally became five when Murray McCulloch’s throw-in was touched on and Martin Johnston got his second with a glancing header.
Goal number six was to be the icing on the cake. Ex-Elgin City midfielder David Smith showed great inventiveness after coming on as a second half substitute and powered home a header from a Webster corner.
Shetland skipper Merv Jamieson was bitterly disappointed not to be leading a winning line-up, especially with such vocal backing from the sidelines.
“We thank everyone who turned up to cheer us on and we look forward to the next time we get the chance to play the top Highland League teams.
“We came here with high expectations but we didn’t do ourselves justice. It is a tight ground compared to the open surroundings we enjoyed at Fort William. A far quicker game as well but the important thing is we’ll pick ourselves up. We were well briefed by Leighton Flaws in what it would be like but we were really disappointed with the way we conceded the goals.”
For boss Johnson, it was hard to think about looking forward but that’s exactly what he did less than half an hour after the final whistle.
“We have the island games to think about next year once we have played the game against the Western Isles. But I’d sincerely hope we’d be back in this competition next year because this is a step up in class.
Financially it will be tough to consider playing in both events but I’d personally like to see us back in the Challenge Cup in 2009.”
Cove Rangers: Windrum, McCulloch, Cruickshank, Bain, Livingstone, Tindal (K. McKenzie 18), Webster, M. Johnston, Watt, Henderson (Smith 46), Stephen (Reid 60). Not used: O’Driscoll, S. Mackenzie.
Shetland: Dinwoodie, Flaws, Moncrieff, M. Jamieson, Arthur, Williamson (Teale 71), Kay (Mann 71), J. Johnston, McDougall (Leask 71), Duncan, R. Jamieson. Not used: Morrison, Grant.