Shetland’s under-18 football squad played two games down south at the weekend, drawing with Deveronvale and going down to a narrow defeat against Cove Rangers.
Deveronvale 1, Shetland 1
In the first game of the Easter tour, the squad travelled to Banff for a game against Deveronvale. After a winter training on astroturf in Brae and Whalsay, this was a first outing on grass. The Deveronvale team were at the end of their season so it was likely to be a stiff test for the visitors. However conditions were excellent, with sunshine and no wind allowing both teams to play open football.
The early play was fairly even, Deveronvale just shading possession, but with Shetland looking dangerous on the break. Sean Maver and Connor Regan both had good breaks and came close to opening the score. For the home side their left sided attacker was causing problems and it was from this area that the first goal came. A slip in the Shetland defence allowed him to create the opening for Vale to open the scoring.
The Shetland boys took this in their stride and started to put Deveronvale under more pressure. Just before half time, following a period of sustained attack, Shetland forced a corner on the right. From the corner Sean Maver struck a fierce volley which was heading towards the goal. Daniel Johnston added a touch to beat the keeper. Both boys claimed the goal and it is fair to say it was a joint effort. The teams went into the break level.
The second half continued in the same vein with Shetland looking very dangerous against a Deveronvale defence which pushed very high up the park. The home side were also able to keep the ball successfully on the slightly bumpy surface, but as the game went on Shetland were settled very well and played attractive football. The Shetland defence after the initial slip were very assured and Kyle Duncan who replaced Grant Wood at half time was rarely tested.
Towards the end of the game it was only last ditch tackling by the Deveronale defence which stopped Shetland from getting the winner. In fact on one occasion Lewis King, breaking from full back, was clear on goal and was pulled back illegally. Given the match had been played in a friendly spirit up to then the referee decided to let the defender off with a warning. At the end of time both teams settled for a draw.
This had been exactly the level of game Shetland had been looking for, against a good Deveronvale team. Many thanks to the Banff side for their help and hospitality.
Shetland team: Grant Wood, (Kyle Duncan), Lewis King, (Calvin Leask), Robert Smith, Stuart Goodlad, Tom Moncrieff, Connor Regan, Allan Johnston, David Thomson, Stuart Lavender, (James Aitken), Daniel Johnston, Sean Maver, (Khalid Rasul).
Cove Rangers 3, Shetland 2
After Saturday’s fixture against Inverurie had to be called off, Shetland took the field on Sunday against Cove Rangers on the new astroturf park at Garthdee. These teams met last year at the Aberdeen Football festival, Cove winning 2-1 on that occasion with an injury time winner. The Shetland boys were keen to reverse that result.
It was another sunny day with a number of Shetland supporters providing an exciting atmosphere at the start of the game. The new generation astro pitch enabled both teams to play controlled attacking football.
Shetland started the game in a similar way to the end of the last match. They were very solid in defence and the pace up front and out wide causing all manner of problems for the Cove defence. However the team’s inability to score and convert their pressure, which has been a consistent problem in the past, came back to haunt them.
Chance after chance came and went with the Shetland bench pulling out what little hair they had left between them. Failing to score when you have pressure leads to one thing and sure enough the first mistake by a Shetland defender, not clearing the ball, led to a goal by the home side. A ball in to the striker with a hint of off-side and the ball was in the net.
Going in one down at half time was not justice for the team’s effort and performance in the first half, but it was a lesson for the Shetland boys. This squad has been together now for six years and they have the ability to pull together and that is what they did in the second half. Again pressure on the Cove defence was creating openings but no goals. Just as grannies were about to be placed on eBay, a cross from the right fell to Khalid Rasul, who found himself unmarked in the middle and managed to calmly tuck the ball under the on-coming keeper.
This spurred the Shetland team on and as Cove stood claiming for a foul Stuart Lavender quickly played on and once again found Rasul in the middle and this time he fired powerfully into the top of the net.
The game only had five minutes to go and the Shetland defence excellently marshalled by Stuart Goodlad looked under no pressure, when a speculative cross somehow found itself in the back of the Shetland net. As if this wasn’t bad enough with just minutes left Cove with new confidence won the ball at the edge of the area and placed an unstoppable shot past Kyle Duncan in the Shetland goal.
So for the second time in a row Cove Rangers won the game in the last minutes and this made it really hard to swallow for the Shetland team. They must look however to all the missed chances early on when the game could have been sown up. The aim was to learn and test the team on the tour by getting good level competition and in that respect it was highly successful. The squad did Shetland proud both on and off the field of play, this is a very skilful unit with some excellent prospects for the future of Shetland football.
Shetland team: Grant Wood, (Kyle Duncan), Lewis King, (Calvin Leask), Robert Smith, (Khalid Rasul), Stuart Goodlad, Tom Moncrieff, Connor Regan, Allan Johnston, David Thomson, James Aitken, Daniel Johnston, (Stuart Lavender), Sean Maver.
The Shetland coaches and squad would like to thank Robert Smith of Brudolff Hotels Group and Star Rent a car for their assistance on this trip. Also Deveronvale and Cove Rangers for the games and hospitality and Graham Sutherland, SFA Regional Coach, for his help in setting up the tour.