The Shetland senior county football team will be looking to avenge the 3-1 defeat suffered in Stornoway three years ago when they take on the Western Isles at Gilbertson Park on Friday night.
The fixture, with the BP Challenge Cup at stake, is the first competitive home match since new manager John Jamieson took over the reins at the end of last year.
It will be seen as an ideal start in the build-up towards this summer’s island games in Åland as the opponents finished third in their only two forays into the competition so far.
The game has been rescheduled from last August, when fog at Stornoway Airport prevented the Western Isles team from travelling to Shetland. The first meeting between the two sides in 2006 was marred by travel problems, with the Shetland players only arriving in time to change quickly before kick-off.
The Western Isles, a team which traditionally boasts strength in depth in its line-up, deservedly gained the bronze medal behind Shetland’s memorable home island games triumph of 2005. They followed that up with another bronze in Rhodes two years ago when Shetland, somewhat controversially, decided not to defend their title, apparently because of worries over the heat in the Greek island.
With the draw still to be made for the group stages of the Åland games tonight’s match could be a good chance for both teams to assess potential opponents. With some places still up for grabs it could be an entertaining game with many players eager for a chance to post their claims for the respective squads.
Unfortunately the Shetland team will be somewhat understrength with none of the students, including regulars Ross Moncrieff and Alan Duncan, available. Stuart Hay is still out with injury and will likely be joined on the casualty list by fellow Delting stalwart Ross Jamieson, while Steven Umphray, who played in the historic 2005 games triumph and has only just returned to the squad, will be unavailable.
Manager Jamieson said: “We don’t know very much about football in the Western Isles, mainly due to the distance and logistics which restricts travel and communication. I saw them playing twice [at the island games in 2005] and they were a solid team, and I was happy Shetland were able to avoid them.
“Both island groups are now busy training and preparing for the Åland games in June and this fixture will be used to gauge how players are progressing in fitness and ability to play in the coaches’ desired formation.
“Our squad has seen numerous changes from 2005. A lot of younger players have come in and this will be their chance to impress before the final selection in May for the Åland games.
“I see this being a difficult game but what better challenge for the players than to turn over the result in Stornoway [in 2006]. I hope the supporters will seen a good contest and a memorable match.”