A Shetland squad travelled to Dingwall recently for the SFA Northern District under-13 football tournament, a challenging weekend for the boys playing their first competitive matches of the season against seasoned teams.
Shetland 2, Clachnacuddin 3
The first match on Friday was against the well-established Highland League team.
Shetland got off to a poor start when a loose pass in midfield went straight to the foot of a Clach player who lobbed the keeper from 20 yards.
Shetland were struggling to cope with the pace in the midfield but gradually got more into game and after some good movement by the forwards they were awarded a penalty when striker Lee Irvine was pulled to the ground. The kick was coolly slotted home by captain Cameron Gibbs.
Shetland started the second half brightly and were soon in the lead after some neat one-touch football down the right between James Beaston and Liam Flaws ended with the latter putting the ball in for Irvine to slot it home.
Clach rallied and drew level when a midfielder shot low into the bottom corner. The game was evenly poised until a poor clearance found a Clach player in space with an open goal.
Shetland reshuffled and for the remainder dominated the play, making several good scoring opportunities, but could not get the equaliser.
Shetland 3, Western Isles 1
Shetland made changes for the first of Saturday’s two matches, moving Gibbs into the midfield to provide extra strength. But it was Western Isles that got the better start when the new-look Shetland defence let a striker get in behind them to open the scoring.
Shetland began to get a hold of the game and started to make chances but it took another 15 minutes before they got the equaliser when a defensive clearance was met by Liam Flaws who volleyed the ball high into the corner of the net.
In the second half Shetland took control and within five minutes went into the lead when Gibbs drove through the defence and squared the ball for Irvine to finish.
Shetland pushed for more and with five minutes remaining got their third. A good move resulted in the ball being played wide where Sam Maver found space and crossed the ball into penalty area where Irvine made no mistake.
Shetland 1 Ross County 1
After an hour’s break it was the big one against Ross County, a team who in recent weeks had lined up against Rangers, Celtic and had recently beaten Clach 5-2.
Shetland again started poorly when that new-look defence struggled with a high ball and a weak pass back to the keeper was intercepted by a County striker who made no mistake. Shetland dug in and slowly got up to the pace of the game and were now matching County in all areas of the pitch, with the defence looking solid when called on. With the referee failing to take control the game turned into a very physical battle and luckily no-one was seriously injured with tough tackles going in from both sides.
Gibbs began to dominate the midfield, showing why he was recently voted Inverness Caley Thistle under-14 player of the year.
With both teams now beginning to tire chances were created at both ends but with 10 minutes to go Shetland won a corner which was swung in by Maver and met by the head of Irvine whose looping header found the back of the net giving Shetland a well deserved equaliser.
Shetland 2, Caithness 0
Shetland started very brightly in the first of the final day’s matches, dominating the play in all areas and creating many good chances but unfortunately failing to find the net. Caithness had no answer to Shetland’s dominance but that was how the first half ended.
After the interval Shetland continued to control the game and this time they got the breakthrough. Again Gibbs drove at the Caithness defence and played the ball through to Irvine who calmly finished.
With Shetland looking comfortable and Caithness only rarely looking dangerous on the break it wasn’t long before they got their second when Flaws let loose with a thunderous strike from 18 yards, giving the keeper no chance.
Shetland 4, Dingwall Boys Club 1
The final game saw Shetland play a team who had earlier beaten Orkney 3-1. Shetland decided to give all their young guns a start to prove their worth and they didn’t disappoint.
Under the captaincy of Eion Leask, who had just returned from a lengthy injury, Shetland started brightly and within 10 minutes he showed what the team has been missing when he finished well after good work down the left by Kyle Swannie.
Shetland got a second before the break when Swannie turned his marker on the edge of the box driving his shot low into the corner.
The second half was open until 15 minutes from the end when a Dingwall striker broke through the Shetland defence and put the ball past the keeper, getting them back in the game.
The goal seemed to spur on the Dingwall team who started to look more dangerous so Shetland brought on Gibbs and Irvine with immediate effect. Soon after Gibbs threaded the ball to Irvine who scored with his first touch.
With five minutes left Shetland got the fourth of the game when Gibbs put a powerful header through to Irvine who lobbed the keeper from just inside the box.
A spokesman said the Shetland squad did themselves and the isles very proud on and off the field. Thanks must go to Graeme Sutherland of the Scottish FA for his help and for part funding the trip, Graham Henderson for taxi-ing the team around all weekend, Star Rent a Car for the continued support and Robbie Leask for standing in with refereeing.