16th October 2018
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Footballers’ hopes of medal glory fade after disappointing defeat by hosts

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From Neil Riddell in Åland          Photos by Kevin Jones

Shetland’s footballers’ hopes of medal glory at the 2009 Island Games came to an end at Hammarvallen on Monday evening when despite a battling performance they slipped to a 2-1 defeat to the host island Åland.

The two squads line up before the match.

The two squads line up before the match. Click on image to enlarge.

A fairly evenly-matched encounter got off to a flying start for the hosts when Alexander Weckström eluded Shetland’s central defenders and steadied himself before wrong-footing Erik Peterson with a low shot. The goal had come out of nothing, but Shetland responded well with Duncan Bray – promoted from the substitutes bench – getting on the end of a great move to fire them level. 

But early in the second half a sweetly struck left-foot effort from the edge of the box by Simon Snickars settled matters, leaving the disappointed Shetland players hoping for a handsome victory against Greenland tomorrow to allow them to finish second in Group A. Earlier in the day Menorca had thumped Greenland 6-0, meaning Shetland had really needed a victory to stand a good chance of qualifying for Thursday’s semi-finals.

Manager John Jamieson now has less than 24 hours to pick his players up for their final group game, but he described it as a “totally disappointing” outcome. “I suppose the boys will be very down after this game. I thought they played quite well for a lot of the game, but it just wasn’t going to be. They got a couple of good breaks, got their goals and we were always struggling to get clear-cut chances made. They were very, very good at set pieces.”

Having struggled with the heat – although the conditions were equally unusual for Åland’s players – Jamieson suggested his players might have been better able to adapt were it not for the controversial decision not to defend their gold medal two years ago.

He said: “I thought they boys were positive and it’s hard for them. They’re playing football in this heat, and it’s really difficult for the type of football we play. You’ve got to adapt quite quickly. We’ve got a lot of young players, new players – maybe if we had been in Rhodes we’d have been better prepared for these games.”

The manager had made only two changes from the creditable 2-2 draw with Menorca less than 36 hours earlier, Bray coming in to replace Peter Peterson with Ross Moncrieff reverting to left back and Lewis Kay continuing in place of the injured centre-back Richard Arthur, whose hamstring injury looks as if it may rule him out of the remaining matches.

Shetland had started the game fairly confidently in front of a crowd of well over 500, but will be furious with the manner in which they conceded the first goal, Weckström suddenly finding himself through on goal to score after a simple throughball from the halfway line.

They quickly regained their poise, however, and when James Johnston rolled the ball in to Ross MacDougal’s feet, the striker played a neat flick into the path of the onrushing Bray who stylishly rifled the ball into the far corner.

It was the best move of the match by some distance, but a rare moment of fluidity from the men in blue during the first half, and goalkeeper Erik Peterson had to be sharp off his line to smother the ball wide when Weckström again found himself in behind Kay shortly after.

A new introduction for Monday’s matches was much-needed water breaks for the players, allowing the coaches to use the pause in action almost like a basketball-style timeout. After the first such break, the game went into a scrappy phase before half time with Shetland not able to make the most of their set-piece opportunities.

The second half began just as the first had, with Åland scoring out of the blue when Snickars found the bottom corner of Erik Peterson’s goal to deal a fatal blow to Shetland’s medal aspirations.

The Shetland defence manage to scramble the ball away during an attack by the host side. Click on image to enlarge.

The Shetland defence manage to scramble the ball away during an attack by the host side. Click on image to enlarge.

Within a minute or so the same player had snaked along the goalline and when the ball ricocheted to him, only a correct flag from the linesman prevented Åland increasing their lead to 3-1. Midfielder Alan Duncan then had to launch himself at full stretch to get in the way of a goalbound effort from left midfielder David Welin, before Shetland desperately scrambled the ball away from a corner.

To their credit, the players battled back well in the closing 20 minutes, with Erik Thomson introduced in place of Bray.

MacDougal went close with a downward header which bounced up off the hard turf and ended narrowly wide, while the same player again hooked narrowly off target after a spot of head tennis in the Åland penalty area. With nine minutes left on the clock, Kay strode out of defence to sting the fingertips of home goalkeeper Simon Enqvist from all of 35 yards.

A couple of long throws from Leighton Flaws stretched the Åland rearguard in the last few minutes as Shetland strove to avoid their first Island Games defeat since a 5-0 reversal to Jersey back in 2003. Flaws thumped a 25-yard free-kick a couple of yards over the crossbar and Karl Williamson, who was also booked for a hard challenge, was further off target with a long-range strike as the game slipped away from their grasp.

Goalkeeper Erik Peterson performed well under pressure in a solid but unspectacular outing from Shetland, who could have done with Arthur’s calm assurance at the heart of the defence. For their part, Åland were a very well organised team and possessed danger in the form of Weckström and Andreas Bjork.

In order to finish second and progress to the 5th-8th place play-off matches on Thursday, Shetland now need to beat Greenland handsomely and hope that Åland see off Menorca in the other group game on Tuesday.

Shetland team: Erik Peterson; Gary Jamieson, Ross Moncrieff, Merv Jamieson (captain), Lewis Kay; Leighton Flaws, Duncan Bray (Erik Thomson 67), Alan Duncan, Karl Williamson; James Johnston, Ross MacDougal (Duncan Anderson 85).

Subs not used: Craig Dinwoodie, Peter Peterson, Josie Kay, Fraser Hall, Joe Leask, Craig Gerty.

Group Table:

Team

     

Played

 

 

Won

 

 

Drawn

 

 

Lost

 

 

For

 

 

Against

 

 

Difference

 

 

Points

 

 

Åland

 

2

 

 

2

 

 

0

 

 

0

 

 

6

 

 

3

 

 

3

 

 

6

 

 

Menorca

 

 

2

 

 

1

 

 

1

 

 

0

 

 

8

 

 

2

 

 

6

 

 

4

 

 

Shetland Islands

 

 

2

 

 

0

 

 

1

 

 

1

 

 

3

 

 

4

 

 

-1

 

 

1

 

 

Greenland

 

2

 

 

0

 

 

0

 

 

2

 

 

2

 

 

10

 

 

-8

 

 

0

     

 

     

     

 

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