From Neil Riddell in Åland
Shetland’s footballers went down to a humiliating 3-1 defeat against Greenland on Tuesday afternoon at the Island Games in Åland. Leighton Flaws scored the only goal for the isles side against a team that had until then been the whipping boys of Group A, shipping 10 goals in their first two matches.
With host side Åland drawing 1-1 with Menorca, it means Shetland finished bottom of the group with just a single point and will now face a play-off against one of the other three sides who finished bottom in their section to determine their final position on Thursday. It was an abject end to the group stages of what has turned into a hugely disappointing tournament for John Jamieson’s men, who had travelled out with the hope of challenging for a medal.
All three of the goals they conceded were the result of careless defensive errors, while Shetland looked rather one-dimensional going forward and the gloom only lifted slightly for a spell after a fine 20-yard free-kick from Flaws had brought the team level after going behind to an early goal for the second successive match.
But with the game poised at one apiece, a strike midway through the second half from Pavia Molgaard left Shetland again chasing the game and a calamitous error from centre-back Lewis Kay in the final minute let Molgaard in to lob Peterson and seal a shock victory for the men from the far north.
After the early concession, Shetland – who made several changes from their previous matches – looked as if they would be able to get some joy against a slightly shaky-looking Greenland rearguard, with Duncan Anderson holding off his man and turning before firing a left shot narrowly wide.
But at the other end Shetland were looking if anything more fragile, with Molgaard eluding the defence to lob just wide under close attention from the onrushing Peterson, before an almost identical straight high ball caught them out once more and again Molgaard was off target. Left midfielder Josie Kay, getting his first taste of Island Games action, was then booked for a heavy late challenge on his marker as Shetland began to get frustrated.
All looked well when, after diminutive forward Craig Gerty – also making his first start – was fouled, Flaws’ curling free kick found its way into the top corner via the fingertips of goalkeeper Aputsiaq Birch. Shetland at last built a little momentum and soon after Joe Leask was up early from a trademark long throw-in by Flaws but his header went too high.
Half time heralded a double substitution, with Duncan Bray and Ross MacDougal on for Gerty and Kay, but it didn’t do the trick as Shetland – unable to get into their passing rhythm – persisted with fruitless long balls and were unable to get James Johnston and Bray into advanced positions where they could hurt their opponents.
Peterson again had to look sharp to block away a shot from Kaali Mathaeussen but the warning signs were there and in the 64th minute Molgaard coolly slotted past Peterson to restore Greenland’s lead, having been neatly played in after Shetland lost possession too easily in their own half.
Captain Merv Jamieson then found himself in the referee’s notebook for a cynical block to prevent Molgaard inflicting further damage, and in the 84th minute the same player brought an excellent save from Peterson, one of only a handful of Shetland players who can claim to have enhanced their reputations this week, as they left further gaps defensively in their quest for an equaliser.
But a long high ball forward in the first minute of stoppage time was badly misjudged by Lewis Kay, allowing Molgaard to lob the ball into the corner and send the gathered Greenland supporters at the Sportkila ground on Åland’s east side wild with delight.
A gutted John Jamieson said afterwards that it had been a “dreadfully poor” performance and admitted his side did not deserve to take anything from the match. Defensive errors have now seen them concede seven goals in their three group games, compared to the single goal conceded on the road to winning the tournament four years ago, and Jamieson also agreed the team had not been as fluent going forward as might have been hoped.
He said: “We gave possession away at the wrong areas of the park, when we should be clearing our lines we’re not. You don’t get a second chance here, it’s in the back of the net before you know where it’s at.
“We decided that we’d try and get everybody a game, because we weren’t going to win the group anyway, the idea was to try and see if we could win a game and still play everybody, but it wasn’t to be. If you don’t top your group really it doesn’t matter where you’re going to finish – we came here to win it, so a place will not make an awful lot of difference to me. I’m very frustrated, especially on today’s performance because we’re a far better team than that.”
Shetland line-up: Erik Peterson; Leighton Flaws, Ross Moncrieff (Gary Ja