Shetland’s senior badminton team registered a landmark victory over Orkney at the weekend at Scalloway School games hall, with the 10-2 score bringing success for an unprecedented 25th successive year.
While hopes were high among the Shetland camp no-one was over confident. A few regulars were missing and a number of the eventual team were carrying injuries.
The match started well, however, and there were comfortable wins for Norman Sineath and Jason Jamieson and also Kevin Smith and Stuart Sineath against Ewan Gray and David Delday and Robbie Norquoy and Calvin Reid respectively.
In the women’s doubles Vaila Kay and Annette Gear eventually overcame Lynn Cursiter and Cath Bremner after an exciting three set match ended 21-13, 20-22, 21-11.
Orkney’s first success came in the second women’s match when Sheena Pearson and Louise Hutchison never really got into their stride against Christine West and Rebecca Reid. The Orkney pair were always in control and good attacking play saw them win 21-16, 21-12.
Things were generally going to plan at this stage and first pair Anne Wood and Morag Fox were one set up and winning reasonably comfortably against Elaine Gray and Moira Nicolson when disaster struck. Morag had been one of the home players struggling with injury and midway through the second game she pulled up sharply with a re-occurrence – the rubber having to be conceded.
While this was happening the Keith twins, Graham and Gordon, were involved in another epic encounter at first men’s. Having come from behind to steal a fast and furious first set the Keiths then lost the second as Eoin Ballantine and Ross Groundwater regained their composure well.
The third set was very tight with first one side in control then the other. It looked as though the Orkney pair were about to level the overall match score but they seemed to tense up with victory in sight, allowing Graham and Gordon yet again to show their fighting qualities to take the match 22-20, 15-21, 21-17.
The result meant that after the level doubles the overall match score stood at 4-2 in Shetland’s favour.
Shetland has traditionally dominated the mixed doubles and started well with Vaila and Norman playing steadily to ensure victory against their much less experienced opposition.
However, Rebecca and David, who both played in the under-18 match only a fortnight ago, gave a very good account of themselves.
Annette and Jason took on Cath and Ewan next and were made to fight for the first set. Both Shetland players had been injury worries for the Shetland team but, while never looking 100 per cent, still carried too much firepower and guile for the opposition to win 21-18, 21-13.
Vaila and Graham combined well to dispose of Lynn and Robbie – this was Vaila’s first county against Orkney having stepped up from reserve to replace Audrey Leask and her clever net play was ably backed by Graham’s power and tactical knowledge. They won in two comfortable sets.
Shetland’s third mixed saw the most inexperienced man partnering Anne Wood who was equalling the record of 29 caps against Orkney. Stuart Sineath, like Rebecca and David for Orkney, had played in the under-18 match but playing at this level is very different.
The combination worked well, however, and Anne’s clever net play and tactical awareness was complemented by Stuart’s power and aggression. This was never going to be an easy task against a very experienced and capable Orkney couple in Moira and Ross.
The first set was a very close affair with some uncharacteristic errors from both sides. Anne and Stuart dug deep to win it though and, while the Orkney pair were not far behind it seemed the home side were in control from the outset in the second set, winning 21-19, 21-15.
Kathleen Johnson stepped off the bench to take Morag’s place at second mixed with Gordon Keith. It is always difficult to step in in these circumstances but to her credit Kathleen played exceptionally well from the very first point. Gordon also rose to the challenge and the pair dominated the first set.
Elaine and Calvin came more into the match and the second set was much closer. However, Kathleen played a very steady game and pushed the shuttle into the mid-court area, forcing the opposition to lift and giving Gordon the opportunity to attack to good effect, and they won in two sets 21-12, 21-17.
Undoubtedly the best match was the last one with new cap Sheena partnering Kevin. Right from the start this was good quality badminton and terrific excitement for everyone watching.
At no stage did either side totally dominate but it was Sheena and Kevin who gained control to take the last few points of the first set.
The second set was again nip and tuck and this time it was Christine and Eoin for Orkney who managed to hold on take the set.
The last set was quite simply superb entertainment with both sides equally determined to win the final game of the day. The four on court had everyone on the edge of their seats as, almost inevitably, the score reached 20-20.
With no fewer than seven match points, with each pair earning then losing them, there was a huge roar from the home crowd as the delighted Shetland pair eventually took the match 12-17, 19-21, 28-26.
The final 10-2 match score gives Shetland an overall lead of 44-18. As mentioned Anne Wood now joins Bruce Williamson on 29 caps against Orkney. For Orkney both Elaine Gray and Moira Nicolson reached the same figure and all of these players should be congratulated on the achievement.
A Shetland Badminton Association spokesman said: “We would like to congratulate all the players who, over the years, have helped us put this incredible winning run together.
“Thanks also to the spectators for coming along to support the team on Saturday, Helen Laurenson for organising the catering, Peter Hunter for coming down from Unst to spend most of the day umpiring and Blair Mackay for preparing the hall.
“Special thanks to John Leask & Son for once again sponsoring Shetland Badminton Association. Finally good luck to our B team who sail off [on Friday] night to play Orkney in the final representative match of the season.”