Celtic continue to dominate group one of senior football’s Madrid Cup with two more victories over Scalloway and Thistle, while Spurs look most likely to join them in the semi-finals. In group two Whalsay have set the pace, with both Whitedale and Delting also in with a chance of making it to the last four.
Celtic 1, Scalloway 0
When all was said and done Celtic took the three points, recorded their third clean sheet on the bounce and maintained their push to qualify for the semi-finals. Other than that it was uninspiring stuff.
On paper this Scalloway side are strong and contain a wealth of experience throughout their ranks. And the game was even enough for the first 20 minutes or so. Celtic were creating more and getting forward better, only to be let down by some slack and slow passing from midfield, but Scalloway should have taken the lead in the 14th minute. The ball was slipped through the central area and the normally clinical Alan Davidson looked rusty as his effort was chipped over the bar.
Scalloway began to dominate the central midfield and the home attacks were confined to being created by full backs and wide men. However, despite their central dominance Scalloway didn’t have another shot on goal of note.
Celtic created and squandered good chances before the break. Joe Leask should have scored with 25 minutes played when the ball fall fell to him in the box but unfortunately, for Celtic at least, he just wasn’t sharp enough. Another three chances went by the way side with good balls being played across the six yard box from wide areas but nobody in green and white on hand to take advantage.
Playing with the strong breeze behind them, the second half was almost exclusively played at the north end of Gilbertson Park but the same issues in front of goal were evident from the home side.
First up in the procession of misses was Lowrie Simpson after a good move down the right involving Jordan Webb and Leask. Simpson and Leask missed another two half chances before the blue touch paper of Scalloway’s demise was lit.
Half-time substitute James Aitken broke through the defence only to be unceremoniously upended on the edge of the box and Liam MacGregor took yellow for the team in doing so. The resultant free kick was tame indeed.
A good corner from the right escaped the head of defenders and attackers and fell to Ross Moncrieff whose overhead effort was taken under the bar by Bryan Johnson in the Scalloway goal.
MacGregor’s game was then ended when he needlessly fouled again. Yellow was flashed again and the visitors were reduced to 10, and with that the pattern for the remainder of the game was set.
Scalloway sat in and defended deep and were reduced to trying in vain to attack on the break. Celtic went to three at the back and pushed more bodies forward. It didn’t look anything other than a scoreless game as Celtic continued to throw balls into the box with nothing on the end, long-range efforts didn’t even work the goalkeeper and Darren Thompson defended stoically.
With the clock running down Celtic could have had no complaints at dropping points. However, substitute Justin Watson, the man on somewhat of a goal-scoring streak at present, prodded home at the second time of asking from a penalty area scramble.
Keeper Johnson pulled off a couple of good saves to prevent an unfair slant to the scoresheet appearance as the game was played out.
Celtic will view it as three points from an indifferent display while Scalloway’s effort, if not attacking play, could well have paid dividends.
Best on the night for the visitors was the defence with Thomson and Johnson outstanding. For the home side Daniel Johnston, Joel Bradley and John Simpson receive pass marks.
Thistle 1, Spurs 3
The town rivals squared up again at Seafield on Friday, with Spurs seeking revenge following their 2-1 reversal earlier in the month.
Spurs opened the scoring in the 16th minute when Scott Morrison’s cut-back was rammed home by Connel Gresham. Morrison then fired just wide 10 minutes later.
Richard Manson could, and probably should, have equalised after half an hour when the ball came to him around the 12-yard mark but his effort hit the bar.
Play swept to the other end and Gresham was sent tumbling in the box by Richard Bulter. Referee Robbie Leask awarded a penalty but the normally reliable James Johnston saw his effort cannon off the bar to safety.
The Jags equalised after 35 minutes when Kevin Teale’s free-kick was spilled by keeper Bobby Wiseman and following the proverbial goalmouth stramash, Gary Teale was on hand to poke the ball over the line. Two minutes later Morrison’s cross-come-shot struck the bar and was cleared.
Spurs regained the lead in the 40th minute when Thistle custodian Steven Henry could only parry a fierce Gresham strike and Danny Finnie knocked home the rebound.
The second period began with Spurs on the offensive and Henry was forced into producing several good saves to keep his side in contention, but he was powerless to prevent Morrison adding a third from close range after 55 minutes.
Thistle did not let their heads drop and were thrown a lifeline in the 80th minute when substitute Jon Pulley was upended in the area by Lewis Kay, referee Leask pointing to the spot for the second time in the match. Up stepped skipper Kevin Teale but he watched aghast as he ballooned his kick well over the bar.
Despite some sustained pressure in the closing minutes Thistle could not breach the Spurs rearguard and the away side held on to clinch victory.
Spurs 2, Scalloway 1
Both sides were needing to win their penultimate group game in order to stand any chance of progressing to the semi-final stage.
Scalloway fielded a stronger side than when the two teams last met and, with that 9-1 defeat still fresh in their minds, started the match in a more combative fashion. Their attacking tactics were clear from the outset: get the ball wide or forward at the earliest opportunity in order to use the pace of Laurence Pearson, Gary Burns, Steven Umphray and Alan Davidson.
Spurs, on the other hand, were happy for the most part to adopt their usual patient passing game with James Johnston providing the guile to link defence, midfield and attack.
The two contrasting styles made for an interesting opening period with the game flowing from end to end. However, it was Spurs who created the better chances. First Connell Gresham was off target after being played in by his strike partner Danny Finnie, then Scott Morrison twice got in behind the Scalloway left back only to be thwarted by goalkeeper Bryan Johnson who was in fine form all evening.
The left side of the Spurs team was also proving to be a source of potent attacking options, with full back Darren Johnson combining well with wide midfielder Sam Ward to produce some dangerous crosses into the box.
Scalloway were posing a threat on the break and when Burns was fouled on the edge of the box Davidson hit a blistering free kick which Alan Leslie in the Spurs goal did extremely well to hold on to.
It was at this point and slightly against the run of play that Spurs opened the scoring. Leslie’s quick throw-out found Johnson at left back. He quickly shifted the ball to Ward who went on a dazzling 60-yard run before providing a low, driven cross which Morrison duly scuffed into the net.
Spurs threatened to add to their tally before half time when an inswinging corner from Johnston was met by Josie Kay who managed to stretch and loop a difficult header on to the bar.
The second half began in a similar fashion to the first with neither side able to stamp their authority on the game.
Spurs were still looking the most likely to score but as the half progressed and Gresham, Morrison and Johnston all spurned guilt-edged opportunities to double their lead.
Eventually it was Johnston who hammered in the Spurs second from the edge of the box after a spell of concerted pressure in which half-time substitute Dominic Mann was prominent.
Thistle 0, Celtic 7
The first quarter of an hour was fairly even with neither side really creating any real scoring opportunities. However, in the 16th minute Richard Manson almost caught out Celtic keeper Paul Grant, who had strayed from his line, but his cute chip narrowly shaved the post.
Celtic retaliated and five minutes later Joe Leask was put clean through but with Thistle goalie, Steven Henry, advancing at a rate of knots, his shot flew harmlessly over.
The Hoops took the lead in the 28th minute when James Aitken was played in and he knocked the ball past Henry. Two minutes later Aitken added a second although his well-struck effort from around 22 yards did appear to take a deflection en route to goal.
Any thoughts the Jags might have had of a second-half recovery evaporated within five minutes of the restart through a brace from Lowrie Simpson. First, in the 48th minute he slotted home following a good through ball by Connor Regan and then he raced through the home defence to place the ball beyond Henry.
Craig Gerty did have the opportunity to pull one back in the 55th minute when he went one on one with Grant, but he seemed caught in two minds whether to chip the keeper or go round him but he did neither and the chance was lost.
Celtic added a fifth in the 67th minute when a scorching 25-yarder from Robert Smith rocketed into the net via the underside of the crossbar.
Three minutes later Joe Leask ran through to score before Daniel Johnston completed the scoring in the 78th minute when he clinically converted a Jordan Webb cross.
With two minutes to go the away side ought to have added an eighth when referee Mark Goodhand awarded a penalty. Simpson, on a hat trick, strode confidently forward but Henry was more than equal to the task, diving full length to his left to deny the Celtic striker.
To add to Thistle’s woes, youngster Khalid Rasul was carried off with a serious first-half ankle injury which is likely to keep him sidelined for the next few months – everyone wishes him well for a speedy and full recovery.
Whalsay 6, Ness United 1
With a stiff breeze blowing down the pitch it was Whalsay who looked to make use of the advantage in the first half. They almost did so within the first 10 minutes but keeper Eric Peterson reacted well to block Ian Simpson’s volleyed effort. Ness were proving a hard nut to crack and were getting some joy further up the field as the game progressed.
After 20 minutes Ian Bray fired in a free kick from an acute angle that evaded the front post runners but Grant Thomson in the Whalsay goal misjudged it and Stuart Goodlad had to rescue his keeper with a goal-line clearance.
The let-off was short-lived and from the resultant corner Kieran Malcomson ghosted in at the near post area to head the ball into the far corner and put Ness 1-0 ahead.
This goal seemed to kickstart Whalsay out of second gear and after 30 minutes they got their reward when Allister Johnson drilled a shot that Peterson did well to block. However, the resultant melee saw Brian Irvine knock in the equaliser.
Within a minute Whalsay were ahead, Ian Simpson finding time out on the left to deliver a good ball into the path of Irvine who grabbed his second.
Whalsay increased the lead with some good play again by Irvine, the wide man coming inside and his slightly scuffed effort finding the far corner to give him his hat trick.
The second half saw Whalsay increase their lead through Irvine again, after good work by his namesake Geordie Irvine.
In the 60th minute some good passing and switching saw Simpson again turn provider with a great ball across goal for Irvine to grab his own and his side’s fifth goal, a remarkable feat.
Ness, to their credit, stemmed the tide and almost got a goal back when Malcomson’s fine run and shot from outside the area brought a decent save from Thomson.
Malcomson was in the thick of it again shortly after when a good flick on from a throw-in saw his goal-bound effort blocked superbly by Colin Leask.
Whalsay almost increased their lead on a couple of occasions with Peterson producing a world-class save from a shot that took a deflection en route to goal and also a great block from Leigh Smith denying Irvine a sixth goal.
Whalsay’s sixth did come just before the final whistle and it was worth the wait. Simpson again provided the ball, this time to Johnson who controlled it well before firing in a left-footed curler from the edge of the box that sailed into the far corner.
The final whistle blew soon after to end a dominant Whalsay performance. However, it has to be said the Ness cause was not helped by the loss of key players before and during the game.
Whitedale 1, Delting 1
Whitedale, with the wind advantage, had the better of the first exchanges with Allan Johnston firing in a low drive to the keeper’s left which went just wide.
Delting began to settle and started to press on the Whitedale defence with chances falling to Fraser Hall who scooped his chance over the bar from close range and Stuart Lavender’s effort hitting the side netting.
Whitedale looked dangerous on the wings with Piotr Drozowski on the left and Duncan Anderson on the right causing problems.
The home side opened the scoring when a Johnston pass found Anderson who homed in on the Delting goal, pushing the ball past the keeper into the net. Soon afterwards a similar move fell to Anderson only to see the ball stuck between his feet and the chance to score was gone.
Delting stepped things up with Ross McDougall causing problems for the home defence and with a minute remaining he tumbled in the box. Ross Jamieson struck the awarded penalty to the keeper’s right.
Delting’s half-time team talk must have included trying a few shots from distance as for the first 15 minutes the ball boy was the only one working up a sweat, collecting the wayward balls from the long grass at the back of the Strom pitch.
Delting continued to pile on the pressure with Whitedale keeper Martin Young having to be alert and centre backs Jordan Morrison and Duncan Fraser pulling off some great tackles.
Late in the game Whitedale started to ease out of their half with a superb passing move started by Martin Clark. This found Stuart Donald eight yards from goal but he failed to test the keeper.
Two more opportunities to steal a win fell to the Whitedale forwards but the chances were not taken and the game finished level.
Whalsay 2, Whitedale 1
Whitedale had the wind advantage in the first half and it was no surprise when they took the lead after 20 minutes. Duncan Anderson chased a long diagonal ball and from an acute angle fired a shot which looped superbly into the far corner of the goal.
Although Whitedale were by now well on top it was a quick break up the park from Whalsay which saw the in-form Brian Irvine equalise, the midfielder producing a stunning strike from outside the box which flew past Martin Young into the roof of the net.
The remainder of the half saw Whitedale pushing forward and Piotr Drozdowski fired in a shot from an angle that Whalsay keeper Grant Thomson had to push round the post. Paul Molloy also saw his effort from the edge of the box touched wide by the keeper.
The second half saw an improved Whalsay performance with the islanders looking to get the win that would hopefully take them into the semi-finals.
Despite having Whitedale camped in their own half for long periods Whalsay could not find the killer touch. Brian Irvine came closest when he found himself one on one with the keeper but Young produced a good block to deny him. Then Allister Johnson was denied a goal by a last-ditch challenge from Duncan Fraser.
With time starting to run out and after losing Karl Williamson to injury, Whalsay reshuffled and this led to Brian Irvine playing in a more forward position. He produced a moment of skill out wide and cut back across goal for Gary Jamieson, whose back post run saw him with an easy tap-in to put Whalsay 2-1 ahead with less than 10 minutes to go.
Whalsay could have added to their tally in the last minute when Keith Pearson had time to shoot from eight yards out. But Young produced a superb save to deny him a goal which based on Whitedale’s first half performance may have given a slightly unfair slant on the scoreline.
Ness United 0, Delting 1
Delting started brightly with the forward pairing of Ross MacDougall and Stuart Hay making the Ness defence work for a living, but they weathered the early pressure.
Delting came closest to scoring first when a good move saw MacDougall with space to shoot but Erik Peterson in the Ness goal saved well.
Ness came close themselves when a Peterson kick from goal beat the Delting central defenders and saw Ian Bray race in, only for his chip to dip behind the bar.
Delting’s best chance of the half saw Hay nearly beat the keeper in a goalmouth scramble but Leigh Smith managed to clear the danger.
Craig Leslie almost headed the home team ahead from a corner just before half time but the ball glanced off the post.
Delting came out in the second half and started at the same high tempo as they did in the first half. The game was pretty even still with both teams looking to gain the upper hand.
Ness were looking to move the ball quickly up the right through Kevin Manson and Declan Adamson to capitalise on the work done in the first half, but it was Delting who scored first through Hay as he prodded the ball home after a melee in the six-yard box.
Ness worked hard to get the equaliser and came close through a Leslie free kick and then had a goal disallowed for handball from the resultant corner.
Alwyn Flaws was played through on goal but was unable to beat Craig Dinwoodie in the Delting goal.
Best for the visitors were Hay and Ross Jamieson, while for Ness Kevin Smith and Kevin Manson were the stand-outs.