The Shetland under-13 squad travelled to Dingwall at the weekend for what turned out to be a tough examination of their ability in the Highlands and Islands Football Festival.
The squad of 16 was stretched to the limit after several tournament ending injuries were sustained in the opening two games.
Shetland 1, Caithness United 1
A poor opening period saw Shetland go behind early in the game, the Caithness striker scoring with a wonderful volley from the edge of the box.
Indeed the blues were lucky to reach half time only one behind as a series of gilt edge chances were passed up by Caithness.
The second period was much improved with James Beeston playing a more prominent role in proceedings. As Shetland piled on the pressure they were duly rewarded when Beeston calmly slotted home an equiliser after a fine passing move.
It was Shetland who finished the stronger of the sides and can consider themselves unlucky not to grab a winning goal, Beeston going closest when his 30-yard volley rattled the crossbar.
Shetland 0, Elgin City 3
Shetland came well and truly unstuck against a well-drilled Elgin City.
The blues found themselves a goal down just before half time when Elgin City stole possession from Shetland and burst forward to score. This would prove to be a recurring problem for Shetland over the weekend with their opponents much quicker to the ball and possession surrendered far too easily.
Elgin City scored a brace of goals in a two-minute spell midway through the second half to give a truer reflection of the game. In truth had it not been for a tremendous goalkeeping performance by Andrew Goodlad the deficit would have been much greater. Also deserving mention was Dylan McKay who showed glimpses of quality despite only being an under-12.
Shetland 1, Western Isles 1
A battling performance secured a share of the spoils in a keenly-fought contest.
With only a minute on the clock John Allan calmly put Shetland in from a Lachlan Stewart pass. The next 20 minutes would prove to be a bright spell for Shetland in terms of their football though they could not add to their tally. Unfortunately though injuries would curtail any momentum as first John Allan left the field with a knee problem and then Harry Thomson joined him having sustained a tournament ending injury. With half time approaching the scores were level when the Western Isles clearance was latched on to by their pacey striker who drilled the ball beneath Goodlad.
The second half was a test of character as Shetland defended stoically. More injury problems saw James Beeston leave the field. The Western Isles laid seige to the Shetland goal and it was with great relief the remainder of the game was scoreless. Mention must be given to Rory Smith and Lewis Colvin whose hard work and timely interventions were a feature of the game.
Shetland 0, Ross County 8
A lesson in movement, passing and speed of thought was dished out by Ross County who proved superior from the first whistle.
With the outcome of the game decided early in the game Shetland concentrated on retaining possession rather than worry about the final score. Consequently some soft goals were conceded though some fine passing sequences were made.
Once again Rory Smith deserves mention for his tenacious play. Also deserving mention was Ally Young, the only Shetland player whose first touch and close control was on a par with their opponents’.
Shetland 1, Inverness Clach 7
Down to a neat 11 players Shetland battled gamely against a considerably bigger and stronger side.
Once again the quick passing and movement was too much for Shetland though it should also be noted that they were not helped much by a poor refereeing performance. James Beeston scored a richly-deserved goal in the second half, having played through injury in order to field a full quota of players.
Shetland 3, Strathspey Thistle 0
Shetland took the lead when Dylan Mckay’s heel flick found the back of the net to give the blues a fantastic start.
The advantage should have been much greater with many chances passed up. With Luke Smith playing at sweeper Strathspey Thistle looked unlikely to trouble the Shetland goal.
Shetland made it two early in the second half as James Beeston finished tremendously after good work by Keiran Flaws, who enjoyed his best game of the weekend with several good contributions. The game was all but over soon after when Beeston finished calmly having been played through on goal.
At the closing ceremony the player of the tournament was deservingly awarded to Andrew Goodlad who had proved a steady influence in the Shetland goal all weekend.
A spokesman said although a number of injuries were sustained and a lot of players had to occupy unfamiliar postions there was no doubt a lot of hard work ahead for the coaches and players of the Shetland under-13s. Hopefully the experience of these games would drive the group on to further their development.