Whalsay 3, Thistle 3
(after extra time, Thistle won 5-4 on penalties)
Thistle became the third Lerwick team to defeat champions Whalsay in a cup final this season, winning the Fraser Cup at Scalloway on Saturday after extra time and penalties.
Ironically the decisive goal in the shootout was scored by former Bonnie Isle legend Michael Williamson, now used only sparingly while enjoying the twilight of his career with Thistle.
It was Thistle’s first trophy win since 2005 when they defeated Delting to lift the County Shield.
Whalsay made most of the running early on, taking the game to their opponents and immediately applying pressure on a three-man back line made up of Kevin and Garry Teale and Kevin Gifford. The latter, now happily restored to the side after missing most of the season due to his triathlon pursuits, was as dependable as ever and added the glue to the undoubted strength of the Teale brothers.
With Bryan Irvine prominent down their right flank Whalsay almost scored from the first corner of the game when Craig Gerty cleared a Stuart Shearer header off the line. Another cross from Bryan Irvine was blocked by Garry Teale and Allister Johnson was just wide from 20 yards.
It was all Whalsay at this stage and it was no surprise when they took the lead. Bryan Irvine cut in from the right flank and found Johnson, lurking near the penalty spot, who struck a beautiful right-foot shot just inside the post to keeper Ryan Leask’s left.
Whalsay almost made it two when a mistake in the Thistle defence let in Erik Thomson but a last-ditch tackle blocked his shot away. The slippy conditions underfoot led to several late challenges and referee Robbie Leask booked the Teale brothers from Thistle and Iain Simpson from Whalsay in the early stages.
Thistle eventually played their way into the game and their first chance came from a great cross from Craig Gerty which was just flicked away from the on-rushing Scott Evans for a corner.
This encouraged the town side and an astute through ball from Richard Manson played Stuart Smith through on goal and the veteran striker retained his composure to slot past Whalsay keeper Grant Thomson. Smith, now the sole survivor from Thistle’s glory days of the 1990s, turned away and punched the air with delight.
Minutes later the same player’s clever pass released Craig Gerty down the right and his cut back was met by David Thomson whose shot was deflected on to the bar and desperately cleared at the expense of a corner. Thistle forced another corner which was taken short and a rebound off a Whalsay clearance was well held at his near post by Grant Thomson.
The first half finished with Thistle on top and a good move down the right saw Gerty find David Thomson. He set up Neil Laurenson who drove his shot just over the bar to leave the game all square at half time.
There were no changes to either side as Whalsay made the early running in the second half, quickly forcing a corner. This was cleared and the ball fell to Calvin Leask who set off on a superb run down the length of the field. Only clever defending by Richard Arthur prevented a chance at goal as he stretched to intercept the final pass.
Thistle took the lead when David Thomson’s free kick was flicked on and Gary Teale at the far post nodded home from close range.
The lead was short lived as Whalsay hit back and were awarded a penalty when Erik Thomson went down in the box, judged by referee Leask to have been sandwiched by two Thistle defenders. Thomson quickly regained his balance and slotted the penalty into the bottom left-hand corner.
Back in the game, Whalsay pushed on and Johnson broke down the left. His measured cross picked out Stuart Shearer but his header fell wide. Erik Thomson then fed the same player but he hooked his shot just over the bar.
Midway through the half Smith won a penalty for Thistle with another classic quick turn that deceived the Whalsay defence. Neil Laurenson took the kick and Grant Thomson made a great save in the bottom left hand corner only to find that one of his defenders had encroached into the penalty area and referee Leask ordered a retake. This time Laurenson made no mistake, firing the ball to the right of the keeper.
Whalsay made the first change when they welcomed back Karl Williamson, returning from a long spell on the sidelines. Thistle maintained their momentum and John Montgomery had to use all his experience to clear as David Thomson sped through the island defence.
Another good Thistle move down the left saw Laurenson’s shot blocked away for a corner. At the other end Garry Teale had to look lively to block a shot from Johnson.
On two occasions the referee was called upon to issue a warning to the large travelling Thistle support, their excitement leading to some choice language. Bizarrely double standards then prevailed when Leask himself was heard to swear loudly when explaining one of his decisions to another section of the crowd.
Smith was replaced by Williamson as Thistle maintained their momentum with a move that played in David Thomson. His shot came off the under side of the cross bar and Williamson’s scissors-style effort from the rebound was deflected for a corner. David Thomson then drove in a shot from all of 30 yards which Grant Thomson was relieved to turn on to he post.
As the final whistle loomed Whalsay made one final push for the equaliser. Irvine cut in from the right but his shot was saved by Leask low to his left. The same player then skied his next effort wide but it was his corner from the right that saw Thomson make a clever run to first-time the ball home and take the game into extra time.
Whalsay had the better of the first extra time period as some of the Thistle players, giving everything for the cause, shrugged off bouts of cramp. An Erik Thomson shot was blocked away by keeper Leask but fell to Stuart Shearer whose strike hit the top of the bar. Thistle responded with a wayward attempt from Calvin Leask and then a Richard Manson thunderbolt which flew just over.
The start of the second half was scrappy with Thistle replacement Calum Johnson and Montgomery both picking up bookings for tired-looking challenges. In the final minutes Thistle were forced to hang on as Erik Thomson set up Shearer and he skied his shot wide from close range. Thomson then tried a shot which was saved and then Leask brought off a wonderful save when a Kevin Teale clearance rebounded off a Whalsay player and was looping into the top corner when he got his finger tips to it to deflect the ball for a corner.
So to the dreaded spot-kick shootout and after the first five it was 4-4 with each side having missed one. Kevin Teale, Manson, Laurenson and Calvin Leask all scored for Thistle with Stuart Shearer, Montgomery, Karl Williamson and Bryan Irvine replying for the Bonnie Isle.
Michael Williamson was successful with the first sudden death kick before Leask dived to save Whalsay’s reply, immediately being engulfed by his team mates and supporters alike.
The Fraser Cup was awarded by Fraser Park trustee Davie Sandison to a delighted Thistle captain Kevin Teale who thanked the officials and paid tribute to Whalsay for making it one of the finest local finals for many years.
In a game with very few failures on either side, just shading it for man of the match was Thistle’s Calvin Leask. His running power, skill and awareness will surely lead to a county call-up in the not-too-distant future.