Orkney 3, Shetland 1
Two lapses of concentration and two goals conceded in five minutes of the second half ultimately lost Shetland the Milne Cup on Saturday afternoon.
But the failure to put away chances during the first half hour followed by an astonishing save by Orkney goalkeeper Paul Bain were also significant reasons why the home side got their hands on the senior inter-county football trophy for only the second time since 1990.
Shetland began the match at Pickaquoy in fine style, James Johnston creating an opening for Steven Umphray after only two minutes which the striker, making his first appearance since the island games triumph of 2005, was unable to capitalise on.
Mark Berry had Orkney’s first chance shortly afterwards, firing his shot just over the bar.
Connor Regan, combining well with Leighton Flaws down the right, sent over a fine cross but no-one was available to take advantage.
It had been end-to-end for the first 10 minutes but gradually Shetland began to take a grip. A great move across the edge of the Orkney penalty box led to James Aitken shooting a yard past the post when he really should have at least found the target. It was the best chance so far and was quickly followed by another good run by Johnston down the right which again Shetland should have made more of.
Shetland’s first corner in the 15th minute was defended comfortably by the home side but a couple of minutes later Johnston once again found space and shot inches over.
You sensed a goal was coming and it duly arrived in the 22nd minute.
Regan set up the chance, Umphray put pressure on the defence and fellow striker David Thomson headed over the keeper and into the net.
Shetland kept pressing and another tremendous move on the right with Flaws prominent ended with Regan going close. A minute later the same two players were involved and from Flaws’ cross Regan should have scored but put his header wide.
Orkney were really struggling at this stage but they got a lifeline on the half-hour mark after being awarded a somewhat fortunate free kick on the edge of the Shetland box. Up strode centre back Jon Tait to send a beautifully-hit shot inside the right-hand post to make it 1-1.
Tempers began to get a bit frayed and Orkney midfielder Paddy Highley became the first name in the referee’s book after a robust challenge on Shetland left back Piotr “Bako” Drozdowski.
Johnston was also taking a fair bit of stick in the middle of the park and one or two Orkney players were rather fortunate not join Highley on a yellow card.
A great run and cross by Aitken picked out Thomson coming in from the left and a goal looked certain. But keeper Paul Bain pulled off a miraculous save to deny the Unst man his second. Seconds later Bain made another impressive stop following a well-worked move on the right.
A Shetland free kick was the last chance of the half and from Jordan Webb’s kick Merv Jamieson headed just over the bar.
In all honesty 1-1 was not a fair reflection of a 45 minutes in which Shetland had held the upper hand for long spells, their keeper Erik Peterson being rarely called into action. A two- or three-goal advantage would have better told the story and you got the feeling that if Orkney began to believe in themselves a bit more they might just make the visitors pay for their profligacy.
Shetland started the second half well enough, Flaws again to the fore, but after Thomson was caught offside and booked for kicking the ball away Orkney broke up field and took the lead.
It was a lightning attack and Steven Miller’s run and cross caught the Shetland partnership of Jamieson and Richard Arthur out, leaving DJ Moffat to head home and give Peterson no chance.
Orkney were suddenly strong now and won a corner on the left in the 53rd minute. A well-struck kick came over and Tait, completely unmarked, powered his header into the net to make it 3-1.
Shetland’s play began to become more disjointed with Johnston hanging on to the ball too long at times in midfield, twice failing to release Paco who had come forward on the overlap.
Thomson did have another effort from 25 yards but it was easily held by the now confident Bain.
Shetland introduced Calvin Leask for Thomson and the Thistle youngster was barely on the park when he became the victim of a hefty challenge. Again the referee chose to take no action, to the dismay of the Shetland management team.
Sam Ward replaced Umphray up front but Orkney’s physicality was now telling as the Shetland players struggled for the first time in the match.
Arthur was booked for a rash challenge which provoked an outburst from Shetland coach Niall Bristow, obviously frustrated at the way things were going. Bristow had a point though, as there were glaring inconsistencies when handing out cards.
Orkney now seemed to be winning every 50-50 ball and substitute David Delday, joining Gareth Manson as the second home player to have Shetland parentage, made an immediate impact. Delday’s excellent run and cross down the left unfortunately found no takers.
Orkney should have scored again when Adam Stanger blazed over the bar from close range.
Shetland also introduced defender Neil Fenwick for Webb, going with three at the back and pushing Flaws and Bako forward in a bid to salvage something from a match which was now fast disappearing from them. It was a desperate situation with Orkney still looking the more likely to score.
Regan made a good break which led to a corner but nothing came of it and when Aitken put the ball in the net but was ruled offside the feeling was that it was Orkney’s day.
Ward had the last effort, his angled drive from the left bringing out a fingertip save over the bar from Bain and shortly after the final whistle blew to the delight of the Orkney players.
Tait was named man of the match for his two goals but Orkney were also served well by Moffat, James Pickles and Berry.
For Shetland the big talking point was the lacklustre second half, especially after such a promising opening. Too many players, even the more experienced ones, seemed to switch off but that had to be partly down to the vast improvement from Orkney.
Home captain Wayne Monkman, reputed to be making his 17th and final appearance in the annual encounter, received the Milne Cup from councillor Jimmy Moar. He said he had waited eight long years to get his hands on the trophy, thanking the Shetland players for a tough but enjoyable match.