The Shetland football team is travelling south this weekend to take on Golspie Sutherland in the semi-final of the North Caledonian League’s Jock Mackay Memorial Cup.
That follows an opening round victory against Sutherland United in February. The Shetland players will be aiming for revenge against tomorrow’s opponents, who knocked them out of another competition with a 3-2 victory before Christmas.
The fixture is once again being played at the home ground of Thurso FC with a 2pm kick-off.
Shetland manager Niall Bristow said he believed that the Shetland team, including new members Dominic Mann and Sam Ward, had what it takes.
He said: “The squad is mainly similar to what we’ve been using over winter. We have a very tight-knit group of players.
“We’re going to bring in Dominic Mann – he’s been training well and is a useful player. He actually plays a type of football, holding the ball up, that we may well need to use.
“Sam Ward is another coming in for the first time – and will be another great asset – but other than that it’s a very similar and experienced squad.”
Bristow said the recent defeat to Golspie could work in Shetland’s favour this time around.
“Golspie Sutherland beat us in the last tournament, but that means they are not such an unknown for us this time around. We’re quietly confident I would say.
“We’ve found that the teams in this league play in quite a similar fashion – and we’re getting used to that style.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot with the last game, so we’re desperate to cut those errors out and hopefully that will give us an edge.”
Bristow said Golspie Sutherland would not be without their difficulties, however, explaining their style.
“It’s really quite physical – without being too disrespectful, there’s not a great deal of football. Golspie Sutherland have a very clever striker – he’s not mobile, but he holds the ball up brilliantly, which isn’t a common thing for Shetlanders to play against. They get the ball early and play off of him – so that’s a challenge for our centre backs.”
He also hoped that lessons had been learned from the previous encounter.
“Last time we conceded three goals from set pieces, so we’re keen to cut that out. We certainly work on that – positioning and marking – but set pieces change really quickly when the ball gets into your box.
“The thing I really try to get home to the boys is concentration – if you switch off for a split second, you can get hurt in a way that doesn’t happen when playing domestic football in Shetland.”
Another attribute being worked on is squad fitness and Bristow says it was paying off.
“What’s been really impressing me over the past few weeks has been fitness levels. We look sharper and we’re far fitter than we were in October.
“In training recently we’ve been doing some tough physical sessions, and they look pretty good, so fitness isn’t going to be a problem for us.
“I think playing south gives Shetland players that incentive to keep fit. The park on Saturday will be heavy, and the boys have put a shift in to be ready for that.”
Success on Saturday will of course see Shetland through to a cup final – with some interesting potential opposition.
Bristow said: “If we reach the final we’ll be facing either Clachnacuddin FC or Orkney. We’ve got to think about ourselves of course – and we’d be delighted to get to the final regardless.
“However, Orkney is an added incentive, but people who know me will know I’m a cautious type of person when it comes to football, and I’m certainly not counting any chickens.
“Golspie will be hard to beat. If we play what we’re capable of though, I’m pretty hopeful we’ll get there.”
The full squad travelling south is: Erik Peterson (Ness), Ian Devonald (Delting); Josie Kay (Spurs), Duncan Fraser (Whitedale), Joel Bradley (Celtic), Shane Jamieson (Spurs), Leighton Flaws (Delting); Calvin Leask (Thistle), James Johnston (Spurs), Jordan Webb (Spurs), Scott Henderson (Scalloway), James Farmer (Ness United); Steven Umphray (Scalloway), Dominic Mann (Spurs), Sam Ward (Spurs).