Shetland FC travelled to Dingwall this weekend to face fellow Island Games competitors Western Isles in a friendly, with the blues looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Orkney in the previous month.
The match would provide both teams with valuable game-time in the run-up to the games with neither side having any more competitive fixtures before June.
Shetland lined up a strong starting 11 with Grant Wood in goals; Joel Bradley, Richard Arthur and Piotr Drozdowski across the back; Calvin Leask, James Farmer, Jack Clubb, James Aitken and Ryan Grant in midfield; and Gary Sutherland supporting Greg Tulloch in attack.
The blues started the match confident in possession and with less than two minutes on the clock, they already found themselves a goal to the good. After a good turn and pass from Tulloch, Sutherland found himself with time in on goal on the left and the diminutive striker poked the ball home at the near post.
The goal settled down Shetland nicely and they were able to pass the ball around with real confidence and purpose – the 3G pitch at Ross County’s academy was perfect for a team who liked to get the ball down and pass.
Tulloch was the next to carve out a chance of his own, stealing a loose ball in midfield and driving towards goal. However the Western Isles centre back recovered well to block the Whitedale striker’s shot.
Goalkeeper Wood remained relatively untested in the opening period but collected well from a couple of crosses and was passing the ball around with the centre backs. Slightly against the run of play, the Western Isles did manage to create a chance of their own but the striker’s effort crashed back off the bar.
Leask was beginning to cause problems down Shetland’s right with Clubb finding the tricky winger with a couple of superb cross field passes. On one such occasion, Leask cut in and forced a good save from the WI keeper at his near post.
The second half continued in similar fashion to the first with Shetland controlling possession but just lacked that killer pass the final third. Bristow rolled the dice and subbed on Sam Maver and Bobby Scott and the pair immediately injected pace into the Shetland attack and the second goal was coming.
After zipping one wide from a tight angle, Maver did manage to get on the scoresheet with about 25 minutes to go. After good work down the right, the forward cut in onto his left foot and unleashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.
And a couple of minutes later, Leask got himself on the scoresheet. Maver again caused problems down the right and cut back to substitute Magnus Thompson whose shot was blocked but the ball fell to Leask who hammered home.
With the game coming to a close, the hard-working Western Isles side did manage to get a consolation but it was too little too late and Shetland closed out the match 3-1.
The weekend proved to be a very positive one for a Shetland team desperate for minutes on the pitch. The squad would like to thank Western Isles for the match and sponsors Northlink Ferries for their continued support.
report by James Aitken