The Shetland football team were beaten 3-0 by tournament favourites Guernsey on match day two of the island games, although they put up a good fight and the final score was somewhat flattering for the winners.
Shetland 0, Guernsey 3
The Shetland players knew a win against the 2015 gold medalists and a draw in the other game of the group would book a spot in Thursday’s semi-final line up.
The blues lined up with the same starting 11 that did the business just 24 hours earlier against Saaremaa with Grant Wood in goals, Joel Bradley, Richard Arthur and Piotr Drozdowski in defence, Jack Clubb and Ryan Grant in the wide areas, Leighton Flaws and the Farmer brothers Stuart and James in the middle of midfield, and James Aitken supporting Sam Maver in attack.
The opening exchanges panned out in similar fashion to their previous outing, with Guernsey having a lot of possession and Shetland soaking up the pressure will and looking to break fast.
And with 10 minutes on the clock, they did just that, with Aitken feeding in Maver down the left. The tricky forward jinked into the box and fizzed a shot goalwards but the Guernsey stopper got down well to save.
Moments later the Channel Islanders side broke the deadlock with their first real attack of the match. A dangerous ball in from the right flank evaded everyone in the box and was inadvertently turned in at the far post by a Shetland defender.
The blues never let their heads drop, however, and Bradley had a couple of chances with headers from set pieces but couldn’t quite get the required connection. The ever-dangerous Maver also carved a couple of openings but his shots went just wide.
After rushing possession in the early stages, Shetland were know looking more composed on the ball and Clubb was looking to get forward down the right at every opportunity.
With Shetland looking to get back into the game, Guernsey dealt a sucker punch with half-time approaching. The experienced Ross Allen found half a yard of space in the box and whipped an delightful shot into the corner to make it 2-0.
Shetland started the second half with a change as Stuart Copland entered the fray for Grant to make his first appearance at an island games. The versatile Thistle player came on as a target man with Maver and Aitken dropping back a space and James Farmer moving left.
Shetland continued to work tirelessly all over the pitch, closing down in all areas. With the sun beaming, legs were beginning to tire but everyone was giving their all again.
Midway through the half Guernsey sealed the points after receiving another stroke of good fortune. A ball in from a wide area wasn’t dealt with by Wood and a Guernsey toe was able to tap home ahead of the retreating Shetland defenders.
With the game effectively lost, Shetland went into the last 15 minutes looking to finish with a bit of pride and they certainly did that and could even have made the closing stages testing for the experienced Guernsey side.
First, substitute Copland rose highest to head a Farmer cross but the front man’s header went just over with the keeper beaten.
Next up was Greg Tulloch, who had replaced Maver midway through the half to inject a bit of energy into the game. The in-form striker rolled a couple of defenders with some brilliant footwork but he couldn’t quite fashion a shot at goal.
John Allan was also added to the game down the right flank, also making his games debut, and the attack-minded midfielder whipped in a couple of dangerous balls into the box but there were no takers.
In the dying stages Shetland were presented with arguably their best chance of the game. Flaws whipped in an excellent cross to Aitken at the far post but his stretched finish was somehow saved by the Guernsey keeper.
The match was brought to a close at 3-0 with Shetland obviously disappointed but encouraged that they were competitive to the end.
Their tournament hopes now rest on a win against Aland in their final group game and Saaremaa getting a result against Guernsey.
Shetland’s final match is at 8pm today (7pm UK time) at the athletics stadium in Gutevallen, Visby.
The squad again took the opportunity to thank the continued support both in Gotland and from home.