21st November 2018
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Whalsay beat Thistle on penalties to win County Shield

The victorious Whalsay squad with the County Shield. Photo: Brian Gray

Whalsay won the last senior football trophy of the outdoor season, eventually ending Thistle’s challenge on penalties in the Council Shield final at Gilbertson Park yesterday afternoon.

In a see-saw match which both sides had chances to win both in normal and extra time, it was keeper Kyle Duncan who was to prove Whalsay’s ultimate hero, saving three of Thistle’s five spot kicks.

After some early Whalsay pressure it was Thistle who took the lead through captain Calvin Leask, running on to an excellent through ball from Khalid Rasul before beating Duncan from 15 yards.

The celebrations had barely died down when Whalsay were deservedly level. Lee Irvine, finding himself free on the right, smashed the ball off the post when he probably should have scored. But Bryan Irvine was on hand to follow up and make no mistake, giving Thistle keeper Saul Swanson little chance with a powerful low drive.

A few minutes Irvine produced an excellent first-time shot which looked destined for the top corner. However, Swanson pulled off a fantastic save, diving high to his left to tip the ball over the bar for a corner.

Both teams had opportunities but failed to make the most of them and referee Ivan Sinclair blew for half-time with the scores locked at 1-1.

Whalsay almost went in front when Swanson misjudged a dangerous cross from the right, but thankfully Thistle player-manager Stuart Smith was on hand in the goalmouth to head clear.

Whalsay’s Scott Johnson holds off the challenge of Thistle defender Stuart Copland. Photo: Brian Gray

Thistle were much more dominant against the wind in the second half but the Whalsay defence, with captain Richard Arthur and youngster Danny Thompson in the middle, dealt with most of the pressure well.

It was Whalsay who went ahead for the first time in the 80th minute, although the Thistle players would feel slightly aggrieved at how the goal came about.

After a foul on a Whalsay player just outside the penalty box, Sinclair played advantage. The ball was moved to the right but the attack failed to materialise and the referee took play back for the original challenge. James Shearer stepped up to take the free kick, despite the Thistle protests, and hit a tremendous shot to Swanson’s left.

Thistle had a few attempts to equalise again but the Whalsay defence coped comfortably and the trophy for the first time looked to destined for the Bonnie Isle.

Normal time was up, with Sinclair considering how much to add on, when the Lerwick side won yet another corner. The cross looked a harmless one when the ball fell to Stuart Copland in the middle of a crowded goalmouth with his back to goal. But the youngster swivelled and hit a left-foot shot which amazingly found its way into the net through a ruck of players.

A minute later the full-time whistle went, and with Whalsay having replaced one or two of their more experienced players Thistle looked the more likely winners.

It was Whalsay who went in front again, however, after Swanson called for a ball through the middle but failed to gather it. The ball broke to Magnus Thompson on the right who gleefully tapped it into the gaping net.

With 11 of the first extra 15 minutes gone Thistle were level again. Calvin Leask crossed from the left and substitute Liam Evans, whose industry had definitely added something, headed the ball past Duncan from close range.

Chances in the second period were few and far between and no-one was surprised when the game went to penalties.

Copland and Ian Anderson scored the first two for their respective sides but the next pair, from Calvin Leask and Ian Simpson, were both saved by Duncan and Swanson.

Whalsay keeper Kyle Duncan saves the decisive penalty kick from Thistle’s Scott Evans. Photo: Brian Gray

Adam Cornick and Magnus Thompson put their kicks away in style to make it 2-2 but sadly for Thistle Gary Sim’s effort was again stopped by Duncan. Young Scott Johnson found the net for Whalsay to make it 3-2.

That left Scott Evans needing to score for Thistle to keep the game alive but despite a flamboyant run-up Duncan guessed correctly and dived to his right to save.

Whalsay just about deserved their victory, their youthful players especially having proved up to the task, and a delighted Arthur received the trophy from Shetland Football Association president Magnus Flaws.

About Jim Tait

Jim Tait is news editor at The Shetland Times.

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