Shetland overcome Thurso to set-up St Duthus tie

Shetland FC have progressed to the quarter finals of the Jock Mackay Memorial Cup following an impressive 3-0 victory over Thurso on a blustery afternoon at the Dammies.

Goals from Joel Bradley, Gary Sutherland and James Aitken were enough to see off an experienced Thurso side, who will move top of the North Caledonian League if they win their two games in hand over Invergordon.

The prolonged delay with the fixture means that the blues will have to travel away again this coming weekend for the quarter final; an away tie against St Duthus who Shetland overcame on penalties the last time the teams met in 2016.

And the new-look Shetland management team will taking plenty of positives into the fixture as their team dominated for large spells against a Thurso team who have been in fine form this season.

From the first whistle, it was clear that wingers Greg Tulloch and Calvin Leask, and central striker Gary Sutherland, were going to be a real handful for the home side’s defence and their pace got them in behind on numerous occasions in the first period.

Sutherland had a couple of openings in the first 10 minutes but found the Thurso stopper, who was playing as a trialist on the day, in fine form, tipping the ball wide of the post with blue shirts sniffing for any rebound.

However the opener followed soon after with a well-rehearsed corner routine paying dividends for the ‘home’ side. James Aitken and Sutherland linked up well, with the latter swivelling around his defender and finding Joel Bradley in the box who made no mistake from a couple of yards.

The remainder of the half was dominated by the blues with the industrious centre midfield pairing of James Farmer and Stuart Copland controlling the game and feeding the ball to the pacey attackers.

Shetland captain Leighton Flaws was also getting in on the act down the left flank while right back Piotr Drozdowski also showed immense pace both going forward and tracking back.

Although the blues were on top, Thurso did manage to fashion a couple of chances but found keeper Saul Swanson in imperious form, pulling off a couple of excellent saves to keep the score at 1-0 going into the break.

The second period was a scrappier affair with Thurso seeing a bit more of the ball, linking up well through their central number 10 who was dropping deep to pick up possession. However there was no way past central defenders Bradley and Richard Arthur who were in no mood to surrender their clean sheet.

Shetland continued to look dangerous in attack however that final pass or shot was lacking, with the pitch making it difficult to control anything. Sutherland had another effort well saved while Farmer blasted just wide.

With the clock ticking, Sutherland’s persistence was rewarded and the Delting forward booked Shetland’s spot in the next round. After an excellent burst forward and through ball from substitute John Allan, Sutherland composed himself in front of goal and slotted the ball past the onrushing keeper for 2-0.

And the cherry on top was provided by Aitken, who side-stepped a couple of defenders and blasted into the far corner from just inside the box, again following good work from Allan.

The referee brought proceedings to a close at 3-0 with Shetland moving comfortably into the quarter finals, much to the delight of the small contingent of travelling fans.

Best on the day for Shetland was the ever-dangerous Sutherland who got a goal and an assist and Copland in the centre of midfield who put in a cracking performance.

After the game, Shetland manager Kevin Main praised the players’ fitness and attitude going into the game.

“The game presented an opportunity to test player fitness, work rate and technical ability at this stage of the year and considering the conditions, the players acquitted themselves very well.”

Goalscorer Bradley was also in a positive frame of mind after the final whistle: “Delighted with the result, it’s always tough away from home after so much travelling but everyone played well.”

“We put everything we’ve been working on at training over the winter into practice on the pitch and it paid off with a hard fought win.”

 

Shetland team: Saul Swanson, Piotr Drozdowski (Danny Thomson), Richard Arthur, Joel Bradley, Leighton Flaws, Stuart Copland, James Farmer (Stuart Farmer), Greg Tulloch (John Allan), James Aitken, Calvin Leask, Gary Sutherland.

Extended highlights of the match can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmMFK-yMF4M (Credit Picture House)