Halkirk v Shetland (Jock Mackay QF) – Match Preview

Shetland FC will begin their defence of the Jock Mackay Memorial Cup this weekend in a quarter-final clash against the current North Caledonian League leaders Halkirk at Recreation Park. The squad are hoping this weekend will prove fourth time lucky as the fixture has already been postponed three times due to the weather and resultant travel disruptions.

New managers John Scott Christie and Allan Graham are taking down a 15-man squad for what will be their first competitive outing since their appointment last summer. Despite the disrupted start to his Shetland managerial career, Christie remains in an upbeat mood ahead of this weekend’s fixture. “It’s been challenging but very enjoyable. The pitfalls of playing in competitions on the mainland over the winter months are there for all to see but the team needs competitive matches to develop, along with all the other aspects of trying to progress the team.”

Christie has also expressed his gratitude to his background staff who have provided great support over the last few months. “Kevin Main has been a huge asset and has no problems telling us how it is. We are also delighted to have Ian Manning and Geoffrey Hay on board.”

The managers have admitted that they are not all that familiar with this weekend’s opponents however they have been busy gathering information on their strengths and weaknesses. “There was only one goal in the match last time the teams played but that was a friendly which can be notoriously hard to judge”, says Christie. Halkirk are perched top of the league after 6 wins in their 8 matches this season and will therefore prove testing opponents for the young Shetland squad.

It is a relatively familiar-looking Shetland team that will be travelling down this weekend with only a couple of players in line to make their first appearances for the Shetland senior team. Thistle goalkeeper Saul Swanson and John Allan of Scalloway are both looking for their debuts while Spurs duo Paul Molloy and Sam Ward; and James Farmer return to the squad.

Despite many of the Island Games squad retaining their spots in the squad for this fixture, several new faces have been invited to training to freshen-up proceedings. Youngsters Stuart Copland (Thistle), Magnus Thompson (Whalsay) and Bobby Scott (Whitedale) have all been regulars of the winter training programme but unfortunately miss out this weekend.

“The training has been high quality and fast paced which has really helped me improve along with the support and advice of the managers and coaches”, says Thompson, who was initially selected to travel. Thistle’s Callum Johnson will also be pleased that his performances in recent seasons have caught the eyes of the new management staff. “I’ve enjoyed becoming involved in the training over the winter period”, Johnson explains.

Several of the squads regulars over the past couple of years are however unavailable for selection. Captain Leighton Flaws; Celtic duo Finn Watt and Jordan Thomson; Ness’ goalkeeper Erik Peterson; and Whalsay’s David Murray all miss out. Despite these absentees, the managers remain confident that the traveling squad has enough quality to progress to the next round.

The squad will travel down to Orkney on Friday night and through to Thurso on Saturday morning for the Saturday afternoon fixture before heading straight home on the Saturday night boat. The Shetland squad would once again like to thank their primary sponsor Northlink Ferries for their continued support in fulfilling their fixtures on the mainland.

Full Squad for Halkirk v Shetland on 20th February 2016:

Iain Devonald (Delting), Saul Swanson (Thistle), Robert Smith (Celtic), Josie Kay (Spurs), Joel Bradley (Celtic), Shane Jamieson (C) (Celtic), Richard Arthur (Whalsay), James Farmer (Ness), James Aitken (Celtic), Calvin Leask (Thistle), Connor Regan (Celtic), John Allan (Scalloway), Greg Tulloch (Whitedale), Sam Ward (Spurs) and Paul Molloy (Spurs).