Shetland* 2-2 Alness Utd (FT Cup QF 2016)

Shetland FC have progressed to the semi-finals of the Football Times Cup after another penalty-shootout victory, this time against a youthful Alness side at Golspie’s King George V Park. The teams played out an exciting 2-2 draw to set up another round of spot-kicks and it was the boys in blue who once again held their nerve to win 5-3.

The victory sets up a semi-final clash against Invergordon with the match pencilled in to be played on the 15th of October in Thurso. Invergordon are currently perched top of the North Caledonian League having made an unbeaten start to the campaign and will provide stiff opposition in a couple of weeks’ time.

Shetland will therefore be looking to improve their performances from both the St Duthus and Alness matches if they want to secure their second piece of silverware on the mainland since their introduction a couple of years ago.

Despite starting well on Saturday, the final pass or shot was lacking in the early stages of the match. John Allan was the first to get in behind the Alness back line but his cut-back was intercepted with James Aitken ready to pounce.

Greg Tulloch then missed a good chance from a corner swung in from the right by Ryan Grant. The Whitedale front man found himself in the right place at the right time but failed to get enough on his header and the ball flashed wide.

With around 20 minutes on the clock, Shetland were made to pay for their wastefulness and Alness managed to break the deadlock against the run of play. After zipping around a couple of passes in midfield, Joel Burnett was played through one-on-one and the attacking midfielder delightfully dinked the ball over the onrushing Swanson.

Shetland immediately responded first through Jordan Thomason, who stung the keeper’s hands from 25 yards, and then Aitken, whose shot from the inside right was well held with Tulloch on the prowl.

Tulloch then had another chance to get himself on the scoresheet but his header from Leighton Flaws’ cross flew over the bar from point blank range. Shetland huffed and puffed towards the end of the half without reward and the score remained 1-0 at the break.

The second half start in similar fashion to the first with Shetland dominating possession but failing to create much in the final third and Alness looking dangerous on the counter. Flaws was beginning to take hold of the centre of the park and switching some good balls through to Roy Wood and Allan down the flanks.

After Joel Bradley saw a header from a corner go just wide, Shetland finally managed to get themselves on the score-sheet. A long throw in from right back Piotr Drozdowski found James Aitken in the box who took one touch and fired the ball across the goal-keeper into the bottom left corner.

Having got themselves back into the match, Shetland once again shot themselves in the foot and conceded a second within minutes of getting on level terms. The speedy Ali Mackinnon found space in the box and blasted a low shot into the corner of the net for 2-1.

In response, manager Kevin Main threw on Sam Maver in place of Wood and the winger immediately looked dangerous down the left hand side. Aitken had a couple of half-chances from the edge of the box but his first was blocked and second was volleyed wide.

With around 10 minutes left, Shetland got the all-important equaliser their play deserved. Maver picked up the ball in midfield, drove forward into the box where he was tripped by the Alness right back. Captain Leighton Flaws stepped up and fired the ball high into the corner to make it 2 all.

And that’s how the match ended with neither team able to create any clear-cut chances in the closing stages and penalties was once again required to decide the tie. Flaws, Aitken, Thomason, Tulloch and Grant all found the back of the net with their spot kicks to ensure the home side progressed to the next round.

Shetland Team: Saul Swanson, Piotr Drozdowski, Richard Arthur, Joel Bradley, Ryan Grant, Jordan Thomason, Leighton Flaws, John Allan, James Aitken, Roy Wood (Sam Maver), Greg Tulloch. Unused sub: Bobby Scott.