Shetland defeat St Duthus in Shootout

Shetland have qualified to the next round of the Football Times Cup after defeating St Duthus FC on penalties in Halkirk this weekend. After going two goals ahead through Calvin Leask and Ryan Grant, Shetland somehow found themselves 3-2 with just minutes remaining. However the returning Jordan Thomason poked home a last minute equaliser to take the match to spot kicks and it was the boys in blue who held there nerve to win 5-3.

Despite missing several first team regulars including Sam Ward, Paul Molly and Piotr Drozdowski, the Shetland starting 11 was strong and interim managers Kevin Main and Niall Bristow lined up a 4-5-1 formation. The back four included Jack Clubb, Joel Bradley, Richard Arthur and Josie Kay; Leighton Flaws and Jordan Thomason operated as the slightly deeper central midfielders; and Calvin Leask, James Aitken and Ryan Grant were given licence to support Greg Tulloch in attack.

And it was the boys in blue that found their feet earlier; the pace of Calvin Leask and Greg Tulloch in the final third was proving a handful for the St Duthus back line and it was Tulloch himself who had the first chance of the match. An in-swinging ball from Clubb found the front-man unmarked at the back post but his effort flashed just wide of the mark.

This momentary lapse in concentration seemed to spur the Tain-based side into action and they immediately went up the other end to create a chance of their own. Speedy striker Liam Taylor was played in behind the Shetland defence but their was no way past Grant Wood in goal.

After the slightly frantic start, the home side seemed to settle into their game and were having a lot of joy down the right hand side with Clubb supporting Leask in attack. Another cross in from the full back found captain Leighton Flaws in the middle but his header came crashing back off the bar and away to safety.

James Aitken was next to have a couple of efforts, first swinging a freekick goal-wards which was saved before flashing an effort wide of the goal from the edge of the area. Shetland was getting closer and closer to that opening goal but lacked a bit of composure in the final third and the teams went into the half time break with the deadlock unbroken.

After a quick pep talk from the stand-in management, Shetland returned to the field with renewed confidence and were beginning to dominate proceedings all over the park. Bradley and Arthur were marshaling the back-line well and feeding balls into the Blues’ attackers who seemed to be gaining that extra yard in the attacking half.

Around 10 minutes into the half, Shetland got the all important opening goal. After winning the ball in his own half, Arthur played the ball over the top to Tulloch who in turn laid the ball to Leask who curled his shot past the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner.

And just two minutes later, their lead was doubled when Aitken snatched the ball off a laboured St Duthus defender, beat his man and cut back to Grant to side-foot home. With their tails up, Shetland could easily have added to their tally, but Tulloch and Grant squandered good chances and a Duthus defender cleared a ball on to his own bar.

With legs and perhaps minds tiring, Main decided to freshen things up and brought on youngsters Bobby Scott and Magnus Thompson to inject a bit of life into the tie. However Shetland failed to get that killer third goal which would surely have put the tie to bed once and for all.

And in a crazy 10 minute spell, not too dissimilar to that fateful night in Kirkwall, Shetland were made to pay for their wastefulness and somehow managed to let St Duthus back into the match. First, loanee Taylor got his first goal for the club from the spot after Kay had upended the striker.

Taylor then grabbed the equaliser for the away side after substitute Steven Learmont got in behind the back line. And with minutes remaining, the miraculous comeback was complete after Will Ross’ shot caught out Wood in the Shetland goal and found the bottom corner.

Shetland were understandably rattled and somehow found themselves chasing a game they were cruising through just moments earlier. A couple of half chances were wasted and Steven Martin remained untested as the clock ticked into added time.

In the final minute of the match, the pendulum once again swung in the favour of the boys in blue and they managed to notch the equaliser. Clubb swung in a ball to Arthur who nodded down for Thomason to prod home to make it 3-3, sparking celebration at the sidelines.

The match finished 3-3 and spot kicks were required to separate the two teams. Wood made amends for his earlier lapse and saved the first St Duthus penalty while all Shetland’s kicks found the back of the net to ensure a 5-3 victory.

The boys will be up against a rejuvenated Alness side in the next round with the date and venue for the fixture yet to be confirmed.

 

Shetland team: G Wood, J Clubb, J Bradley, R Arthur, J Kay, L Flaws, J Thomason, C Leask, J Aitken, R Grant (M Thompson), G Tulloch (B Scott)