Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Saaremaa Ladies 0 v 2 Western Isles Ladies

Monday 27th June  2011
Island Games, Women's Tournament, Group C
County Ground, Shanklin
Admission: £3.00
Tournament Programme: £3.00
Match day programme: 20p
Attendance: 73
Match Rating: 3

For my second game of the day in the women's tournament of the Island Games, I headed south from Ryde on the rather charming former London Underground tube train to Shanklin for a match between the Western Isles, making their debut in this year's competition today as religious beliefs prevent them playing on Sundays, against the Estonian island of Saaremaa.

The County Ground, home of Shanklin FC of the Isle of Wight Saturday League,  is about a quarter of an hour walk from Lake train station, slightly further from Shanklin station, and whilst facilities are minimal, the ground is a very pleasant one to watch football at. There are no floodlights in place, nor pitching railings nor hard standing, nor are there even any dugouts in place, although there is a clubhouse close to the pitch. Apparently the club is trying to raise funds with the ambition of bringing senior football to Shanklin - they would certainly starting almost from scratch. The ground does have a very nice feel to it though, with an intermittent oval of grass banking circulating the pitch, providing an excellent elevated view of the action, and trees all around but fairly distant from the pitch ensure a pleasantly enclosed yet roomy feel to the place. Indeed, there would be plenty of space to construct stands and the like should they obtain the finances and permission.

Before the competition started, one would have feared for Saaremaa, who entered the competition for the first time out last time but lost all four of their games, conceding 40 goals in the process. However, yesterday they managed a notable scalp by beating fancied Gotland 1-0, the team who they lost to by 0-7 in the previous tournament. The Western Isles have hardly set the world on fire in their previous two tournaments - the only ones they have entered, although they did achieve two victories in the last tournament.

Unexpectedly, temperatures had by now dipped with a couple of sharp showers and a fresh breeze providing welcome relief from the searing heat in the morning and on the previous day, and for the opening half hour, all the signs were that this would be a tight match between two even teams, with neither side really looking like scoring. On 34 minutes, it was the Western Isles who did edge ahead, when the Saaremaa defenders let the ball bounce deep inside their own area, and their indecision in clearing the ball was punished by Michelle Paton, who fired towards goal from 8 yards. A defender handled the ball, but the goal was given as the linesman said the handball occured after the ball had crossed the line - it looked a very sympathetic decision to me, one that suited both teams. A couple of minutes later and the Western Isles should have doubled their advantage, when a long range shot hit the bar, but the rebound was screwed horribly wide eight yards out and central to the goal. On the stroke of half time, they had another chance to double their lead, when a goalbound shot was handled on the line by Kart Mere, this time a penalty was awarded and the mandatory red card was shown to the defender. However, the penalty by Jenna Stewart was struck narrowly wide of the goal to ensure a tight 1-0 scoreline at half time.

Throughout the second half, the Western Isles had the upper hand, having occasional good chances, and whilst Saaremaa barely threatened, a one goal lead is always precarious. Finally on 79 minutes, the Western Isles made the game safe with a powerful shot by Louise Martin from just inside the penalty area which seemed to go straight through the keeper's hands - she really should have saved it. The game was now up, as the match petered out for a 2-0 win for the Western Isles. This was another surprisingly entertaining and competitive game of women's football, as the earlier Jersey-Hitra game had been, every bit as enjoyable as the men's games yesterday.

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