Thursday, 19 July 2012

Whalsay 3 v 0 Scalloway

Monday 9th May 2012
Shetland FA Fraser Cup Semi Final
Harbison Park, Symbister
Admission and Programme: N/A
Attendance: 50 (est)
Match rating: 4

For the first game during my stay in the Shetland Islands - indeed, what would be my first game of the 2012-13 season, I headed over to the small island of Whalsay, which is reached by a half hour drive north from Lerwick to Laxo, followed by a half hour ferry crossing eastwards.

After a day of very enjoyable walking on the island, I headed back to the the village where the ferry docked, Symbister, for the game. Harbison Park is located high above the town, and as such has a glorious backdrop, with rugged rolling hills behind one touchline and the sea and some islands behind one of the goals. Such a setting also made for a bitterly cold evening for football here, with a very strong biting wind throughout the match. The pitch, which is of the artificial variety and is cage-like in that it has high fencing all around the pitch, is part of a leisure complex. Facilities are minimal, although a tall steep grass bank to the side where the leisure centre is offers good elevated views of the action. Parking is also available at the top of this bank, and most spectators take advantage of this with excellent views of the action from the comfort of their own vehicle, only a handful of persons braving the elements outside. It is also possible for spectators to enter the "cage", with a few benches available to sit on along one of the touchlines.

This evening's game would be a cup semi-final, with the home side very much the favourites. Whalsay won the Premier League last season and are well placed this season as well, in third place in the eight team league. Scalloway are one of the strugglers of the league - after finishing second bottom last season, they are rock bottom this season, with just one point from their opening five games. Both teams had comfortable looking results in the last round to reach this stage, both at home - Whalsay beating Delting 3-0, and Scalloway beating Ness United 3-1.

It was the visitors who had the best of the opening exchanges and created some reasonable chances, however it was the home side who went into the lead with ten minutes on the clock with a thumping drive from 25 yards which swirled in the wind giving the keeper no chance, and was greeted by multiple honks of car horns. It was certainly hard on Scalloway, but just before the half hour mark, they were two behind, when a high ball was pumped forward, the Scalloway defender inexplicably headed the ball on straight to the Whalsay striker, who then had a clear run on goal, and he showed good composure in the difficult windy conditions by placing the ball neatly past the keeper. There was a slightly controversial moment when Whalsay scored again, but the referee had blown for half time seconds before and so the goal was not given, and the scoreline remained 2-0 to the home side.

The second half was competitive but by now Whalsay were in total control of the game. Scalloway never gave up and battled gamely, but seemed painfully short of ideas going forward. On 70 minutes, they were nearly gifted a route back into the game, when the Whalsay keeper completely missed a cross, but fortunately for him a covering defender hacked the ball off the line. Three minutes later and it was game over though, as Whalsay strode forward, and when one of their players drew the keeper wide, he passed the ball to his team mate, who took his time before placing a shot past a defender and into the net. The rest of the match was played out without much incident, with Whalsay always looking far more likely to score than Scalloway, and they claimed their place in the final with the comfortable 3-0 scoreline. So an entertaining first fixture for me in the Shetland Islands, despite the bitterly cold and windy conditions, which seemed scarcely believable in July.

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