It was suitably fitting that the winning goal came from the size 10 Nike boots of wing-king Ali ‘Barvas’ Macleod.
No-one, either in the blue shirts of West Side or in the yellow of Iochdar Saints, had worked harder, poured more into the game or tried to create more offensive sparks than the speedy winger, who also, somewhat fortuitously scored the opening goal too.
Macleod worked the channels relentlessly and determinedly like a dog chasing a tennis ball at times. Always offering an outlet, coming short to join in with play or spinning in behind the Iochdar left-back who will have been left haunted by the sight of the No.7 shirt disappearing over the horizon, he was in devastating form.
The game looked destined for a penalty shoot-out, the dreaded 12-yard lottery, as the match minutes hurtled by like an avalanche. It was delicately balanced at 1-1 and although West were enjoying the lions share of the ball, clear sights of the Iochdar goal were proving few and far between.
Until five minutes from time when ‘Barvas’, or ‘Big Bird’ as others have labelled him, latched onto a pass from Colin George Morrison and swept the ball into the bottom corner from 12-yards.
Macleod galloped across the park to celebrate in front of the West Side bench at netting what proved to be the winning goal and ensured it was third time lucky for the Siarachs who have lost two cup finals in 2016.
This is one which didn’t get away from the West who landed the Co-op Cup and brought it home to the Barvas sideboard – the first silverware of the season and West fans will be hoping it has company before the end of the campaign.
Saints and West had recent cup history with one another after the Uist league leaders dumped West Side out of the Highland Amateur Cup en-route to their march to the quarter-finals.
A cagey opening period burst into life on 20-minutes when West Side took the lead. Ali ‘Barvas’ whipped a free kick from the right into the box between a pack of outfield players and Iochdar keeper John Angus MacPhee.
Martainn Shields craned his neck towards the ball but failed to make contact but his presence distracted MacPhee who was wrong footed and the ball skipped off the turf and looped into the net without an additional touch.
Going a goal up in a cup final is the moment where you expected West Side’s big players to take over, but the likes of Shields and Innes Iain Morrison were muted.
A coming together in the West Side penalty area brought Saints manager Stephen MacAulay to his feet furiously leading calls for a penalty after Jospeh MacInnes hit the turf.
Referee Domhnall Iain Maclean waves play on before having some stern words with the Iochdar manager on the touchline.
Veteran midfield Dan Macphail showed great tenacity and eye for a pass to slide Shields clean through on goal. MacPhee came off his line to narrow the angle but Shields had time to pick his spot to double West’s lead only to rattle his shot straight into the keeper’s midriff.
Saints hadn’t threatened Iain Gillies’ goal much but five minutes before the break they drew level after a well worked move and classy finish.
MacInnes delivered an early cross towards the edge of the box where John Woodman had found a pocket of space and without breaking stride or lifting his head up he caught the ball on the volley with the outside of his boot and sent it curling away from Gillies and inside the far post.
It was a stunning finish and sent the sides in for their half-time Jaffa Cakes and Haribo’s level.
Much like the first-45 the second began in an edgy fashion with the two sides scrapping it out in the middle third and little action reaching either final third. On the hour mark West Side should have taken the lead.
Gordy Campbell, another source of thundering energy on the right flank, sent over an inch perfect cross for Scott Graham eight yards from goal. If you asked any West Side supporter or player who they would want that kind of chance to fall to they would unanimously cry out ‘Scotty G’ but on this occasion he mistimed his leap and the ball skidded off his forehead and harmlessly wide of the far post.
West Side weren’t having it all their own way though and Gillies had to be alert to push a MacInnes shot from some distance over the top from underneath the crossbar.
Woodman went close with an angled strike before MacInnes saw an effort deflected into the side netting.
Siarach boss Murchadh Macdonald felt he needed to do something and used up his two final substitutions in an effort to turn the tide in his favour before the dreaded penalty shoot-out. Sent across the white line into battle were Luke Mackay and Colin George Morrison.
Mackay’s frightening pace and Morrison’s cool head on the ball gave West Side a new threat and it was the latter who had a direct hand, or boot, in the winning goal.
With the West Side management urging the blues forward, Morrison jinked his way into space in the inside left channel. He toe-poked the ball to his right towards Macleod who caught the ball flush.
John Angus MacPhee got a hand to the ball but there was too much power on it to keep it out and it found the bottom corner to spark wild celebrations.
Time was very much against Saints but they refused to accept defeat and launched a late surge forward. An almighty goalmouth scramble in the dying moments saw Gillies claw away a powerful Harry Luney header before West threw bodies in the way of follow-up shots.
West Side manager Murchadh Macdonald told the Gazette after the match he was fearful the game would be decided from the spot as the two sides remained deadlocked in the final minutes.
But he says he believes his side earned the win having created more of the better goalscoring opportunities over the entire piece.
“Towards the end it looked certain that it was going to go to penalty kicks,” he said.
“The winner did arrive very late but I think we were the stronger team. Certainly so in the first-half where we had most of the chances. But Saints scored a great goal, very well worked and that’s what can happen against a good team like Saints.
“The second-half was much closer between the sides but I think our substitutions changed the game a little in our favour and gave us a boost.
“It was very good to win the trophy having lost two cup finals already this season which was very disappointing. I felt we were the better team. Saints did pressurise us right at the end but we held on.”
West Side: Iain Gillies, Gordon Campbell, Euan Shirkie, Donnie Smith, Johnny Wallace, Ali Macleod, Doug Bryson, Dan Macphail, Scott Graham, Martainn Shields, Innes Iain Morrison. Subs: Murdo John Graham, Luke Mackay, Connor Mackay, Warren Mackay, Colin George Morrison.