Lewis and Harris too strong for Orkney in cup

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For long spells of this match the Orkney bench watched the game through cracks in their fingers with their hands slapped over their eyes - such was the dominance of Lewis and Harris FC.

But it took a poachers finish at the turn of the second-half and a stoppage time clincher to ease Lewis and Harris into the Football Times Cup quarter-finals in this inter-island cup challenge.

Lossiemouth are the next stop for the travelling Hebrideans when they cross the Minch once again on Saturday, September 24, for the quarter-final.

A number of injuries and work commitments denied Lewis and Harris manager Kevin Anderson of the services of a handful of players who have made up the spine of his previous selections since taking over the reins of the represenative side.

While the likes of Robert Mackenzie, Elliot Ruddal and Dan Crossley were all unavailable their absence handed first time representative chances to a number of teen prospects.

Point’s Angus Macdonald and Lochs’ Niall Houston both just 17 were drafted in alongside 16-year-old Luke Mackay - his second trip with the select. Also making first Lewis and Harris appearances were Point’s Andrew Murray and Back’s Chris Stone.

And while there was a generous sprinkling of new faces and youthful runners it was far from an experimental squad as Anderson ensured he retained an ominously strong pool to pick from.

Starting with a cautious 4-5-1 the formation retained the flexibility to become 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2 quickly with Innes Iain Morrison handed a licence to roam freely, supporting the attack and finding pockets of space but dropping back on the rare occasion they needed him to.

James Macleod in goals was rarely troubled and his mud-free knees and gloves was a sign of the few stops he was asked to make.

At the back Gordon Campbell at right-back impressed with DI Maclennan in the centre alongside skipper Domhnall Mackay. Left-back was Donnie Smith.

In midfield Ali ‘Barvas’ Macleod hugged the right touchline and tormented the Orkney left-back so much he will have been left with twisted blood. Inside him were the midfield pair of Peter Mackenzie and Scott Graham with Archie Macdonald’s 19-goal haul for Carloway earning him the left wing nod.

Innes Iain was ahead of them and Lewis and Harris football’s top goalscorer Jim O’Donnell led the line up top.

The early exchanges saw Lewis and Harris enjoy long spells of possession and tentative probing without asking too many serious questions of the Orkney keeper.

O’Donnell did shake off his marker on the goal line before hitting the deck prompting a furious appeal for a penalty which was waved away by the woman in the middle - the match day referee - much to O’Donnell’s bemusement.

The 34-goal hitman was at the focal point of most of his side’s attacks, ably assisted by wing-king Ali ‘Barvas’ Macleod who was terrifying the life out of the Orkney defence. Time and time again ‘Barvas’ cut inside, shimmied outside and breezed past his marker and he was the chief orchestrator for Lewis and Harris’ offensive raids.

It was from one of his trademark early crosses that brought the games first genuine clear cut chances as O’Donnell rose at the back post to meet the ball flush with the centre of his forehead but his header back across goal arced away from the far post.

At the other end Orkney led a penalty appeal of their own for handball after a stramash in the box saw the ball pinball around with the red’s adamant it had struck a Leodhsaich hand. Again the referee waved play on.

As the first-half drew to a close O’Donnell showed good strength to roll his marked and fashion the ball onto his left boot inside the area where he let fly with a venomous drive which the keeper did well to beat away with both gloves from close range.

Anderson resisted the temptation to make too many changes at the break with Stone coming on for Archie Macdonald as the game’s only change. From the outset the Back midfielder showed a cool head in the frenetic pace of the game to put a foot on the ball, pick a pass and help get up the park to support the forwards.

Innes Iain clipped the top of the crossbar with a dipping shot from 20-yards after being allowed to turn from his position near the corner flag as the Orkney defenders began to scream at one another in a bid to reorganise and mark tighter.

A goal was surely coming and arrived with the best and slickest passage of football of the game. Stone and Macleod were involved as they played neat give and go’s and triangles on the half-way line before slipping in the overlapping Gordy Campbell.

He took a look into the six-yard box to see O’Donnell completely unmarked in front of the goal. He rolled the ball into O’Donnell who poked his right foot out before the keeper could reach it to edge Lewis and Harris ahead.

It was O’Donnell’s second goal for Lewis and Harris having netted on his debut from the bench a year before.

Angus Macdonald and Andrew Murray joined the fray from the bench as tired, cramping legs were rested by Anderson and Macdonald’s dynamic fearlessness twinned with Murray’s technique and coollness on the ball heaped on the misery for a visibly tiring Orkney side.

Luke Mackay was also unleashed from his substitute shackles and as one of Lewis and Harris football’s quickest players he quickly showed Orkney what he is all about with a series of lightning bursts through the pack.

One pacey break saw the West Side teenager burn a trail into the inside left channel where he picked out O’Donnell, once again left unmarked, at the far post. The ball came off his shin as he went to strike the ball and was prodded off the line by a covering defender.

It only went as far as the edge of the box where Chris Stone regained possession with two crunching tackles in which he went to ground and emerged with the ball on each occasion.

The ball was eventually fired goalwards where it was deflected wide for a corner but the Lewis and Harris boys had their arms in the air after insisting it was diverted wide by the hand of a grounded Orkney stopper.

Although Lewis and Harris looked comfortable a single goal lead is always a precarious one with a single mistake, or one moment of magic from Orkney, could take the game to extra-time or penalties.

In the final minute a long ball up the park showed the fragility of the lead as D.I Maclennan found himself one on one with an Orkney forward after Lewis and Harris had overcommited bodies forward.

Maclennan was back tracking as the ball sailed over his head but a push in his back sent him to the ground and won him a free kick as Anderson heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Then in time added on Luke Mackay was chopped to the ground as he carried the charge to Orkney at the expense of a Lewis free kick. Stone lined it up and as Orkney prepared for a shot at goal he cleverly slid the ball wide right to Andrew Murray who hadn’t been picked up with the sub arrowing a crisp finish across goal and into the bottom corner.

It proved to be literally the last kick of the match as the referee blew for full-time before Orkney could even fish the ball out of the net.

Lewis and Harris FC: James Macleod, Gordon Campbell, Domhnall Mackay, D.I Maclennan, Donnie Smith (Andrew Murray), Ali Macleod (Angus Macdonald), Peter Mackenzie, Innes Iain Morrison (Luke Mackay), Scott Graham, Archie Macdonald (Chris Stone), Jim O’Donnell (Niall Houston).