Lewis and Harris FC are ready for an inter-island battle for silverware and island bragging rights after our representative side were paired up with Orkney in what looks to be a mouth watering Football Times Cup Final.
Having seen off the challenge of a physical Golspie side two weeks earlier, Lewis and Harris were back in action on the mainland last weekend as they travelled to Tain for a semi-final against St Duthus.
Naming a largely similar squad Lewis and Harris FC gaffer Kevin Anderson crossed the Minch in fairly confident mood but it was the hosts who settled first.
St Duthus were moving the ball crisply and giving Lewis and Harris little sight of the size 5 far less time to do anything productive with it when they did get it.
But for a superb stop by James Macleod, although St Duthus’ Liam Rostock will kick himself reflecting on his failure to beat Macleod in a one on one scenario, Lewis and Harris could and should have been behind inside the opening 60-seconds.
They continued to pressure the Lewis and Harris defence and there were a few nervous glances from the Hebridean pack to the man in the middle when Neil Morrison and Miller Mackay hit the deck in the box with each player looking to have a fistful of the other’s shirt.
No penalty and the play raged on.
Andrew Murray had Lewis and Harris’s first effort with a curler from 25-yards which had the Saints keeper scrambling across his line but it curled the wrong side of the post.
They didn’t have to wait long to snatch the lead though for an opener which came against the run of play as Angus Grant was sent galloping clear. Steve Martin charged off the Saints goal line but Grant got enough purchase on his strike that despite Martin getting something onto it, the ball carried under the keeper and found the back of the net.
While it had been a slow start from Lewis and Harris, they came roaring back into the match from here and began to play more football and ask more questions of their hosts.
Grant had another chance moments later but held onto the ball too long when he had good options of support in the middle.
At the other end Miller Mackay went close with an arcing overhead lob which looped over the crossbar.
Lewis and Harris continued to press and probe in the second half and it was they who looked the more dangerous when breaking forward in numbers.
Save for a couple of half chances and pot-shots, James Macleod was rarely troubled while at the other end the travelling Hebrideans looked dangerous.
Angus Grant roasted his marker with an absolutley outrageous flick on the spin, channeling the best of Luis Suarez, to race clear but he couldn’t pick out a team mate.
Innes Iain Morrison then smacked the frame of the goal so hard with a dippig left-foot swinger from 20-yards, I wouldn’t be surprised if the woodwork is still wobbling now, almost a week later.
A second goal was coming and it duly arrived with a huge wedge of thanks to Peter Mackenzie who charged up the park from his protective berth in front of James Macleod to burst through the St Duthus pack like a runaway train.
He created the space and found a perfect pass for Angus Macdonald who showed great composure to measure a finish, guiding it into the corner from 16-yards to make it 2-0.
Kevin Anderson made a pair of changes as he added the pace of Andrew Morrison to one flank and the trickery and quick feet of James ‘Titch’ Morrison to the other. Micheil Smith and Andrew Murray made way.
But it was St Duthus who struck back to set up a nervy final 15 minutes for Anderson and the rest of the island bench as they finally found a way past Mackenzie and Macleod with a worldy free kick which was curled and whipped over the wall and into the top corner with so much speed and accuracy it was if it flew into the net on a broomstick.
Having managed to halve the deficit it was no surprise to see St Duthus go for broke in the closing stages, throwing men forward and pumping the ball into the air and box at every opportunity.
Lewis and Harris stood firm, defiant, strong and refused to buckle or yield another goal. St Duthus had their arms in the air late on with another half hearted penalty appeal but it didn’t look a strong shout at first view and Lewis and Harris held on.
Next up on their Football Times Cup journey will be an Orkney side in goal-den form.
The islanders have been in stunning form recently, scoring goals almost at will this season and they will provide a formidable challenge to Lewis and Harris.
The final is scheduled to take place a week on Saturday (October 28th) and will take place in Golspie.
Seats for supporters can be booked on the team bus by contacting team manager Kevin Anderson.