HAD this same cup final taken place just 12-months ago then it would have been Back swaggering into Goathill Park as favourites with Carloway, tagged as perpetual chokers, ranked as outsiders.
But what a difference a year makes. Carloway have since ended their more than half century long trophy drought and have not just retained their core squad but strengthened with the league’s most prolific striker in Fraser Macleod from, as fate has determined, from tonight’s cup final opponents Back.
And in addition to losing the goals of Macleod, Back have also been hit with the loss of established keeper Iain ‘Tohan’ Macleod, skipper Ross Hall to a lengthy suspension and star man Martin Maclean who is now starring for Brora Rangers in the Highland League.
The loss of four such key and quality players has naturally rocked Back who haven’t started the season as well as their cup final opponents.
It seems the odds, and the form book, are stacked in Carloway’s favour with the West Coast Blues on a run of six straight wins in 2013 while the Broadbay Blues have lost two of their last three matches.
But cup finals often have a habit of turning the form book on its head and in a one-off 90-minute football fire fight, anything can happen. Indeed, in many areas on the pitch the two sides are evenly matched and Back do boast a handful of match winners in their own right. While Carloway have Macleod, Scott Macaulay, Dan Crossley and Kevin Macleod - who, alongside skipper Domnhall Mackay have both been cleared to play the final with due suspensions not set to start until later - Back have the likes of Colin Maclean, Anthony Maciver and Murray Macleod. In James Macleod they have a goalkeeper well capable of filling the gloves and one who has everything in his locker to go on to become the best on the island; and he is expected to be busy tomorrow night.
Last season the two sides traded heavy home wins in the league while Carloway edged the Co-op Cup Final and ended their lengthy wait for a senior football prize from the penalty spot after a nerve-jangling shoot-out.
But Carloway’s 2013 displays have been the portrait of power, efficiency and effectiveness, with more than a pinch of tactical acumen sprinkled in for flavour.
A combination of a good defence, competent and excellent cover from midfield has contributed to the best home defensive record in local football, with just two goals conceded in seven matches and both of those coming against one club. Stats can only mean so much, of course, but as the weeks have gone by Carloway’s confidence has grown immeasurably, and there is little doubt that assured performances both away to current champs Stornoway Athletic and home and away to Lochs will have increased the sense this may be Carloway’s year.
Meanwhile, Back’s season is at a crossroads: we will find tonight, perhaps, which way it will turn.
Football fans, don’t miss out, head along to Goathill Park this evening (Friday, May 7th) to see where the season’s first silverware will end up.
ABC Cup Final
Back vs Carloway
Friday, May 10, 2013
Goathill Park - 7pm