West Side 2
THROUGH rapidly failing light, and a forest of swinging tackles, Scott Graham bobbed and weaved around the Back defence as if they were traffic cones in a training exercise.
After 118 minutes of leg-sapping football he must have been powering on through sheer adrenalin as he dribbled past both Jason Macleod and Davie ‘Ox’ Macleod before his mishit shot turned into a perfect pass for Andy ‘Barvas’ Macleod to tap into the empty net.
As the jubilant Barvas boys celebrated wildly on the pitch, an exhausted Graham stayed on the turf to catch his breath before his team mates raced to celebrate with their talisman, their silent leader who let his feet do the talking.
It was the second cup competition in a row in which the West Side have knocked Back out but the final score only tells part of the story of a match which saw the home skipper earn the first squeeze of the shower gel for an alleged flying elbow and a last minute leveller to force extra-time.
Fraser Macleod’s leggy strides earned him the game’s first chance as he burst clear into yards of space where he tried to loft the ball over the advancing Peter Mackaskill.
The West Side teenager, who was arguably man of the match on the night, kept his cool and stood up well to palm the ball away from danger.
Set-pieces were proving to be the visitor’s most potent offensive weapon early on with Duncan Maclean’s educated left foot whipping in balls which were causing carnage for the Back rearguard.
A typically excellent Maclean corner picked out Donald ‘Spike’ Smith who had more time than he thought and powered a thunderous header over the top.
Maclean continued to pepper the Back box with difficult to defend balls and it was no surprise to see the Siarachs take the lead from one when Graham’s near post run was rewarded with a fizzed cross that Graham glanced back over his shoulder and in via the underside of the crossbar.
After the break Back pushed forward in search of a leveller and midfielder Martin Maclean, who is working hard to juggle playing for the Blues and Brora Rangers in the Highland League at weekends, forced a stunning stop from Mackaskill with a ferocious free kick which was swerving all over the place in the air.
Like his West Side name sake it was Maclean from a dead ball which was causing most concern for the defence as another well struck free kick flew into the box, spun up of Duncan Maclean’s boot before dropping into arms of Peter Mackaskill who was rooted to the spot.
Then Back were reduced to ten men when captain Ross Hall was shown a straight red for an apparent attempted elbow.
Ironically, as is often the case, the ten men rallied and adopted a siege mentality which saw them play better with a man less and dominate the game far more than they had with a full compliment of players.
Fraser Macleod smacked the outside of the post with an effort as Back upped the tempo.
But while time was against them the Blues refused to give up hope and teen sub Colin Maclean forced extra-time with a dipping effort from the edge of the box which flew over Mackaskill and nestled in the top corner with little more than five minutes left to play.
In a frantic finish to the regulation 90 both sides had penalty appeals waved away by the man in the middle which, at first glance in real time, appeared as if both had a case.
Extra-time arrived with Fraser Macleod running onto yet another opportunity created by a long ball over the top. This time Mackaskill, who hadn’t put a glove wrong all night, almost made a costly error as he began to race out to meet Macleod before changing his mind and stopping and then setting off again.
The hesitation meant he was caught in no mans land when Macleod met the ball but fortunately for him the Back striker hooked the ball across goal and wide.
At the other end Graham steered a free header from the middle of the six yard box high over the top after an excellent delivery from Andy ‘Barvas’ before Graham then dropped a header onto the top of the bar.
Martin Maclean continued his personal battle with Mackaskill with a sweetly struck shot which was punched clear under pressure.
The game was now wide open as the two island football heavyweights traded punches and chances at either end. Andy ‘Barvas’ screwed a chance wide after a punch from Back keeper James Macleod fell for him 14 yards out before Scott Graham’s late, great run sucked the life out of Back and booked a semi-final spot for West Side.