Carloway FC - Lewis and Harris Football preview

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Two precious chunks of Lewis silver made their way to the Carloway sideboard last year as they tasted glory in both the ABC Cup and the Eilean an Fhraoich Cup – the latter for the first time in their history.

But not challenging for the league title is something which rankles with manager Graeme Miller who knows exactly why they didn’t.

“I think we lost our first four or five league games which really hurt us and strangely we won our first four or five cup games,” he recalled.

“It was an odd start to the season so we need to get going earlier and be more consistent. There is a bit of learning but this year we should be more consistent.”

Losses to West Side, Point, Back and Lochs blighted Carloway’s league title challenge and left them pointless after the first quarter. A resurgence of form, fuelled by a stunning cup runs, saw Carloway win their next seven league outings on the spin before they came unstuck against Stornoway United. It showed what Miller and the Carloway lads know – that when they play to their capabilities they can beat any of the sides in the domestic league.

It is admirable how Carloway keep a raging fire burning in their bellies. Not just when they hear the roar of their home crowd, one of the island’s best and most vocal on game night. No: This is a club, a coach and a group of players who go to war every single match day. They are certainly capable of winning the league and even the Highland Amateur Cup – where they stormed to the final just a few short years ago.

But they lack a No.9 and without the injured Dan Crossley sparking things in the middle I’m not sure they have quite enough to dig out exceptional results week after week all through the rain and midge plagued island summer..

Now fast forward to late August and if Carloway are sitting top with a couple of games to go then, don’t worry: You won’t have to go to wave your Gazette’s in my direction to say ‘I told you so.’ I’ll be happily embracing their title challenge and patting supporters and Carloway skipper Domnhall Mackay on the back and celebrating the dark horse edging in front down the home straight ahead of the chasing league top tips.

“We had a slow start in the league, a really good run in the middle when we got momentum going and to win two cups was great,” said Miller.

“We were a little disappointed not to challenge more in the league so that’s got to be the challenge this season.”

On the subject of player movements at Cnoc a’Choilich Miller continued: “Dan Crossley is struggling and he won’t start the season anyway. He has knee and shoulder problems and he is waiting on a scan for his knee. It is hard to see him playing too much of a part this year.

“Murdo ‘Squegg’ has retired but we have brought in Jordan Macleod from Aths, Sven Wiltshire form United and David Beaton is back in goals. So it is not many great changes, just a few in and out.

“From what I hear West and Point have the healthiest squad in terms of numbers but Lochs will be strong if they are fit. It won’t be greatly different from last year but we will be working hard to try and bridge that gap from our end.”