Invergordon 0 - 5 Nicolson
On December 21, when most people were parcelling up their Christmas presents, the Nicolson senior boys football team ventured across the Minch to play a last 16 North of Scotland tie against Invergordon, the oil rig capital of the North.
While the scoreline seems very lopsided, the game was anything but, with Invergordon losing three late goals, which was a bit harsh.
Nevertheless, it was a great day for the yellows, newly kitted out in their Charley Barley sponsored strips.
The game had been in a bit of doubt with high winds forecast but the Nicolson manager, Admiral Mackenzie, had poured over the shipping charts and isobar tables and had reached the conclusion that it was all aboard and full steam ahead. If worst came to worst we could go and do some last minute shopping and watch Star Wars in Inverness.
The weather in Invergordon was fine if a bit breezy as we kicked off on the large grass pitch, the same one the senior Lewis Select had won on a week previously. Hopefully it would be a good omen. It was Invergordon who threatened first and after a good move down their left, the lone target man, no 7, fired a shot against the post. The Nicolson keeper, Ali Murray, was rooted to the spot as the ball rebounded behind him and along the goal line to safety.
It became apparent that the two teams had different formations, with Invergordon having a spare man in midfield whilst the Nicolson were playing with two up front, James Murray and Luke Mackay. This meant that Eachainn “The Yak” Miller and Callum Mackay were having to do a lot of work and organising in centre midfield.
After 13 minutes James Murray was sent clean through down the right by a nice pass from Connor Maciver. Unfortunately for James his shot slid just past the far post. After 18 minutes the Invergordon full back did two fantastic nutmegs before shooting narrowly wide. A couple of minutes later James was sent clean through on goal again, this time the keeper saved well. Coach Mackenzie looked to the sky. He needn’t have worried though, as after 26 minutes it was third time lucky for James as he swivelled onto a nice assist from Luke to hammer the ball high in to the net following a corner.
The Nicolson were having a good spell and the Invergordon keeper did well to save a long range shot from “the Yak” after half an hour. From a rapid counter attack following a corner the Nicolson were 3 on 1 but a poor pass frustrated Angus Macdonald, the Nicolson centre back, who had ventured up from defence. After 43 minutes the Nicolson doubled their lead when James Murray repaid the compliment and assisted Luke Mackay, who emphatically thumped home what must be close to his 90th of the year.
Coach Mackenzie urged the boys to keep a high tempo, even if they were starting to tire. As in all schools football, it was rolling subs, which meant they could come off and go back on if required. The defence were asked to keep a high line as we had the pace at the back to deal with long passes and this would stop gaps appearing in midfield. The next goal would be crucial.
Invergordon came out fighting but although they had some good midfielders, they couldn’t breach the Nicolson defence of Euan Shirkie, Ruaraidh Macmillan, Angus Macdonald and Lewis Macdonald. Any time the Maroons looked threatening, one of the Yellow brick wall repelled them. All good teams are built on a solid defence and Coach Mackenzie seems to have one.
Alex John Morrison was causing Invergordon some problems with his expert set pieces and Callum Mackay glanced a cracking corner just wide after 48 minutes. It was Invergordon who started to play better and broke free down the left a couple of times. At last they broke through but young Ali Murray, the keeper and only S4 in the team, blocked well against his former school. A fact which became apparent when we were looking for the school and driving around the Invergordon metropolis aimlessly for a while: “Anyone know where the school is ?”, “Ali does, he used to go to Invergordon school”.....Might have said something.
At this point a few subs were made to freshen things up and one of them, Colin Morrison, thought he’d sealed it for the Nicolson with a nice finish. Alas for Colin, his enthusiastic celebration was a premature as the ref whistled for offside. The yellows were back on top and after the Yak had his shot pushed wide, Alex John’s corner had so much whip on it he could have been an ice cream salesman. The corner thudded off the back post to safety. After 71 mins the Nicolson were dealt an injury blow as Luke and the keeper collided, leaving the goal machine with an injured foot. I helped Luke limp towards the changing rooms, although with his arm over my shoulder I was aware that my short stature was probably making his injury worse and he’d probably have a dislocated shoulder too. Invergordon had thrown caution to the strengthening wind and sent more players forward. Unfortunately for them, this meant more room for the Nicolson attack who went into overdrive. First, Eachainn tore through the inside left before rifling high into the the net. Great goal (87).
Two minutes later Connor Maciver collected an excellent long pass, before rounding the keeper to tap home and then Lewis “Roberto Carlos” Macdonald rampaged forward from full back to hit the ball high into the net and seal a memorable win. (0 v 5 ) 91mins.