Hat-trick of wins for Niccy with two sides in nervy shoot-out victories
Revenge is a dish best served cold from a distance of 12-yards.
A year on from the agony of being dumped out of the School’s Scottish Cup at the same Second Round stage by the same team - Banchory - the Nicolson Institute’s much heralded Under-16 side exacted a welcome dish of revenge over their Aberdeenshire guests.
Last year the two sides shared six-goals before a penalty shoot-out was required at the end of the 3-3 draw.
Fast forward a year and again the sides couldn’t be separated in regulation time.
Four goals were shared on the Stornoway All Weather pitch, including a dramatic equaliser by the impressive Mikey Jones with just five minutes left on the ref’s wrist watch.
Again it would take penalty kicks to separate these two sides but this time Lady Luck was on the side of the islanders as they held their nerve in the dreaded 12-yard lottery.
All five of the Nicolson’s spot-kicks were excellently executed with Josh Smith netting the crucial winning fifth kick after keeper Daniel Macdonald had made a save low down to his right side to deny one of the Banchory boys from the spot.
The Niccy U16 side have been, rightly so, much heraled locally for their fluid football style where to a man the squad are packed with some of the most talented teen players in years to rise through the island football ranks.
A number of the players have naturally caught the eye of mainland scouts with Matthew Wright, Sam Mackay and Josh Smith all landing deals to play with Ross County and Inverness youth teams.
Back to the action and there was a sense of determination pre-match as the home side huddled together keen to avenge the pain of their Scottish Cup exit 12-months ealrier.
Josh Smith was caught out a number of times in the opening 10-minutes by being too lax on the ball in trying to carry the ball out of defence as the Banchory attackers persistently chased the ball down giving noone in yellow more than a second or two in possession.
The inclusion of Wright had been a gamble by the player and the school coaches with Wright struggling with a knee injury and from the offset it was clear their talisman was far from fit. He was running at half pace for much of the opening half hour and visibly limping throughout forcing his coaches to take him off to prevent further injury but before he trotted off he forced the Banchory keeper into the first meaningful save of the day.
The Nicolson drew first blood when Cammy Nicolson, who was sitting on the shoulder of the last defender, gambled and hared after a clearance which morphed into a perfect through ball which Nicolson smashed low into the corner of the net.
It was a short lived lead though for the home side who were quickly pegged back to 1-1 with a matter of minutes as Banchory lashed home a leveller directly from a free kick on the edge of the penalty area.
Nicolson squandered a chance to restore the Niccy lead before the break with another ball which sent him clear in the inside right channel but this time he sent the ball a foot the wrong side of the post with an attempted lob over the keeper.
The second-half saw the Nicolson boss possession, perhaps as much as 75/25 but for all the ball they enjoyed seeing and sideways passes the Banchory defence kept them at bay.
They seemed content to let the Nicolson have the ball as they struggled with a killer final ball or to carve out any clear sights of the Banchory keeper.
And it was against the run of play when Banchory snatched a second goal to take control of the tie.
A swift counter attack sent their tirelss striker clear up the left side of the park and he showed a clean pair of heels to bear down on Daniel Macdonald before burying the ball into the net.
Stevie Mutch cracked the crossbar with a snapshot from the edgeof the box but it was a rare shot at goal by the Nicolson who continued to dominate the ball but seemed reluctant to hit the ball from distance.
It was all one way traffic as the Nicolson coaches, Mackay and Macaulay, began to nervously glance at their watches.
Time was quickly running out and the Banchory defence, marshalled and led by two superb centre-halves who seemed to be drawn to every ball, were coping well and standing firm.
But with five minutes to play the Nicolson forced their equaliser after a sprinkling of magic from their star man and best performer on the day - Mikey Jones.
A slight will-o-the-wisp frame belies a steel core of strength and durability and the slightly built midfielder showed a warrior desire to win tackles and put himself about.
It was Jones who shifted the ball from right to left boot and then back to right again to make a picket of space and sight of goal for himself before then digging out a finish from 20-yards which found the net via a double kiss of the inside of each upright.
And so the match went to penalty kicks for the second year on the bounce between these two good, equally matched sides.
Nine of the ten spot-kicks were netted with just one save being made.
Crucially the block was made by the gloved hands of Daniel Macdonald for the Nicolson who earned their revenge and who will now go on to play Cults Academy in the next round of their Scottish Cup advenure.
Again they have been drawn as the home side so Aberdeenshire Cults Academy will visit Stornoway on December 12.
The Under-14s also required a shoot-out to see off their Banchory visitors but their failure to see off their rivals in normal time was more a case of a remarkable display by the visiting keeper and a failure to make their chances count than anything else.
Adam Mackinnon went close to winning it at the death before this tie too went to a shoot-out.
Todd pulled off a save for his side to take the U14s into the next stage.
Seven-goal thriller sees Seniors squeeze through in cracker
Late goals were the order of the week for the Nicolson who seemed to specialise in them during their Scottish Cup clashes.
The seniors were the first to reap the rewards of playing until the final whistle and never giving up as they clawed their way back after falling behind three times to snatch a dramatic winner minutes from the end.
Aboyne took an early lead as the home defence were caught on their heels after Nathan Murray made a save to repel an intial Aboyne effort before the rebound was booted home.
Murray was the busier of the two keepers he made a brave save to deny Aboyne a second goal on ten minutes.
The visitors were dominating the tie but a single goal lead is always a precarious one and so it proved as a simple ball over the top tempted Alfie Macmillan to gallop after it before reaching the ball first and clipping the ball over the visiting goalie for 1-1.
Within 60-seconds Aboyne were back in the lead as one of their midfielders bent it like Beckham from 25-yards into the top corner.
The Nicolson had to regroup and to their credit they shifted players around, used the rolling subs allowance to maximum impact and forced their way back into the tie.
Again the scorer was Alfie who latched onto a cross drilled across goal by Kyle Munro to convert from close range to even up at 2-2.
Remarkably the Nicolson failed to heed the lessons of their last leveller as one again they were caught out within 60-seconds.
Aboyne once again netted to take control of the match within a minute of shipping a goal.
At the other end Liam Geddes steered over the bar from six yards with his instep after a free kick had been parried invitingly into his path by the Aboyne keeper leaving the Niccy man with his head in his hands.
Joel Martin was the next to be left with his neck arched back and staring at the skies after missing a chance.
His opportunity came after he raced clear one on one with the keeper before skipping round him.
A covering Aboyne defender had managed to make up the ground and after joel went wide around the keeper the stopper produced a timely block to deny Martin an open goal.
Martin made amends though with his next effort as he arrowed the ball into the bottom corner from 20-yards with a perfectly converted free kick.
And this time the Nicolson defence held firm and refused to allow Aboyne a swift response.
Instead it was the Stornoway schoolboys who edged in front for the first time in the match and with just six minutes left to play.
A corner was sent in from the right side which nobody in an Aboyne shirt attacked with any real purpose or conviction.
It was left hanging in the air where Jamie Mackinnon accepted the invitation and the stopper bundled the ball home from close range for a dramatic 4-3 win.