The first round of the Sutherland Cup took place on Saturday as Camanachd Leòdhais travelled to Bught Park to take on Inverness. Unfortunately for the islanders it followed a similar pattern to last week, where despite dominating for large periods, their more clinical opponents defeated them 3-2 after extra time.
Paul Duke took charge of the team in the absence of manager Duncan MacIntyre. Conor MacDonald found himself in goals once again whilst Will Church returned to the fold to bolster the forward line.
Both sides traded chances in the early going. MacDonald palmed away an Inverness effort before making an impressive stick save. At the other end, Donald Lamont, Kenny ‘Duffy’ Murray and Will Church all tested Allan MacLeod in the host’s goal.
Five minutes before half time, Kenny Loades squeezed a shot in from a tight angle to give Inverness the lead at half time. A fantastic piece of solo skill from Scott MacLeod almost drew Lewis level before the half but having dribbled his way towards goal, nut-megging a defender in the process, his effort took the slightest of nicks from the keeper that was enough to push the ball wide.
Inverness started the better in the second half and doubled their advantage on 57 minutes. Danger man Stuart MacRae, fresh off a brace against Lewis last week, created a yard of space on the right and his shot took a bobble on its way into the goal.
The goal woke up the visitors and Lewis pulled one back five minutes later. Scott MacLeod made another penetrating run, with the ball eventually finding it’s way into the box where Will Church was waiting to slot the ball into the net.
Lewis continued their onslaught on the Inverness goal and equalised on 69 minutes. Peter Gomez was released down the right wing and his shot from 30 yards sailed into the top corner to restore parity.
With twenty minutes to go, Lewis looked to turn the screw but neither Donald Lamont nor Church were able to convert good chances. The last few minutes of the ninety belonged to Inverness and they thought they had won it at the death for a second week in a row, only to see the ball carom off the top of the post and away to safety.
Extra time saw both squads dig deep into their energy reserves as the game continued at a frenetic pace, going from end to end. Inverness re-took the lead from a corner on 98 minutes. An untimely slip left MacRae with a sight at goal and he completed back-to-back braces to give the home side a 3-2 advantage. As the first half of extra time came to a close, Stuart ‘Tyson’ Campbell found himself through on goal but the ball bobbled at the worst time and it caused his shot to squirm wide.
The second half of extra time saw Inverness try to slow the game down and kill the clock. Will Church had the best chance to level but after some clever play from Murray, Church couldn’t quite turn it in. Inverness thought they had finished the tie off for good when the ball was powered into the net from a corner but it was ruled out for offside. Lewis continued to push for a chance to take the game to penalties but Inverness held on to progress to the next round.
Lewis returns to league duty this Saturday, locking horns with Lochcarron. It’s the penultimate game of seven away contests to start the season. Live updates of the game can be found on Twitter @lewiscamanachd.