Thursday, 19 July 2012

Scalloway 3 v 3 Lerwick Thistle

Friday 13th May 2012
Shetland League Premier Division
Fraser Park, Scalloway
Admission and Programme: N/A
Attendance: 35 (h-c)
Match rating: 4

Contradicting the tradition of things going wrong on Friday 13th, my third game during my stay on the Shetland Islands turned out to be the best so far, in terms of the ground facilities, match entertainment, and weather conditions.

Fraser Park, which is located very centrally within the village of Scalloway close to the seafront, was a very pleasant surprise, with much more of a traditional football ground feel to it compared to the caged plastic pitch I encountered at Whalsay, and the school playing field feel to the surroundings at Yell. The ground is semi enclosed thanks to stone walls around two of the sides, with housing closely lining the remaining two sides. Along one of the lengths are the changing rooms and a little hut for shelter, although this is placed right in the corner. A raised grass bank close to the pitch offers a good view of the action. Even better vantage points can be had at the top of a taller grass bank along the other length, with a children's play area and a couple of benches between the bank and the stone wall. Again, there is a very pleasant backdrop to the ground, with rolling hills visible and the sea just about, and as it is not possible to park cars by the pitch here, spectators were actually standing around the pitch this evening.

A glance at the league standings showed that this would be a battle between the two strugglers in the league. Scalloway were rock bottom going into this game, having picked up just one point from their opening five games. Lerwick Thistle were third bottom, although this is a rather false position as they have only played three games - fewer than every other team - were they to win all of their games in hand, they would rise from sixth to third. However, current league positions seem to be a reasonable reflection of their abilities, as last season they finished second bottom (Scalloway) and third bottom (Thistle).

Whereas on Monday, Scalloway looked extremely limited, tonight they were the stronger side from the start, and on 15 minutes, they took the lead when they were awarded a penalty for handball, which was dispatched low to the keeper's left despite the keeper going the right way. On 23 minutes, Scalloway had a 25 yard low free kick excellently saved by the keeper, and it seemed only a matter of time before they would extend their lead . On the half hour, a Thistle forward appeared to be racing through for a one-on-one opportunity, but was denied by an excellent last gasp tackle. This seemed to spur Thistle on as they came much more into the game during the remainder of the first half, but at the break it was Scalloway who retained their slender lead.

Five minutes after half time, and Thistle equalised with an absolute screamer, thumped acrobatically into the top corner from 25 yards out on the half volley. On 63 minutes, it was Thistle's turn to be denied by a last ditch tackle, but within a minute Thistle did take the lead, with a low powerful shot that was straight at the keeper, who inexplicably tried to stop the ball with his foot and failed. On 66 minutes, Scalloway hit the post with a header from a corner, and in the ensuing passage of play, were denied a penalty shout for an apparent trip, but were then immediately awarded a penalty for an ill judged lunge. This time, the penalty was converted into the bottom left corner, this time the keeper getting a hand to the ball but could not keep it out. With ten minutes left, Thistle went back into the lead, when they were awarded an indirect free kick deep inside the penalty area after the keeper picked up a back pass. The free kick was nudged to the left, and the ball was drilled low into the net. One had the feeling that that would be that, however deep into added on time at the end of the game, Scalloway were awarded a third penalty of the match, for a handball on the line, which saw the defender given a straight red card. Once again, the penalty was excellently converted, this time low into the bottom right corner, again the keeper went the right way but could not save it. And so that was that, a highly entertaining high scoring draw, which was a fair reflection on proceedings.

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