A FIERCELY contested semi final match between St Duthus and Lewis & Harris at the Links went the way of the visitors by the odd goal in three yesterday, ending the Saints' involvement in this season's Football Times Cup.
There were a number of changes made to the starting eleven who lost to Inverness last weekend. Dropping out of the starting eleven were Finn As-Chainey, Jamie Skinner, Will Ross and Craig Ross, while Ewan Ross, Jon Campbell, Rory Patience and Miller Mackay all stepped in. Named on a teamsheet for the first time this season returning from injury was Sam Beeston.
Joe Sutherland showed great determination in the opening minute to retain the ball before playing Liam Rostock in on goal for the first clear cut chance of the game. James Macleod in the Lewis & Harris goal though, did well to block Rostock's net bound effort.
With seven minutes gone, St Duthus were appealing for a penalty kick after striker Miller Mackay was wrestled to the ground inside the box, but referee Chris Macleod waved play on amidst the protests.
Sutherland was the creator again on the quarter hour mark with a long throw to find Cammy Mackintosh in good space to hit a rasping shot which flew just wide of the post.
The first offering from the visitors came on 16 minutes when Andrew Murray shot wide with a speculative effort from 25 yards. At the other end a short free kick from Jon Campbell sent Ewan Ross down the right flank to produce a splendid low cross for Cammy Mackintosh, but the latter could not make a connection.
Against the run of play, Lewis & Harris took the lead on 21 minutes. A neat through ball on the counter evaded the Saints defence and Angus Grant burst clear to slot the ball under Steven Martin with a composed finish.
It was almost 2-0 ten minutes later when Grant capitalised on a defensive error to fire a shot towards goal, but this time Martin was alert to the chance and saved well, low to the ground.
With ten minutes of the half remaining, Miller Mackay drew applause for an acrobatic overhead kick which Macleod had to tip over the crossbar, denying the Saints an equaliser. The shot came as the result of a Rostock shot which had bent wide of goal, and the big striker did well to react.
Half time: St Duthus 0 Lewis & Harris 1
A second half change saw Craig Ross introduced in place of Liam Rostock as the Saints looked to level the scores. Ross made his presence felt in the early going with a couple of well taken set pieces, but Macleod remained untroubled.
On the hour mark Ross was presented with a great opportunity from a short through ball from Miller Mackay, but the striker's first touch saw the ball roll too far forward to get the shot away. Moments later, Jon Campbell impressed with a double nutmeg before finding Miller Mackay inside the box. Mackay laid the ball off to Ewan Ross who struck at goal from an angle and the shot had to be deflected wide.
On 65 minutes, Innes Iain Morrison rattled the crossbar for Lewis & Harris with a powerful shot from 12 yards, and just a minute later it was 2-0. Carrying the ball from defence, centre half Peter Mackenzie did well to advance to the box before laying off to Angus MacDonald who curled a shot into the far corner from just inside the area.
Saints were awarded a free kick shortly after for a handball on the edge of the box, but from the set piece Craig Ross's low drilled shot was held by Macleod. They had better luck on 70 minutes when Jon Campbell reduced the deficit with a beautiful free kick from 25 yards, curled over the wall and into the top corner of the net - one of the finest set piece goals seen at the Links for many years.
The final twenty minutes of the game were contested with intensity as Saints frantically searched for an equaliser. Martin was at his best on 73 minutes with a save from close range before collecting the effort from rebound, and at the other end the Saints were appealing again for a penalty kick after Miller Mackay was downed in the six yard box as he attempted to connect with a Ewan Ross cross.
Seven minutes of injury time were filled with a series of substitutions and cautions as Lewis & Harris looked to defend their lead. A third penalty appeal was turned down in the 90th minute after Jon Campbell was fouled in the box. Despite the Saints' best attempts and persistence the equaliser never arrived.
Full time: St Duthus 1 Lewis & Harris 2