Iochdar Saints lift Billy McNeill Cup

Iochdar Saints  3  Barra   1

Iochdar Saints came from behind to beat Barra and lift the Billy McNeill Cup on Saturday, laying to rest a bit of a hoodoo in the process as Barra had previously defeated Saints in two cup finals in recent years.

A large crowd descended on the Dark Island Pitch on Saturday afternoon on a fine day for football which finally saw the sun break through. From the outset both sides took a cautious approach, with the midfield very congested.

However, Barra looked the more positive. Neil Sinclair was causing the Saints defence some problems with his physical approach and was first to try his luck, but his weak shot failed to trouble Stephen Scott in the Saints goal. The best Saints could manage early on was to force a corner from which Harry Luney headed past.

Barra began to take a grip on the match, and after 20 minutes James Davidson raced at the Saints defence before unleashing a shot which clipped the outside of the post with keeper Scott beaten. Five minutes later Davidson again tried his luck  but this time was unable to hit the target. Saints were also pushing forward and Ally Downie beat a couple of players down the right wing, but his cross evaded the onrushing Carl “DooDoos” Macphee with the goal gaping.

With 35 minutes played Barra took the lead, after James Davidson was brought down at the angle of the penalty area. Craig Ferguson took the resulting free kick and curled the ball round the wall, and although Scott got there the ball bounced over his hands and into the net. Minutes later Ferguson tested the keeper with another free kick, but this time Scott grasped the ball confidently.

The second half started with Saints on the front foot and they equalised after four minutes when Ally Downie rose majestically to head home a corner from “Wee Man” Macphee.

The Iochdar side now had the bit between their teeth and were dominating possession. Angus “Nooie” Campbell and Ally Downie both had shots at goal well saved by Scott. Harry Luney then won three consecutive headers from corners but failed to make them count, as Saints laid siege to the Barra goal.

Barra lost Neil Sinclair who had given his all despite his lack of matches in recent weeks, and after this Barra seemed unable to retain possession.

Saints then got the goal their play merited when “DooDoos” Macphee picked up the ball on the arc of the box and beat a defender before curling a lovely shot into the bottom corner.

As Saints tried to kill off the match “Nooie” Campbell fired another shot just over and then Harry Luney  connected with a header which shaved the crossbar. Barra did manage to muster a couple of attacks but failed to hit the target.

With six minutes remaining Saints grabbed the decisive third goal, and once more it was “DooDoos” Macphee who wriggled his way into the box before firing low into the net from 15 yards.

Macphee’s man-of-the-match performance fully justified his manager’s decision to bring the youngster all the way home from England for the final.

Saints kept possession and ran the clock down with ease. Captain Angus “Nooie” Campbell stepped up to collect the cup from Billy McNeill, the Celtic and Scotland legend. It was the first time in the 34-year history of the competition named in his honour that McNeill had attended the final, and it was only fitting that he presented the new trophy donated by the Uist Celtic Supporters Club.

THE CURTAIN comes down on the football season in Uist and Barra this Saturday with the game between Barra and North Uist United the only fixture remaining.