Islanders left to rue missed chances

Alness United    1
Lewis and Harris    0

The recently-formed Lewis and Harris FC broke new ground last Saturday when they crossed the Minch to take on Alness United in the first round of the North Caledonia Cup. And although they lost to the only goal of the game, scored with just over 10 minutes remaining, the islanders did enough to show they are more than capable of competing at this level.

There was a blow for the squad when Carloway’s Scott Macaulay called off with a knee injury, but despite this they started the game well and had the better of Alness during the first quarter-hour.

After around 10 minutes the islanders went close to opening the scoring with a glancing header from Carloway’s Seamus Macleod, but keeper Steven Hyslop managed to get to the ball to make the save. Midway through the first half Scott Maciver of Aths again tested the keeper with a shot from 20 yards, and this time Hyslop was able to turn the ball round the post.

Alness came more into the game and created a couple of half-chances themselves. And just before half time the home keeper denied Lewis and Harris once more, this time tipping the ball over following a header from Ally Gillies of Point.

With little between the sides, it was clear that the first goal was going to be decisive.
The islanders enjoyed their best spell of the game during the opening 15 minutes of the second period. Immediately after the restart Carloway’s Fraser Macdonald raced up the right flank and squared the ball for Scott Maciver, who was just a touch away from a finish.

Not that it was one-way traffic — far from it. Midway through the second half the mainland side went close on a couple of occasions, Chris Graham and Mark Lamont both hitting the woodwork, while a header from Craig Munro was touched over the bar by Colin MacRitchie.
Carloway midfielder Dan Crossley then went on a strong solo run, but at the end of it he opted for a shot which went wide when a square ball to Scott Maciver might have been a better option.
Alness dug deep defensively and were able to take everything the visitors threw at them, and with 12 minutes remaining they grabbed what proved to be the winner. The island defence dealt with a cross from the right, but the ball was only partially cleared and when it was driven back in from the left 17-year-old Michael MacKenzie rose at the back post to knock the ball home.
The last chance of the game, and perhaps the islanders’ best, arrived three minutes into stoppage time when the ball came into the Alness area from the left. Stuart Flower of Point challenged Hyslop for possession and looped the ball over the keeper but could only look on in agony as it dropped onto the roof of the net.
Speaking afterwards, Lewis and Harris manager Billy Flower said the result had been “hard to take”.
“I feel we did enough to win it,” he said. “However, the boys matched their opponents and they now know they are capable of competing at this level.”
Alness manager Tommy Regan was pleased with his side’s display. Despite believing they started as underdogs, he said they grew into the game and defended well when Lewis had their best spell of the game at the start of the second half.
Alness now go on to meet Clach at the Bught this Saturday.
Lewis and Harris Colin Macritchie (Stornoway Athletic), Donald J Macdonald (Back), Domhnall Mackay (Carloway), Duncan Maclean (Westside), Seumas Macleod (Carloway), Dan Crossley (Carloway), Alasdair Gillies (Point), David Macmillan (Lochs), Peter Mackenzie (Lochs — Captain), Scott Maciver (Stornoway Athletic), Fraser Macleod (Carloway). Subs Iain Mackay (Carloway), Stuart Flower (Point  — on for Seumas Macleod after 62 minutes), Colin Maclean (Back).