Premiership: Newtonmore 3, Kinlochshiel 1
Kinlochshiel suffered their third straight defeat of the season in the premiership when they went down 3-1 to Newtonmore at the Eilan on Saturday, but they can take heart from what was overall a strong performance against the defending champions. In fact, Newtonmore had to wait until the final minute of the game to make the points absolutely safe.
Both sides were below strength for this encounter, which was switched to Newtonmore as the pitch at Kirkton was still waterlogged due to all the recent rain. Newtonmore were without the injured Danny MacRae and Andrew MacDonald, while Steven MacDonald was suspended. For Kinlochshiel, Gordy MacDonald dropped to the bench due to continuing problems with his troublesome knee and John Don MacKenzie was on holiday. This meant there were starting places for Jordan Fraser and Ali Nixon.
Newtonmore opened strongly and had the first clear sight of goal after 10 minutes when Glen MacKintosh shot straight at Shiel keeper Scott Kennedy, and moments later Mark MacDonald made a vital interception with the same player poised to strike. Up at the other end of the field a long ball from Jordan Fraser found Keith MacRae whose effort went inches wide of keeper Michael Ritchie’s left-hand post. Another effort by the same player following a corner scraped past the other upright.
With 18 minutes played it was Shiel who made the breakthrough when, following a goalmouth melee, Duncan “Ach” MacRae forced the ball over the line for the opening goal.
That signalled the start of a Newtonmore onslaught, but the Shiel defence fought hard to keep the home forwards from having a clear sight of goal. One effort by full centre Jamie Robinson after 29 minutes took the paint off the outside of keeper Scott Kennedy’s right-hand post.
Nor was it all one-way traffic at this stage. One excellent passing move among the Shiel forwards brought only a corner, while a shot by Donald Nixon was stopped and cleared by Ritchie.
Still Newtonmore piled on the pressure. Calum Stewart brought a fine save from keeper Kennedy, and although the hosts then won three coners in quick succession they were all stoutly defended by Shiel. A minute before the break Newtonmore suffered a setback when the experienced half forward Fraser MacKintosh had to retire with a knee injury, to be replaced by teenager Craig Ritchie.
The home side came out for the second half in determined mood, and just three minutes after the restart a goal-bound strike by Paul MacArthur was cut out by full back Paul MacRae. However, the pressure eventually paid off in the 56th minute when a loose ball fell kindly for Glen MacKintosh who from 10 yards struck an unstoppable shot past Kennedy for the equaliser.
The home side came close to taking the lead after an hour when a drive on target by Jamie Robinson was blocked by Kennedy using a foot. Shortly aftewards Paul MacRae was booked for a foul on Glen MacKintosh, and from the resulting free hit Craig Ritchie shot just wide.
Shiel tried to hit back. In 69 minutes Jordan Fraser carved out an opening but failed to hit the target, and three minutes after that keeper Ritchie denied Keith MacRae at the expense of a corner.
Newtonmore were once again turning the screw, but Shiel were for the most part able to pass the ball out of defence. A speculative effort by Jamie Robinson after 75 minutes shaved the top of the crossbar, and 10 minutes later the pressure again paid off. This time it was a scramble around the Shiel danger area that provided the opening for substitute Craig Ritchie to push the ball over the line for 2-1.
The visitors might have levelled the score almost straight from the resulting throw-up. The ball was fed forward to Donald Nixon who put a shot on target from the right, and when Ritchie chested the ball away it dropped just too close to the feet of the onrushing Ali Nixon to allow him to get a shot away.
With just a minute remaining Newtonmore made sure of the points when Calum Stewart won possession around the halfway line and drove up the left flank, and from all of 30 yards let fly into the roof of the net past a helpless Kennedy for a wonderful goal.
Speaking afterwards, Shiel manager Colin Fraser was full of praise for his players. “I was very happy with the all-round team performance,” he said, “but just very disappointed for the boys that they didn’t have anything to show for it.”