(After Extra Time)
Skye posted further evidence of a resurgence by claiming the scalp of premiership Lochaber in Saturday’s RBS MacTavish Plate quarter-final in Portree.
The competition — essentially a consolation tournament for those knocked out of the MacTavish Cup proper — might not carry the lustre of some of the game’s other prizes. But the weekend result still carries plenty significance for the islanders, who currently sit two divisions below the Spean Bridge side and are rebuilding following a difficult 2013.
In two matches against premiership opposition this season Skye have yet to lose in 90 minutes. Last month they were beaten 1-0 in extra time by Glenurquhart at the opening stage of the MacTavish Cup — a result which set up Saturday’s tie in the plate competition.
But this time the islanders were able to get the goals at the vital moments — with youngster Will Cowie capping a superb all-round display by scoring the winner three minutes into the added half-hour.
Lochaber, who have made a struggling start to this year’s premiership campaign, began the brighter of the two sides and the Spean outfit grabbed their reward after just five minutes when Shaun Nicolson’s deflected shot nestled in Jamie Gannon’s net.
Skye’s response was a positive one, and after 21 minutes the islanders drew level. Referee David Stafford blew after an infringement inside the area, and while Cowie scored immediately afterwards play was brought back for a penalty. Undimmed, Cowie despatched the resultant spot hit, and Skye would build on that by taking the lead just before half time. Danny Morrison grabbed the all-important second – taking the ball out of the air to finish after a Gibbs MacDonald corner
It looked like Morrison’s goal would be enough to clinch Skye victory — but Lochaber rallied in the closing stages, and deep into stoppage time the visitors snatched an equaliser. Once again it was Scotland international Nicolson who did the damage to send the tie to an additional half-hour.
With three minutes of extra time gone Cowie’s sweetly-struck effort cannoned in off the crossbar to restore the islanders’ advantage. And with Skye — yet to concede a league goal this season — again looking rock solid at the back, that strike proved enough to seal a semi-final slot against either Lochcarron or Inverness on 17th May.
Skye manager John MacLeod hoped the victory would act as a springboard for more progress in crucial games to come in the next month.
He said: “We are delighted — it was a terrific display. It’s positive and pleasing to see a Skye team that is competitive again.
“Losing a goal four minutes into injury time would have knocked the stuffing out of a lot of teams, but we responded really well. We showed great character to come back to win it in extra time.
“After two hours of shinty, Jordan Murchison, Crick Rose and Ginger MacKinnon all went to play football at night. And they all scored — I think the fact they can do that shows there is a good level of fitness there.
“I don’t like to single out players, as every player was outstanding. But Steven Morrison at full back was immense and young Will Cowie was terrific at buckshee forward — he caused problems all day.”
This Saturday Skye return to league action when they travel to play a Kingussie second team which has been in impressive form of late, having been bolstered by the likes of multi-decorated veterans Michael Clark, Kevin Thain and Ronald Ross.
MacLeod added: “We have three big weeks coming up — Kingussie away followed by a trip to Glenorchy in the first round of the Camanachd Cup and then Strathglass in the Balliemore Cup quarter-final. Hopefully we can take the form we showed on Saturday into these games.”
This Saturday Neil MacVicar — who slotted in and impressed in defence against Lochaber — is expected to be ruled out through work commitments, but Shockie MacLennan should return following his recent injury lay-off.