North Uist and Iochdar Saints through to cup semi-finals

BILLY MACNEIL CUP QUARTER FINALS

North Uist United and Iochdar Saints progressed to the semi-finals of the Billy MacNeil Cup, with quarter-final victories at the weekend over Benbecula and Barra respectively.

In gale-force winds and driving rain at Liniclate last Saturday North Uist made better use of the elements in the proverbial game of two halves against Benbecula, taking a 5-0 lead into the break.

United welcomed back Angus MacDougall following a two-year sabbatical out of the game, and he turned in a fine performance which included helping himself to a hat-trick.

It was MacDougall who gave North Uist the lead after 12 minutes when he turned his marker on the edge of the area and drilled a low shot into the bottom corner. Keith ‘KT’ Macdonald then hit the post with a header from a corner as United laid siege to Benbecula’s goal. The big midfielder did find the net after 20 minutes when the ball was squared to him by Angus Macdougall and he volleyed home from six yards.

Moments later it was 3-0 after Andrew Currie found space on the edge of the area, and when the ball fell kindly to him he blasted a shot past Benbecula keeper Jamie Macdonald. United were using the wind to great effect, and soon it was 4-0. A shot by KT Macdonald was spilled by keeper Macdonald and Andrew Currie pounced on the loose ball before the keeper could recover, sliding a pass to Angus Macdougall who netted from 12 yards.

Macdonald redeemed himself immediately with a superb blocking save from another MacDougall effort,  but just before half time the striker netted a quite superb fifth goal when a defensive clearance from Jamie Macdonald fell to the in-form MacDougall who sent a delightful chip from 35 yards over the keeper and into the net.

Even with a five-goal cushion at the break, North Uist knew they had a battle on their hands in the second half with Benbecula having the elements in their favour.

United held firm until the hour mark when Mark Macrury netted after the ball was crossed from the left by Hector Macphee. Moments later  Macphee himself almost scored but was denied by a wonder save from Stuart Menzies in the United goal — it looked as if Macphee had found the top corner until the veteran goalkeeper somehow managed to reach the ball and turn it over the bar.

Benbecula now had the bit between their teeth and Sean Macinnes pounced in the area and hammered the ball home to make it 5-2. Another great block from Menzies denied the striker a hat-trick when he blocked the ball with his chest.
Andy Macquarrie then cleared the ball off the line as a looping header from David ‘Ginge’ Macinnes looked like nestling in the net, and from the resultant corner Macinnes headed over. With five minutes remaining Gary Skinner pulled another goal back when his free kick deceived everyone and ended up in the United net. The final chance of the match fell to ‘Hecky’ Macphee but his free kick went harmlessly over the bar.

North Uist now play league champions Iochdar Saints in one semi-final while Eriskay and Southend contest the other. The Iochdar side beat Barra 3-2 to take revenge after losing the Summer cup final to Barra in their last meeting. Harry Luney scored twice for Saints and ‘Wee John’ Macdonald added another to cancel out a double from Barra captain James Davidson.

RESULTS Billy MacNeil Cup Quarter-Finals Benbecula 3, North Uist United 5; Barra 2, Iochdar Saints 3.
FIXTURES Billy MacNeil Cup Semi-Finals Eriskay v Southend  (in Eriskay, 1.30pm Saturday 8th November); Iochdar Saints v North Uist United (at Liniclate, Saturday 8th November, 2pm).