Kyleakin see off Northwest Skye to keep title hopes alive

Iain ‘Baker’ MacLellan (blue) is closed down by Kyleakin’s Norman Gillies during the first half of Wednesday’s encounter. Photo: Adam Gordon.

Skye and Lochalsh Football League

Northwest Skye 0  Kyleakin 3 

H-T: 0-1

Kyleakin’s hopes of retaining the Skye and Lochalsh Football League title remain alive following a 3-0 win away to Northwest Skye on Wednesday (22nd August).

The reigning champions opened the scoring courtesy of a Stewart Johnston header shortly before the break after a good first period by the home team. Two further goals after the interval, first from Innis Thompson, and then Gordy Mccarroll, sealed the victory for David Butcher’s clinical side.

Having lost to Mallaig in their previous match by virtue of an injury-time goal by Andy Cunningham, Northwest came into the game looking to bounce back with a fifth-place finish still very much a possibility. Graham Campbell fielded an attacking starting line-up with Ian Munro playing alongside the lively Gus MacDonald up front, while Alex MacDonald and Martin Shaw were tasked with providing the ammunition alongside the assured presence of Iain Beaton in midfield.

Kyleakin, meanwhile, employed a fluid 5-3-2/3-5-2 system, which sought to use Cameron Thompson and Craig MacKinnon down the flanks, with the goalscoring onus largely resting on the formidable partnership of Innis Thompson and Gordy Mccarroll in their attack.

First half

Innis Thompson was quick to underline his threat with a right foot shot in the opening exchanges, however, the forward directed his effort wide of Ewan Gillies’ right-hand post. Alex MacDonald highlighted the danger he posed for Northwest shortly after with a fine corner towards the back post but Kyleakin reacted well to cleared their lines.

Oliver Thompson and Cameron Thompson combined at the other end to set up Norman Gillies, but the odds were against the Raasay man given the distance, and he duly shot wide.

Northwest’s ambition was there for all to see as they proceeded to take the game to their opponents with Gus MacDonald providing a useful outlet on the break. The young striker showed the Kyleakin rearguard a clean pair of heals with some enterprising runs down the left wing but was quickly isolated as he looked to stretch the visitors.

With a quarter of an hour played, the home team squandered an excellent opportunity to break the deadlock following another inviting delivery from Alex MacDonald from the right. The midfielder picked out Ian Munro at the back post with a superb cross, but the striker contrived to head the ball away from the target as the chance went astray.

Ewan Campbell looks to put the Kyleakin defence under pressure during a good first half performance by the hosts. Photo: Adam Gordon.

Mccarroll and Innis Thompson exhibited some neat link-up play as Kyleakin also looked to break on the counter-attack. Thompson found his striker partner with a clever reverse pass, but Mccarroll couldn’t shake off the Northwest defenders who were sharp in sensing the threat.

Unperturbed by his earlier setback, Munro began to assume more advanced positions with the aim of exploiting Gus MacDonald’s speed going forward. Munro did well to pick out his teammate who was eager to drive at Kyleakin, but his marker Ali Brown displayed great composure to shepherd the pacey attacker away from goal.

Gus and Alex MacDonald linked for Northwest as they continued to take the game to their opponents. Gus played in Alex,  but despite a decent attempt, he couldn’t find the target in the end.

With half-time fast approaching, Stewart Johnston provided the opening goal of the contest and arguably the turning point of the game. Ewan Gillies was alert to deny Gordy Mccarroll with a save down to his right to turn the ball out for a corner, but the home defence was unable to prevent Johnston, who a minute later rose inside the box to head his team in front just before the interval.

Second half

Despite that late blow before the break, Northwest continued to push forward after half-time, with Gus MacDonald earmarked as the key to unlocking the Kyleakin defence. Martin Shaw sought to find MacDonald with a ball over the visitors’ backline, but Brown read the situation superbly to stifle his opponent.

Kyleakin doubled their lead through Innis Thompson who added a second for his team with a characteristically cool finish.  The attacker broke past the home side’s defensive lines to get on the end of a long ball and directed a shot across Gillies and into the left-hand corner.

With their tails now up, Kyleakin went in search of more goals. Oliver Thompson fancied his chances of getting on the scoresheet but fired an effort wide of goal following some good build-up play involving Mccarroll.

Northwest continued to push forward themselves and looked to have found an opening down the right courtesy of a well-weighted ball from Alex MacDonald. However, Brown judged the pass brilliantly and made an excellent and timely tackle, and Iain ‘Spod’ MacLeod stepped in to cover as the defenders teamed up to thwart Gus MacDonald just as he appeared set to break down the wing.

Any hopes Northwest might have had of taking something from the match were ended by Gordy Mccarroll, who held off Ali Gillies before placing the ball into bottom-right hand corner to make it 3-0.

Euan Gillies made a smart save to deny Cameron Thompson at his back post and David Butcher went close to directing a header into the net for a fourth, but Northwest stood firm to prevent any further goals.

The victory for Kyleakin means that they still have a chance of retaining the Skye and Lochalsh title. The south Skye team host challengers Portree Juniors on Saturday 1st September in their final league match, however, if they were to defeat Phil McCaherty’s side, they would require results from matches involving Mallaig and Sleat and Strath to go in their favour.

Man of the match: Ali Brown, Kyleakin.

Ali Brown (right) in action against Portree Juniors earlier this season. Photo credit: Willie Urquhart

While his regular defensive partner Michael Taylor is often lauded for his performances, and rightfully so, Brown has been as impressive this season with his contribution to the team. Against Northwest, he was almost faultless in his display, which saw him come out on top against one of the best young forwards in the league in Gus MacDonald.

Report by Adam Gordon