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Falling Just Short

posted 11 Sep 2012, 03:06 by Sleat and Strath AFC   [ updated 11 Sep 2012, 03:08 ]

Sleat & Strath visited league leaders Kyleakin on Saturday in the final Co-operative League game of the season. The match would decide which team would win the league, as Kyleakin held only a 2 point advantage over the reigning champions. With so much riding on the match, it was little surprise that such a crowd turned out, including players from some of the other Skye and Lochalsh Football Association teams who had played earlier in the day.

Sleat & Strath were still missing the suspended Gordie McCarroll, and Scott MacKinnon had picked up a knock in the Plockton match. John Davie was back from his travels and was given a place on the bench, but with James Munley playing in goals it left a gap in the midfield that needed filled. Enter Sleat & Strath legend Lochie MacIntosh, brought out of retirement for the crucial match.

With both teams scoring for fun this season, over 100 each in the league, and with the stakes so high, it was sure to be an entertaining match one way or another. The game got underway and Sleat & Strath enjoyed the early pressure, but the first real chance fell Kyleakin's way as an error in defence lead to a rushed clearance which fell straight back to a Kyleakin midfielder. The ball went wide and was taken almost to the byline before being sent in low across the box where their striker was waiting, but his misread the path of the ball and swiped at nothing, much to the relief of the Sleat & Strath defence.

The match became a more level affair from that point, but it was another error in defence that lead to the opener just before the half hour mark. Kyleakin with a long ball into the box that James Munley came to claim, but "wee" Innis got up in front of him, heading the ball through his hands and into the empty net.

Sleat & Strath were enjoying more of the possession in the first half due to a superior passing play, and Lochie had fitted easily into his old play-maker role. With just five minutes to go till half time, Connaire Yoxon picked up the ball on the half way line, played a beautiful one-two with Lochie, and then from around 25 yards out on the right side, unleashed a drive that nestled into the far corner of the net. The teams would go in level at the break, with Sleat & Strath looking the better side if they could continue their good team play.

The goal just before half time had certainly given the team some added confidence, but they knew that a draw wasn't good enough to win the league, and they went out on the attack again early in the second half. The resulting corner from one of said attacks was swung in but missed by everyone jumping at the near post for it. Neil MacKinnon was first to react in the middle however and powered home the header to give Sleat & Strath the 2-1 lead that they could look to build on.

But the hope only lasted 10 minutes as Kyleakin equalised as Norman Gillies got on the end of a cross with a tidy finish to make it 2-2. There was a visible shift in the momentum at this point as Kyleakin were lifted and Sleat & Strath heads dropped, and it proved deadly for Sleat & Strath as Kyleakin went straight back on the attack and only 2 minutes later, Stuart Gillies scored on the second time of asking to give Kyleakin a 3-2 lead.

Kyleakin were asserting themselves as the dominant team, and any possession Sleat & Strath had was being wasted, so the manager made a change, bringing off Lochie for John Davie, who took his place in goals, allowing James Munley to get into his preferred position in the middle of the park. Kyleakin remained the better team, and John Davie was kept busy with corners to defend. There was little he could do to keep out Kyleakin's 4th however, a sweet curler from Oliver Thompson destined for the top corner, the ball just brushing the tips of the keepers outstretched fingers as it went past. And younger brother Innis would get his 2nd and Kyleakin's 5th just before the final whistle, turning Fraser Graham (just on to replace Neil MacKinnon who was struggling with cramp) four times before chipping the ball in off the underside of the bar.

Kyleakin were undoubtedly the better team in the second half, and worthy winners on the day, but Sleat & Strath will be disappointed to half lost out on their chance at 3-in-a-row on the last day of the season. Congratulations to Kyleakin on picking up the league title, but Sleat & Strath will hope for revenge in the Ewen MacRae Cup, and will be back next season with a stronger team hopefully with the likes of Ben Yoxon and Jamie Hamilton coming back from their globe-trotting and some more good youth prospects coming out of the Broadford U17s.