PENALTY DRAMA IN INVERNESS
The mist lifted from the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium in Inverness just in time to bathe the park in glorious sunshine for the Lloyds TSB Scotland U15 Girls Shield Final between Nicolson Institute and Mintlaw Academy.
Nicolson Institute were the first to threaten in the 2nd minute when Sophie MacAskill had a glorious opportunity, her shot beating the keeper but spinning away wide of the right-hand post. The yellow and blues from Stornoway had the best of the first half but Mintlaw were dangerous on several occasions, particularly when Rebecca Bruce broke into the box and had three attempts to score but the defence stood firm. Nicolson produced a flowing move with Isabelle Bain feeding Beth MacLeod who nearly set up Sophie MacAskill and Lorna Latimar but Mintlaw defended well.
Beth MacLeod drove down the left and into the box for Nicolson, and fired a shot which Amirah Moursil in the Mintlaw goal saved.
Near halftime Mintlaw won a corner which proved dangerous but again the Nicolson defence marshalled by the excellent Eleanor Smith nullified the threat. Nicolson countered down both flanks in the last minute of the half but both chances petered out. The halftime whistle brought the goalless half to an end, the best chance having been the early Nicolson shot wide of the target.
Halftime : Nicolson Institute 0 Mintlaw Academy 0
Mintlaw started the second half on the attack and forced the keeper to punch away. Nicolson's best effort after the interval fell to Isabelle Bain who was through on goal but the keeper pulled off a good save. At the start of the final quarter Mintlaw's Sophie Anderson shot just over the bar. This started a spell of Mintlaw pressure which nearly took the trophy to the North-East - first, a through ball from the halfway line set Mechelle Rendall up but Cirsty Gillies in the Nicolson goal raced out to clear. With 7 minutes left the best chance of the game came to Mintlaw - an inswinging corner from Magdalene Dolman out on the left created havoc in the Nicolson defence, forcing Amy Shirkie to head onto her own far post but to her relief the ball rolled away to safety.
Mechelle Rendall then burst through the centre but again Cirsty Gillies anticipated the move and was quick off her line. Rebecca Bruce tried her luck from the edge of the box after a cross from the left but was blocked by Eleanor Smith. Still the red shirts of Mintlaw piled on the pressure as Magdalene Dolman sent in a high ball from the left, Cirsty Gillies and Eleanor Smith combining to get rid of the ball. With time running out another Dolman high ball over the top was met with a Smith clearance, and just before the final whistle Nicolson hit on the break but the Mintlaw keeper clutched the ball.
So no goals in regulation time meant a penalty shoot-out. Mintlaw were first up and both sides scored their first two. Mintlaw sent their third spot-kick over the bar and Nicolson went ahead with a daisy-cutter. Both sides successfully converted their fourth kick so when Mintlaw netted their 5th Nicolson only had to score their last kick to win the trophy - however the last kick hit the bar, so after the first 5 kicks it was 4-4. Now it was down to sudden death - with no misses the score went up to 6-6 before some moments of real drama.
Mintlaw's 8th kick was hit straight at the keeper who saved, so again Nicolson had the advantage. But Nicolson's 8th kick was saved - however the assistant's raised flag showed that the Mintlaw keeper had moved off her line early so Nicolson had the reprieve of a retake .... and shot straight at the keeper again so it was still 6-6. Mintlaw scored, Nicolson scored though the keeper nearly saved, then Mintlaw's 10th shot was aimed directly at the keeper who slapped it away. With the score at 7-7 Amy Shirkie who had headed onto her own post earlier in the game stepped up to strike the decisive penalty and give Nicolson an 8-7 penalty shoot-out win.
For the record, Nicolson scorers in the shoot-out were Lorna Latimar, Beth MacLeod, Sophie MacAskill, Kirsty MacDonald, Eleanor Smith, Amanda Nicolson, Isabelle Bain and Amy Shirkie.
So the "North" final which was played in excellent spirit throughout ended in victory for the Western Isles team, and SSFA President Rod Houston and Gary Chiffers from Lloyds TSB Scotland presented both teams with their medals and the U15 Girls Shield to Nicolson Institute. A valiant effort from Mintlaw who nearly won their fourth shield but congratulations to Nicolson who lifted the trophy for the first time. Their celebrations were only curtailed by the thought that they had to rush back to Ullapool in order not to miss the evening ferry back to Stornoway.
Final score : Nicolson Institute 0 Mintlaw Academy 0 (8-7 pens)
MINTLAW ACADEMY above AND NICOLSON INSTITUTE below