A FINE first-half performance by Kinlochshiel was enough to see them through to a 3-2 victory over Kyles Athletic in the Artemis Macaulay Cup final on Saturday at Oban’s Mossfield Park. It is the second time in three years that the Wester Ross club have lifted the Macaulay, but the manner of their victory certainly caused their supporters a few palpitations. With their side having racked up a deserved 3-0 advantage before the break, the Shiel fans had to endure an agonising second half in which their lead was reduced to a single goal. Indeed had Kyles’ influential playmaker Grant Irvine not had to leave the field in the last quarter nursing a calf injury then the outcome might well have been different.

For Shiel manager Gill, however, the result was fully deserved. “We had an excellent first half and took the chances which came our way, which is what you have to do at this level. We also played well in the second half though Kyles came back well, but we just had enough for them. We have gone through a difficult spell recently with the injury to our top scorer Keith Macrae but we proved last week against Lochaber that we have other players who can find the net – and they did again today.”

Shiel certainly began the Macaulay final in top gear and, playing with the wind in their favour, had tested Kyles keeper John Whyte in the opening minutes through strikes from Jordan Fraser and John Macrae before teenager Duncan Matheson gave them an early lead. Profiting from some excellent work by full forward John Macrae, who held off the challenge from Kyles defender Callum Millar to slip the ball inside, the youngster drilled a low shot past Whyte for the opener. The Kyles keeper had some further sterling work to do in keeping out a shot from distance by Shiel’s half forward Ali Nixon before unfortunately contributing to his side’s downfall in 27 minutes after his miscued by-hit set up the Shiel attack. This time the ball fell to John Macrae, who had the space to turn and fire the ball high past the hapless Whyte to put Shiel two up.

A third Shiel goal quickly followed, with Macrae once more on target following a neat pass inside from Matheson. This time Macrae’s quick turn saw his marker slip on the wet turf, presenting the Scotland international front man with the opportunity to smash the ball past Whyte for yet another excellent Shiel goal.

At this stage Shiel were in total control of the game. Though they did have some forward momentum, the Kyles forwards found themselves well policed by a Kinlochshiel backline in which both wing-back Mark Macdonald and centre-half back Conor Cormack were dominant.

After the break, the introduction of Roddy Macdonald up front and Grant Irvine back at full-centre allowed Kyles to play more effectively. Macdonald, sidelined for some weeks with a shoulder problem, began to ask questions of the Shiel defence – and in 58 minutes a goal from youngster Ross Macrae brought them back into contention.

Kyles made further inroads into the Shiel lead in 70 minutes, when a stop by Shiel keeper Scott Kennedy with his foot was judged illegal by the referee.

Macdonald himself quickly converted the penalty, but with Irvine now injured and withdrawn there was little further scope for Kyles improvement and Kinlochshiel were able to see the game out to a successful conclusion.