Uist and Barra Football League
Benbecula 3 North Uist United 5
– Visitors three goals up within opening twenty minutes
– Andy MacQuarrie scores direct from two corners and misses penalty
North Uist utilised the pace and trickery of D’arcy and MacIntosh to good effect
North Uist United recorded their fifth win of the season and their second in succession with a fluid and well-organised performance away to Benbecula.
United scored two goals direct from corners and established a commanding 3-0 lead inside the opening 20 minutes of the game. Despite a much-improved second half display by Benbecula, the visitors struck a further two goals to run out comfortable winners in the end.
Benbecula had held a six-point lead over North Uist United going into the match at Liniclate, but had suffered a 4-0 defeat by Iochdar Saints in their previous game; conversely United had tasted victory in their most recent match, with a 5-3 win over Eriskay.
The hosts started the game without the services of the league’s joint-top scorer Hector Macphee, while North Uist brought in Mark MacInnes for Sean Brady at right back; Jonathan MacDonald came in at centre-back for Donnie MacLean and Caliean MacQuarrie replaced Peter Shaw up front.
The wind, although not exactly storm-like, would play a part as the visitors made a forceful start to the game. Centre-back Andy MacQuarrie took advantage of the gusty conditions and Benbecula goalkeeper John Allan MacLeod’s poor positioning to score directly from a corner, with five minutes gone.
North Uist should have doubled their lead soon after, when Angus MacIntosh was presented with a clear shot on goal, but the striker sliced his shot wide of the target from close range.
The away side continued to dominate the early exchanges and were afforded another opportunity to test MacLeod following some good work by Caliean MacQuarrie down the right wing. Remarkably, history repeated itself as Andy MacQuarrie again found the net straight from the set piece to give his team a 2-0 lead with 17 minutes on the clock.
Frustration quickly turned to farce within the home team’s defence as they conceded a third goal from a corner a minute later. This time, Angus MacIntosh managed to place the ball into the net, again from an Andy MacQuarrie corner, to give North Uist a commanding 3-0 lead.
That goal appeared to shock Benbecula into action, and they soon hit back with their first attack of the game. Andrew Macsween outpaced the North Uist defence to place the ball through the legs of the onrushing goalkeeper Stuart Menzies, leaving himself with an easy finish into an empty net to make the score 1-3.
Benbecula then went close to scoring a second; Menzies in the North Uist goal tipped the ball onto his crossbar, after much confusion within the away team’s ranks.
With the game approaching the half hour mark, the referee Donald Steele issued yellow cards to both Scott Mackay of Benbecula and Fraser MacDonald of North Uist, as tempers flared between the teams.
The visitors were forced into making an early change minutes later and brought on Ross Nicolson to replace Donald Macilwraith, who was withdrawn due to a shoulder injury.
Fraser MacDonald went close with a fine attempt for North Uist, which just flew wide of MacLeod’s right post. Benbecula’s looked to threaten through Macsween, who tried to round Menzies, but the goalkeeper managed to recover to clear his line as the first half drew to a close.
Benbecula’s talisman Hector Macphee was introduced for Jordan Macpherson, who endured a tough time in the first half, as the home team sought to begin the second half on the front foot. North Uist, however, had their own designs of adding to their tally, and four minutes after the restart, the hosts conceded once more.
Andy MacQuarrie was involved again, as he picked out Dave D’arcy from the right-hand side. D’arcy weaved his way pass the Benbecula defence before striking the ball into the top corner from inside the box.
With North Uist now 4-1 up, Benbecula went in search of a second goal. The home team did indeed make the breakthrough, although their goal owed much to fortune after a mistake by Menzies in the North Uist goal allowed them to reduce the deficit. The goalkeeper’s poor kick-out landed at the feet of Donald Macpherson who calmly lobbed the ball over Menzies from 20-yards out to make the scoreline 2-4.
Unthinkably for North Uist, what had been a seemingly comfortable lead shrunk further just minutes later. Menzies couldn’t prevent Macsween from following up from close range as the home closed the margin to 3-4 with 30 minutes remaining.
Iain MacDonald’s half-time alteration was starting to take effect with one goal now separating the teams. Hector Macphee found room at the edge of the box to set-up Mark MacRury, but the midfielder failed to hit the target. Macphee then tried his luck following a pass by Macsween, but the league’s leading marksmen hit his shot over the bar.
North Uist’s attempted to catch out Benbecula on the break, as the home team began to commit more players forward in search of a goal. Keith MacDonald and Angus MacIntosh combined well, but the end ball was just out of the reach of substitute Innes MacRae, who was waiting at the back post.
The visitors’ counter-attacking ploy was soon rewarded though as the hosts were caught out on the break. MacIntosh proved too quick for John Alec Skinner, who was booked for fouling the striker inside the box, following some sharp attacking play involving Fraser MacDonald and Dave D’arcy.
With two goals, both scored direct from corners, MacQuarrie now found himself on the cusp of a very rare and unorthodox set piece hat trick as he stepped up to take the penalty. The centre-back struck his shot forcefully, but much to the relief of MacLeod in the Benbecula goal, the ball sailed wide of the left post.
That reprieve meant that Benbecula needed just one more goal to draw level in the game, despite having trailed 3-0 inside the opening 20 minutes of the match.
With 15 minutes remaining the home team increased the pressure on the North Uist defence. Macphee was presented with a good opportunity at the back post, but his effort lacked composure and accuracy and went well wide of the target.
Menzies was then forced into making a smart save to his left to block Macsween, as Benbecula intensified their search for an equaliser. Andy MacQuarrie and Jonathan MacDonald were also sharp to repel the home team’s advances, as they tirelessly blocked, harried and closed down their opponents inside the North Uist box.
D’arcy nearly made it five, but his shot was blocked off the line for North Uist as the game became stretched in the final five minutes.
JJ MacInnes became the fourth player to be booked. The right back, had struggled to cope with the pace and trickery of Darcy down the left wing, and was duly reprimanded for a late challenge.
Donald Macpherson did find the target for Benbecula, but Menzies was more than equal to the shot.
North Uist’s energy in the final third proved to be decisive and put an end to Benbecula’s hope of salvaging a point from the game. Sean Brady, on as a substitute, beat the offside trap to hit a crisp shot away from MacLeod and in off the right post to seal the win for his team.
The game ended 5-3 to North Uist for the second succession match, after a well-drilled and clever display by John Docherty’s team. A fantastic opening twenty minutes by the visitors left Benbecula with too much to do in the second half. Although the home team improved significantly after the break, Benbecula were always vulnerable to the pace of MacIntosh and D’arcy on the break, a factor that proved telling in the end.
The result means that North Uist is just three points behind both Benbecula and Southend. The race for third place should now provide a fascinating sub-plot to the tussle between Iochdar Saints and Barra at the top of the league.
Man of the match: Andy MacQuarrie – North Uist
MacQuarrie (pictured left) made an important contribution at both ends of the field
The veteran centre-back scored twice directly from a corner to put his team into a 2-0 lead early in the game and could have scored a hat-trick, had he not put his penalty wide. He also put in a few vital challenges, just as Benbecula threaten to make a comeback.
Iain MacDonald, Benbecula manager: ‘It was a bad day at the office and all credit to North Uist who deserved their win.’
John Docherty, North Uist United manager: ‘I thought we started the game very strongly, and that continued for much of the first half . I thought for the opening half hour we played a lot of good football. Andy’s opening goal from a corner was a good start, and because he is the type of lad to prove it was no fluke he did it again from the other side with his opposite foot! Overall extremely pleased with the result and the amount of chances we created.’