This weekend’s fixtures include a battle at the bottom, as sixth-placed Eriskay welcome Southend in fifth, with both in need of a win. Third-placed North Uist United host Benbecula, who have played one game fewer but could move above United with a victory, and it’s first versus second, as Barra currently leading the league by virtue of goals scored, travel to the reigning champions, Iochdar Saints, who are lying in wait to reclaim top spot should they win on Saturday.
With 114 goals scored so far and, incredibly, no matches drawn as yet, it should prove to be another exciting round of matches in the Uist and Barra League.
By Adam Gordon
Friday 12th June
North Uist United (3rd) v Benbecula (4th) (Kick-off 6.30pm)
North Uist in action against Iochdar Saints
Despite their midweek defeat by Saints, North Uist will be bouyed by their victory over Eriskay last Saturday, which gave them their first league win since 17th April, that coincidentally was also against Eriskay. Goals from Dave Darcy, Fraser MacDonald, Andy MacQuarrie and a brace from top scorer, Keith MacDonald earned them a 6-2 win away from home and brought a run of three consecutive defeats to an end.
Benbecula will be looking to avoid such a record themselves as they have lost their last two matches, with their most recent league win coming against tonight’s opponents in a 2-0 success over United. Andrew Macsween scored twice that day and was also on the scoresheet when the two sides met in the Highland Amateur Cup, back at the start of May, when Benbecula ran out 3-0 winners.
United will be looking to build on their victory last Saturday and gain some momentum in what now looks to be a race for third place. Benbecula will hope that their forward line, who have scored at least two goals in each of their last four league matches, can make the difference in what should be a tight encounter.
Recent form (last 3 three league matches)
North Uist United Benbecula
Loss 1-3 v Saints Loss 3-2 v Eriskay
Win 6-2 v Eriskay Loss 2-5 v Barra
Loss 5-1 v Barra Win 2-0 v North Uist United
Benbecula 2-0 North Uist United – Friday 24th April
Andrew Macsween x 2
North Uist: Keith MacDonald – 4
Benbecula: Andrew Macsween – 6
Friday 12th June
Eriskay (6th) v Southend (5th) (Kick-off 6.30pm)
Southend’s Andrew MacIssac in action against Barra
While Saturday’s match, is indeed, a battle between the teams currently in fifth and sixth place, respectively, in the league, to term this match a battle of the bottom sides is perhaps a bit spurious. With just three points between North Uist United in third and Eriskay in sixth, this week’s results could very well start a four-way battle for third spot as oppose to one team being cut adrift at the bottom.
In fact, both teams have won one of their last three matches, but for Southend in particular, recent results have highlighted a need for great improvements defensively with seventeen goals now conceded in their last two league games, albeit against the top two; Saints (10-2) and Barra (1-7). Eriskay will perhaps also be licking their wounds after a 6-2 defeat last weekend to North Uist United.
Despite those heavy losses, Southend, curiously, given the final scorelines, were competitive in both of those matches. In the match against Saints they showed great character to equalise after going a goal down away to the champions and were, in fact, level with half an hour remaining before the floodgates opened. Similarly against Barra, they took the lead before ceding control of the match.
Eriskay’s only league win, so far, came against Benbecula on 26th May, Dominic MacAulay, Callum Campbell and Jack Walker were the goalscorers. Their manager, Martin Macaulay will be hoping that the likes Dominic MacAulay and Jack Walker, who both have three goals so far this season, will be able to add to their tally and secure a much-needed win for the team.
While it would be easy to lay blame on the defences of both sides’ , greater resolve and solidity is required throughout the whole team to ease the burden on the respective rearguards. Southend has a young team, whose recent performances, if not their results, have shown promise. They can take heart from the character they displayed in drawing level against Saints for a period, and giving Barra an early scare in their last game. Eriskay can also look to the thin margin separating themselves from the teams above them, knowing that a win on Saturday could possibly take them to within a point of third place.
Recent form (last 3 league games)
Loss 2-6 v North Uist Loss 1-7 v Barra
Win 3-2 v Benbecula Loss 10-2 v Saints
Loss 3-5 v Barra Win 6-2 v Eriskay
Southend 6-2 Eriskay – Friday 24 April
Southend: Danny Steele x 3, Shaun MacCormick x 2, Daniel MacDonald
Eriskay: Callum Campbell x 1, Dominic MacAulay x 1
Eriskay: Niko Revol, Jack Walker and Dominic MacAulay – All 3
Southend: Andrew MacIssac – 4
Iochdar Saints (2nd) v Barra (1st) (Kick-off 1.00pm)
Barra on the attack during their recent victory over Southend
The irresistible force meets the immovable object as the pretenders to the throne, Barra visit the reigning champions, Iochdar Saints in the match of the weekend at Liniclate. Barra currently lead the Uist and Barra League on account of having scored a greater number of goals, 30 to Saints’ 29, although Saints has played one game fewer.
Both teams go into this much-anticipated match-up with a goal difference of plus eighteen and with both in fantastic form. Saints has won every one of their first six matches so far, only Barra and North Uist have restricted their margin of victory to one goal, such has been their ability to simply out-score the opposition. Barra though, look a slick and cohesive team this season, and with just the solitary defeat to Saints at the end of April, they will fancy their chances of extending their winning run in the league to six matches in a row
The attacking prowess of the top two has been there for all to see lately, with Barra chalking up 12 goals in their last two leagues matches, whereas Saints have scored 13 in the same period, including a 10-2 defeat of Southend.
While Saints seem to have the habit of winning in their DNA, Barra has exhibited a real panache in their play. This was evidenced in their last victory against Southend, when they performed with great skill and real imagination to overturn a one-nil deficit to win comprehensively. Craig Ferguson’s head might well have inflated, such has been the praise for him in Am Paipear’s recent coverage, but suffice to say the Barra talisman has the intelligence and ability to cause Saints a lot of problems and the potential to be the difference between the two teams. His form coupled with the goalscoring threat of James Davidson should certainly keep the Saints defence on their toes during what promises to be a fantastic encounter.
Like all true champions, however, Saints has no shortage of match-winners. Angus Campbell and Joseph MacInnes are just a couple of names that spring to mind, who will pose real problems to Barra’s designs on usurping Saints’ position as top dogs. Harry Luney will also be key, if the Saints are to come out on top against their closest challengers. The midfielder’s ability to control the tempo of the game and provide a calming presence in the centre of the pitch makes him a hugely important player for the home side.
Although most of the focus is likely to be on the attacking players, the teams’ respective defences have played pivotal roles this season. Players such as ‘Neally boy’, a rugged yet highly reliable rock at the the back for Barra, and the versatile and impressive Brendan Macphee for Saints, have both been key players this season. In truth, picking out just a few players, is perhaps unfair, such has been the consistency shown by both teams during the campaign so far.
With top spot at stake as well as bragging rights, the two teams likely to compete for the league title this season have a lot to play for. Barra has been in excellent form lately and have the makings of a great team, while Saints have the experience and the know-how needed to win the title. As a contest it remains too difficult to call, what can be said is that a great match lies in wait.
Recent form (Last 3 league games)
Win 1-3 v North Uist Win 1-7 v Southend
Win 10-2 v Southend Win 5-1 v North Uist
Win 2-3 v Barra Win 2-5 v Benbecula
Barra 2-3 Saints – Saturday 25th April
Barra: Neil Sinclair x 1, James Davidson x 1
Saints: Angus Campbell x 1, Ally Downie x 1, John MacDonald x 1
Saints: Angus Campbell – 7
Barra: James Davidson and Craig Ferguson – Both 8
Stayed tuned to the Am Paipear website for pictures from Saints v Barra.