The Isle of Man men’s football team stormed into the final of the NatWest Island Games football tournament, for a fourth occasion, with a totally convincing 3-1 victory over a well-organised Shetland side on Thursday evening.
Nick Hurt’s charges have been in superb form as they advanced through the Games and fully deserve their opportunity to claim gold for the very first time.
After a cautious start from both sides, the Manx side moved into the driving seat with the new front pairing of Conor Doyle and Ciaran McNulty causing a series of problems to the Scottish defence.
McNulty remained a constant threat and the Isle of Man came close to taking the lead when he broke clear before rattling the crossbar.
Then, on 31 minutes, the pressure finally told when Nick Hurt’s side took the lead. Doyle’s clever run outsmarted the Shetland defence and he advanced into the area, before unselfishly slipping the ball across to Lee Gale to slam the ball home.
The Manx side remained in control until late in the opening half when the Scottish side enjoyed their first two attempts on goal. Substitute Greg Tullock worked a shooting position before blasting over the crossbar. Then just before the interval, James Atkinson sent a good opportunity wide of an upright.
Although the Shetland side began the second half in positive fashion, normal service was soon resumed with McNulty causing problems again. ,As the Manx team looked to add a second, a Danny Bell effort was well saved by impressive Scottish keeper Erik Peterson before Bass delivered another excellent cross, Gale’s header drew another fine stop from the Shetland custodian.
Then, on 71 minutes and against the run of play, the Shetland side grabbed an equaliser when defender Shane Jamieson outsmarted the Manx defence to firmly head home a corner to level the scores.
The goal, however, simply appeared to spur on the Manx men and within two minutes, they were back in front. The ball fell kindly to skipper Frank Jones, on the edge of the box and his perfectly placed strike found the bottom left corner of the net, beating Peterson’s despairing dive.
Not content with the single-goal advantage, Hurt’s side pressed on and when McNulty played a clever ball over from the bye-line, Jones was in the right place at the right time to add his second to make it 3-1.
The two quick goals, late in the game, appeared to knock the stuffing out of the Scottish side and the Manx team kept their composure to record an important victory.
IOM v Shetland: Max Thomas, Liam Cowin, Dominic McGreevy, Johnny Myers, Marc Kelly, Lee Gale, Frank Jones (c), Danny Bell, Chris Bass Jr, Conor Doyle, Ciaran McNulty