Staxigoe 1-0 PU 20/05/2011

United arrived in Wick on the back of a 5 match winning run scoring 30 goals and only conceding 1, however United were to suffer their first blank of the season and in turn get dumped out of the Colin Macleod Memorial Cup. It was a fairly low key start to the game
certainly in comparison with recent games as Staxigoe looked to stifle the
United attack from the outset. The first effort on goal came very ambitiously
from James Murray taking on a volley from fully 30 yards off balance when Ross
Allan had found space on the right. United had re-shuffled the pack for the
game moving Jamie Mackenzie back to sweeper but this did not stop him posing a threat
in the opposition box and he was narrowly off target from an Allan corner from
the right the swept to the back post. Former United man Jimmy Budge was
the next to threaten this time after 25 mins narrowly wide with a header from a Shearer chip to the back post after United had failed to properly deal with the original freekick. United continued to huff and puff but really the quality of their attacking play did not lend
itself to clear cut chances although Mark Nichol latched on to a delightful pass from Ryan Begg ten minutes before the break, on the angle but his shot driven was well defended by Alan Sinclair in at the near post at the expense of a corner. From the resulting corner Grant Steven should have put United ahead with a clear jump in front of goal he seemed destined to meet Allan’s corner but the centre half somehow failed to make the necessary contact. In the last five minutes the home side pushed on and were awarded a freekick 30 yards from goal out towards the touchline that saw Colin Sinclair whip the ball in low and Jimmy Budge flicking the ball goalwards that saw Gray diving to turn it away for a corner.

Half time

Staxigoe 0-0 Pentland United

United made a very slack start to the second period as Gray fielded a pass back from
Mackenzie he switched the ball towards Grant Steven but the ball rather fell
between the centre back and Derek Manson in the confusion Niwa nipped in and
robbed the ball and drove towards the box but was stopped by a beautifully
timed tackle from Mackenzie that unfortunately referee Elder adjudged to be a foul. Colin
Sinclair stepped up to bend the ball goalwards but Gray held at the second time
of asking. However United never learned their lesson as ten mins into the half Gary
Mackay was adjudged to have brought Martin Banks down 25 yards from goal. Greg
Shearer took the shot on with a low drive that seemed destined to be a routine save for
Gray until it seemed to hit a divot and the keeper was extremely fortunate to
glove it for a corner. United had tried to influence a change introducing Watts
and Michael Steven for Manson and Begg respectively however the tone that had
been set seemed very hard to change although skipper Steven did have a half
chance when another Allan corner swept to the back post and the central
defender could only look on agony as his header went over. With less than
twenty minutes left the home side made the break through Niwa made good
progress down the right but the combination of Watts and Grant Steven seemed to
have snaffled the opportunity but Jimmy Budge showed great appetite to bulldoze
his way passed a coupe of lazy challenges before rifling the ball into the top
corner from what seemed a near impossible angle. United did step up their
efforts after this set back but were perhaps fortunate not to fall further
behind when elusive play from Budge down the left saw him eventually square for
Martin Banks whose effort was blocked by keeper Gray. A couple of set-pieces
did present some almighty scrambles but when United were looking for composure
none was to hand to apply the clinical touch. Nichol finally warmed Daniel
Budge’s gloves with a freekick from 25 yards on 83 mins but it was no more than
a routine save.

Full time

Staxigoe 1-0 Pentland United

1. M Gray 2. G Mackay 3. D Manson (c) (T Watts 65) 4. G Steven 5. D Mackay 6. R Begg (M Steven 60) 7. L Sutherland 8. J Mackenzie 9. M Nichol 10. J Murray 11. R Allan

Subs not used

Mckechnie

Coghill

View from the goal

A very disappointing performance not just the fact that we lost but the manner we lost, which was concerning. Certainly question marks over a few attitudes on display and we
have to learn from mistakes but that is life I guess and we move on to Keiss now in the E Macintosh Cup and desperate to get back on track.

Castletown 0-5 PU 16/05/2011

United had failed to win a league game in Castletown since a 4-2 victory back in 2006 but they managed to rectify that situation against a home side that had to play three quarters of the game with ten men after Greg Macleod was sent off for a last man challenge on Mark Nichol. United opened brilliantly with a quite superb goal Darryn Mackay and Nichol linked before laying the ball back to Ryan Begg who sent a delightful ball ahead of James Murray who raced towards the goal and fired a vicious shot from 20 yards across the diving Kirk into the keepers bottom right corner. Castletown then came into the game as United seemed to take their foot off the gas and the home side pushed on, Chris Sutherland did well down the right before swinging in a far post cross for Macdonald to attempt a spectacular volley that drifted over to Nicholson but his effort failed to trouble Gray. Kirk has been in good form for Castletown this season and he was showing some assured handling in the early exchanges none more so than after 15 minutes cutting out a dangerous low centre from Nichol as Murray awaited any slip. Castletown always a have a physical aspect to their game but that side of their game gave Nichol a chance on 20 mins when Ryan Begg was bowled over by Shearer on the edge of the area but the strikers freekick left a lot to be desired as it flew over without really troubling the keeper. The game however changed minutes later when Grant Steven picked out James Murray and the striker sent a delightful ball over Macleod for Nichol to race clear only to be bundled over by the centre back on the edge of the area as he prepared to shoot, referee Makhouli awarded the freekick and it was fairly obvious the next step that had to be taken as the Macleodwas ordered from the field. Nichol dusted himself down and took the resultant freekick but Kirk again showed excellent hands diving low to his right to hold on to the effort. United were forced into a substitution within minutes of the upheaval as Harrold seemed to strain a hamstring and was replaced by Allan. The substitute made an immediate working a delightful one-two with Murray before sending in a wicked cross with his weaker right foot for that man Nichol to tuck the ball passed the diving Kirk. At this point United took complete control as they sensed blood the prompting from Begg, Mackenzie and Sutherland really was putting tremendous pressure on Castletown who were creaking and they buckled again after 35 mins when Darryn Mackay linked with Jamie Mackenzie to release Nichol down the left and he swept in a quite brilliant cross that Murray again took first time showing wonderful technique sliding the ball across the helpless keeper. Castletown really were toiling to stem the flow of traffic and only alert goalkeeping from Kirk saw him nip the ball away from Darryn Mackay who had drifted into the box unaccompanied but his final touch was just a little too heavy. The keeper was alert again 5 mins before the break when James Murray picked the ball up from Ross Allan in the area and showed great feet to step away from Macgill and Shearer only to be denied his hat-trick by Kirk who nipped the ball away from the striker’s toes. However the pressure told again right on half time when Murray released Nichol down the right channel the striker cut in and from the narrowest of angle drove the ball in at the near post for his second of the night.

Half time

Castletown 0-4 Pentland United

It was always going to be a big ask for United to maintain the level of performance from the period just before the break when they really were dominating their opponents. This coupled with a renewed vigour from the hosts meant although United enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and territory they would only go on to add to their total once more. The signs were good when early on a nice move down the right saw Allan find Murray who swept in a fine ball to the near post where Mackenzie rose highest but unfortunately for the big midfielder his header was just off target. Castletown then suffered another blow when substitute Harris seemed to buckle under the attention of Grant Steven and had to be replaced by Baikie. United suffered a lull for about 15 mins when they seemed to be able to manoeuvre the ball into the final 3rd without too much resistance but were unable to find anything resembling a killer ball this must have frustrated Grant Steven as he set off on a Bougherra-esque run from right back and did really well but his cross brought out an interception from Cook that beat Kirk but Shearer was able to spare his team mates blushes on the goal line. Substitute Toby Watts fresh from his double on Saturday was keen to make a further impression on the travelling support he linked well down the right with James Murray and burst into the box but just as it seemed the chance would open up Macdonald stepped in to dispossess the wideman. As mentioned earlier Kirk has been having a decent season and he showed god reactions to make too decent stops in quick succession as the game went into the final quarter. Firstly he got down to his right to smother a Nichol effort from an Allan cut back. Then shortly after from the same source Lee Sutherland span and diverted the ball to the left of the keeper but he again got down to hold on to the ball although the lack of power in the effort certainly aided his cause. However Castletown were competing manfully against the numerical disadvantage and came within the width of the post from reducing the deficit Chris Sutherland’s corner bounced up at the near post and the midfielder associated with spectacular goals but usually from distance this time acrobatically tried to divert goalwards but it struck the outside of Gray’s right hand post with the keeper beaten. This was a wake up call and suddenly Ross Allan sprung to life with a lovely little give and go 40 yards from goal with James Murray and latched on to the through ball but his run into the heart of the area was brought to a shuddering halt by Shearer and referee Makhouli pointed to the spot. The striker brushed himself down to take the spot kick but in keeping with recent efforts his spot kick clipped the bar and flew over to give United a 100% failure record so far this season. Allan must have decided to try and redeem himself as with the final real opportunity of the game wrapped up the scoring, in similar fashion to the penalty he again drove into midfield and fed Murray who beautifully cushioned the ball back into his path this time the acceleration saw him race clear of the defence and slide the ball low to the right of the advancing Kirk.

Full time

Castletown 0-5 Pentland United

  1. M Gray 2. G Mackay (D Manson 68) 3. L Harrold (R Allan 25) 4. G Steven 5. M Steven (c) 6. R Begg 7. L Sutherland 8. J Mackenzie 9. M Nichol 10. J Murray 11. D Mackay (T Watts 65)

 View from the goal

 Certainly would have taken the result before the game and some of the play in the 15-20 mins before half time was excellent. However I think at times we were sloppy and guilty of trying to force issues where there was none so we must learn from that. Scoring the second so quickly after the sending off was a huge blow to Castletown who will be thoroughly frustrated that given the talent at their disposal they are not performing better in the league. Now on to Friday night in Wick v Staxigoe and another very tough assignment.

Top Joes 0-9 PU 14/05/11

United travelled to Thurso for their first ever tie in the Colin Macleod memorial trophy a player who had always shown great commitment throughout his career however was taken far to young and the trophy is fitting tribute to his memory. United again struck early but not before Mark Nichol had blazed over a volley from 6 yards after good work from Watts on the left. The opener did come via the same source however this time Allan was the creator driving down the right before crossing to the near post where the centre forward spun on a six pence to fire low passed the diving Miller. As most people would have expected United were enjoying the lions share of possession but Top Joes were defending stoutly until 15 minutes in when again the were breached this time the late run of Petrie was picked out by Begg and as the keeper spread himself the midfielder deftly flicked the ball over him. Trialist Hamish Coghill had shown good energy in the opening period but rather took stage fright when presented with his first real chance after Nichol’s flick found him in the box but he rashly lashed the ball over the bar. United suffered a set back midway through the half when Ross Allan pulled up through illness and had to be replaced by James Murray. United made it 3-0 with 15 mins left in the half when Nichol turned provider picking the ball up on the left and whipped in a ball that saw Watts steer the ball away from the keeper with great skill. Coghill missed another good chance when Murray’s cut back was delightfully laid off by Nichol but his powerful drive although controlled it flew wide as everyone expected the ball to nestle into the net. The fourth and pick of the first half goals was a sweeping move involving Harrold and Begg linking up to release Watts down the left and he stood up a great cross to the far post for Nichol to angle a downward header between the keeper and his right hand post.

 Half time

 Top Joes 0-4 Pentland United

 The second division side returned to the field with a renewed vigour and started asking a few more questions of United who although were knocking the ball about reasonably well they were finding things little more difficult in final third James Murray in particular who went clean through after 55 mins took the ball passed Miller but ended up with a very tight angle but still elected to shoot but the ball never looked like hitting the target. Minutes later the striker was presented wi a similar opportunity this time he allowed Miller to smother the ball after taking it to close to him. United finally went further ahead after 65 mins when yet again Murray burst through rounded Miller but allowed Nichol he simplest of opportunities to complete his hat-trick. The top scorer was then removed and replaced with Lee Sutherland for a well earned rest (in his opinion). It did not take long for United to make to go further ahead when Derek Manson’s cross into the box was firmly nodded downwards for his second of the game by Toby Watts. Iain Miller was actually having a very assured game in the home net comfortably grabbing anything that came near him although he very nearly scored an own goal that would have to go into the bizarre section when James Murray’s cut back was stabbed goalwards by Coghill and Lannon clearing off the line lashed the bal against his keeper but thankfully for them both the ball flew wide to safety. Murray finally got it right on a one on when Petrie picked out his run and he waltzed round Miller and tapped the ball into the unguarded net. At this stage Top Joes enjoyed their best phase of play and Graham Poke forced Gray into a decent save diving left to smother his freekick from 20 yards. Number 7 saw Ryan Begg open his account for the season peeling off the back of his marker Murray produced a fine switch of play into the area and Begg had the time and imagination to lob the ball over the stranded keeper. The scoring was all wrapped up in the dying minutes when Watts did well down the left and crossed to the far post where the inrushing Manson bulleted home a header to make it 9-0

 Full time

 Top Joes 0-9 Pentland United

 1. M Gray 2. D Manson (c) 3. L Harrold 4. G Steven 5. G Mackay 6. R Begg 7. M Petrie 8. R Allan (J Murray 25) 9. M Nichol (L Sutherland 60) 10. H Coghill 11. T Watts

View from the goal

 Could have been better we played in fits and starts but struggled for consistency within the game. Scored nice goals but at times found ourselves forcing issues that just were not there. On to Castletown and a game against our local rivals they don’t come much tougher and your performance levels will need to be a long way better.

Latest PUFC score – 14.5.11

This afternoon’s score from The Colin MacLeod Memorial Cup – Top Joes 0 V Pentland United 9 – PU goals from Mark Nichol (3), Ryan Begg, Toby Watts (2), James Murray and Derek Manson.

Top scorers list (up to 14.5.11)

(3h) Mark Nichol – 14
James Murray – 6
Ross Allan – 2
Toby Watts – 2
Darryn Mackay – 1
Michael Petrie – 1
Michael Steven – 1
Garry MacLeod – 1
Derek Manson – 1
Ryan Begg – 1
Own goals – 2

(h) = hat-tricks

Halkirk 1-8 PU 10/05/2011

In keeping with recent fixtures United made a blistering start to this match Murray released Nichol down the right channel and the striker tricked his way to the bye line before crossing for the inrushing Michael Petrie to net his first competitive goal from close range at the near post. A shell shocked home side were indebted to Allan minutes later when he pulled off a fine block at his near post when Murray burst away from Gunn on the right and drove into the box. The second was only delayed for a few minutes though Harrold picked the ball up on half way and sent a beautiful pass ahead Nichol who weaved his way down the left before sending in a delightful cross to near post where James Murray met the ball and deftly guided the ball across the keeper and into the far corner of the net for a quite superb goal. Halkirk tried to rally but were finding the United rearguard in decent form with Michael Steven marshalling brother Grant and Gary Mackay very well. After 17 minutes it was 3-0 and it was another wonderfully crafted yet simple goal this time Darryn Mackay sent a fine ball down the right for Murray who swept in a super ball to the far post where Nichol picked his spot passed the hopelessly exposed Allan. The United central midfield duo of Lee Sutherland Jamie Mackenzie had the game firmly in a stranglehold and continued to prompt and prod the home defence as it creaked under the pressure of a team in full flow and playing with great confidence and freedom. Mid way through the half it really should have been 4 Nichol’s cross from the left was blocked by the arm of Swanson and referee Jappy had no option but to point to the spot and caution the defender. United’s jinx continued though as Nichol’s tame effort was easily gathered by Allan. The striker just back from a spying mission on the local public houses in Orkney partially made amends on the half hour mark as again he capitalised on indecision in the home defence as they stood and waited for offside he raced in on Allan and side footed the ball passed the keeper. Although Halkirk I am sure will be disappointed at the loss of the goals there was no doubt United were firmly in the zone and playing some impressive football. It was no real surprise that United again struck 5 mins before the break Mackenzie fed Petrie who crossed from the right and Nichol falling back completed a first half hat-trick.

Half time

Halkirk 0-5 Pentland United

It was quite clear United were going to struggle to reach the same heights as the first half through a combination of Halkirk re-grouping and the motivation levels dropping. However to be fair they would go on to continue to hold the upper hand although it was certainly a more competitive second half. United suffered an early setback when Jamie Mackenzie went down with a head knock after a clash with Steven Campbell and had to be replaced by Ross Allan. Slowly though United got back up to speed and ten minutes into the second half they scored again Darryn Mackay cut inside his marker Mackay and found James Murray the striker again showed great feet to step away from his marker and cut the ball back for the inrushing midfielder who rather sclaffed his first effort, which Allan blocked at his near post but the midfielder regained his composure to turn the ball into the net for his first of the season. On the hour mark that man Mackay doubled his seasons tally robbing Matthew Mackay 25 yards from goal he took one stride forward and hit a dipping volley that soared over Allan into the roof of the net. Some what of sweet revenge for the mindless act of vandalism that Matthew had committed on his car in the first period. The game went a little flat then as Halkirk desperately looked for some consolation although Steven Campbell had the ball in the net after 68 mins it was ruled out for an earlier infringement went Michael Steven had been fouled. Less than 5 mins later and United completed their evenings efforts when Ross Allan picked out Darryn Mackay and he swept the ball across goal for Nichol in similar fashion to his 3rd goal falling backwards fired the ball high passed Allan and into the net. James Murray had a great chance to add to his tall moments later again Ross Allan picked out the run of Murray down the left he raced away from Gunn but from the angle he brought out a decent save from Allan at his near post. As stated earlier it was a far more even contest and Halkirk eventually did get their consolation after 80 mins from a swerving Michael Bremner freekick from 25 yards although the animated reaction of the United goalkeeper suggested he was less than pleased with the efforts of his wall. The game continued to ebb and flow but goal scoring chances started to dry up a little and I think everyone was quite happy when referee Jappy called an end to proceedings.

Full time

Halkirk 1-8 Pentland United

  1. M Gray 2. G Mackay (D Manson 65) 3. L Harrold 4. G Steven 5. M Steven (C) 6. L Sutherland 7. M Petrie 8. J Mackenzie (R Allan 50) 9. M Nichol (R Allan 50) 10. J Murray 11. D Mackay

View from the goal

A superb first half display really enjoyed the way the guys went about their business and took the game to their opponents. We had asked a few things of them before the game and they delivered everything we asked. The second period was always going to be difficult to maintain that level of performance but all the same great team display.

Lybster 0-4 PU (HAC1) 7/05/2011

United’s first game in the Highland Amateur adventure took them to Lybster and a reasonably competitive match, which was marred by James Murray’s red card in the dying minutes removing the gloss from an efficient performance. The game could not have got off to a better start for United Ross Allan picking the ball up on the right from a short free kick cutting inside before drilling in a low shot from 20 yards that flew passed the unsighted Mowat. Many people may have thought the flood gates would have opened after that but a defence well organised by Henderson repelled United for the another 55 minutes although at times the build up play was decent the final ball all to often was not. It was a new partnership for United up top with Jamie Mackenzie and James Murray forming the JJ partnership and they nearly combined to double the lead after 12 mins Allan picked out Murray down the left hand side and his cross to the far post picked out the Mackenzie on the stretch but his effort just went wide. There was very nearly a nasty sting in the tail just before the twenty min mark though as the Steven brothers got in a bit of a mix up allowing Lightley to break in on Gray but his low drive found the feet of Gray and the follow up flew miles over. Keeper Mowat has been on trial at Rangers for the supporters team and he showed great agility to get down and block Murray as he raced clear in from the left channel as United probed but conviction was lacking. In quick succession the central midfield duo of Begg and Petrie saw fit to take on Mowat from distance but neither showed the accuracy required to trouble the keeper. United appealed in vain for a penalty on the half hour when Allan appeared to be impeded as he set about taking the defence on drifting down the right but referee John so no infringement. In fact Miller was the first booking of the game ten minutes before the break for persistent fouling as the home side midfield worked hard to contain the United side. Territory was not proving a problem but the United set-pieces rarely troubled the Lybster rear guard as Allan far too often failed to beat the first man. Coupled with the failure to deliver from the wide areas where Lee Sutherland and Michael Petrie had a few chances meant that United only came into the break one up.

Half time

Lybster 0-1 Pentland United

There were certainly words of encouragement from the management team towards increasing the pace and direction in the final third, no question United had played some pretty stuff but in area’s not liable to cause damage. In fairness the second half did have a greater pace but not quite what Ross Sutherland from the touchline was looking for but just about enough to get United home the clincher came around the hour mark and it was a super move right from Steven at the back through Lee Sutherland to Jamie Mackenzie and finally James Murray cut in from the right beat his man and side footed home from ten yards to finally give the necessary breathing space. The changes started to flow firstly Darryn Mackay entered the fray replacing Lee Sutherland Jamie Mackenzie narrowly headed over from a good Ross Allan corner as United tried to turn the screw but Lybster to their credit continued to battle and they again forced Gray into a save with his feet after a scramble in the box following a long freekick into the area. That however was to be the final real chance for the home team as United killed any lingering doubts as Darryn Mackay and Derek Manson linked up down the right for the later to whip in a very good cross and that man Murray picked his spot from 8 yards with a downward header passed the helpless Mowat. The striker thought he had completed his hat-trick minutes later racing on to a great through ball from Begg but it was belatedly ruled out following a flag from the home linesman much to the strikers disgust. Watt and Mckechnie entered the game in the final twenty minutes or so replacing Petrie and Harrold and United completed the scoring shortly afterwards again it came from the right Mckechnie releasing Mackay who whipped in a decent cross with Mackenzie and his marker challenging the ball flew into the net. The game fell pretty flat afterwards with the only real chance a brilliant flick over the top from Mackenzie picked out Begg who took a superb first touch but his second only found the cross bar and Lybster cleared. There was still time for Murray to completely undo his good work when he was sent off for treading of his marker after the defender had lunged in at the striker, referee John wasted no time in flashing the red and suddenly the day did not seem so good.

Full time

Lybster 0-4 Pentland United

M Gray 2. D Manson 3. L Harrold (McKechnie 68) 4. G Steven 5. M Steven (C) 6. R Begg 7. M Petrie (Watts 72) 8. L Sutherland (D Mackay 65) 9. J Mackenzie 10. J Murray 11. R Allan

View from the goal

Could not have asked for a better start but after that it went rather flat although the football was decent it struggled to create the necessary openings against a resilient Lybster team. Through now to a home tie versus Kirkwall Hotspurs and a very different challenge but before then the domestic games kick in and a trip to our old rivals Halkirk who have made a very good start to their league campaign.