Following Graeme “Windy” Miller’s departure as manager, Billy Anderson was appointed to the role.
The squad from the previous season was boosted by the return of Murdo “Squegg” Macleod following injury and Kevin “Barra” MacNeil from mainland-based employment. Goal scorer extraordinaire Fraser Macleod was back on-island to further strengthen the pool. Promising midfielder Duncan Shirkie was also signed from Western Thistle.
The 2019 season kicked off with the toughest of tests, a league match versus Westside at Cnoc a Choilich, on a cold, damp April evening. Both sides were missing key players, for Carloway skipper Domhnall Mackay through suspension and the injured Stuart “Bubble” Macdonald. The first half started slowly with both teams taking a while to find their flow. West Side pushed on towards half-time and only two good saves from the evergreen Gordon Craigie in the Carloway goals kept the scores even at the interval. Carloway regrouped after the interval and showed increased purpose in attack. It looked like a share of the spoils, however, in the ninety third minute, Ali “Barvas” Macleod scored from close range. It was a sore loss in a tightly contested game although many positives for the new manager to draw upon.
The Blues then faced Ness in the preliminary round of the Jock Stein Cup, again on home soil. The home side were keen to kick start their season and started brightly. Despite this, former Blue Lee Johnson gave Ness a shock lead. This was short-lived however as Carloway responded well. Neil Sinclair broke strongly down the right and crossed for Fraser Macleod to volley home and, with Murdo “Squegg” Macleod and Duncan Shirkie pulling the strings in midfield, went two ahead before half-time. Neil Sinclair got the first firing into the corner following a “Squegg” through ball and Fraser Macleod then crashed home the third five minutes later. Carloway’s dominance continued and they went further ahead two minutes into the second half when Callum “Beag” Mackay played in Kevin “Barra” MacNeil, who slotted calmly past the visiting keeper. Kevin “Barra” MacNeil scored his second on 62 minutes from close range when Fraser Macleod’s flick was parried by the goalkeeper.
At five one and the game looked over but to be fair to Ness they fought hard and Lee Johnson scored his second following casual play in the Carloway defence. Spanish sub Albert then made his debut replacing “D.I.” Maclennan and looked good in his short time on the pitch. The victory was wrapped up when Euan Shirkie crashed home a header from a fine Callum “Beag” Mackay corner. Unsurprisingly, Murdo “Squegg” Macleod stole the show with a classy display in his landmark 300th game.
Carloway were on their travels in the next match. Following Harris re-entering the league, it was the first visit to Rally Park since 2016 and their first on league duty since 2014 and resulted in a deserved but hard-fought victory.
Billy Anderson had clearly fired up his troops and Carloway were fast out the traps. A long ball from skipper Domhnall Mackay split the Hearach defence in the opening minute and Fraser Macleod fired narrowly over on the half volley. A minute later and Carloway were through the middle again with Dan Crossley running onto Fraser Macleod’s pass. This time the finish was clinical and Carloway had the perfect start.
Harris were shell-shocked and struggled to get a foothold in the game in the early stages. Their evening got worse after ten minutes when, having been fed by Callum “Beag” Mackay down the right, Fraser hit a belter from the corner of the box into the left-hand corner of the goal off the stanchion of post and bar. A fantastic strike and no chance for the Harris keeper.
Carloway continued to attack in numbers and Harris began to stir with Andrew “Brownie” Morrison starting to get on the ball up front and Finlay Macsween threatening with his pace on the right-handside. Macsween escaped twice in quick succession with one effort being well saved by Davie Beaton and a second being cleared off the line by Cameron “Tiger” Macarthur. The young winger took his chance at the third time of asking however, slotting home at the near post after breaking free once again on the half hour. Harris continued to press and could have been level at the interval if the crossbar hadn’t denied Andrew “Brownie’s” clever chip.
Carloway started the second half in more confident fashion, and the improved second half performance paid off with a third goal for Carloway in the 57th minute. Murdo “Squegg” Macleod was the creator with a through ball to Fraser Macleod who finished sharply from outside the box. Another fine finish and a crucial two goal cushion. The team kept their shape and discipline and saw the game out for a deserved three points despite Kevin “Barra” MacNeil departing with a suspected broken thumb.
The next fixture was against league champions Point in the Acres Boys Club Cup. Point started the game quickly and the home team found themselves under pressure early on. A sustained period of pressure around the Carloway goal ended with Angus Macdonald flicking the ball past Craigie for Point’s opener in the seventh minute. Things got worse shortly afterwards when Joe Armstrong got caught in possession by Point’s Martin Macdonald. The young winger squared the ball quickly to Angus Macdonald who fired home sharply with his left foot for his and the Rudhach’s second. Carloway were stunned and had to work hard to stay in the game. There was further dismay when Stuart “Bubble” Macdonald limped off with a recurrence of his hamstring injury.
As Carloway pushed forward, gaps appeared in the home rearguard and Point missed three great chances to increase their lead. Martin Macdonald mis-hit his shot when faced with an open goal allowing Joe Armstrong to clear off the line, Angus Macdonald fired over from a similar distance having been set up by Stewart Munro before having another effort saved by Craigie. Point progressed with a deserved victory.
The next match was again at Cnoc a Choilich, the fourth in the opening five fixtures, with Lochs the opposition in the opening round of the prestigious Highland Amateur Cup. There were five changes to the line up from the side who slipped to defeat in the previous match. The Shirkie brothers returned from injuries and Dan Crossley was included as his game time was being carefully managed. Albert Calsina Latorre started for the Blues in what was to be his final appearance.
It was all Carloway and after a few near misses the breakthrough came in the thirty third minute. Lochs made a hash of a free kick and Murdo “Squegg” Macleod found himself free on the left-hand side. His cross field pass set up a straight race between Fraser Macleod and James Macleod in the Lochs goal which Fraser won, skipping past the keeper and walking the ball into the empty net.
Fraser Macleod nearly doubled the lead just before the break but was deemed offside having slotted home from Albert’s pass. Carloway extended the lead almost immediately after the break. Lochs stopper, Peter Mackenzie, was caught in possession at the back, leaving Fraser Macleod one-on-one with James Macleod and the Lochs keeper couldn’t keep out the striker’s chip. Carloway were in full throttle now with Duncan Shirkie dominating midfield and Albert Latorre causing problems down the left-hand side. The lead was extended in the sixty-sixth minute when Fraser Macleod chased down Cameron “Tiger” Macarthur’s clearance and slotted confidently past James Macleod for his hat-trick.
Lochs could have crumbled at this point but four of their players on the pitch have winners’ medals in this competition and they were never going to go down without a fight. Lewis Mackenzie gave them hope when he burst clear on the left and fired past Davie Beaton with his left foot. Suddenly, there was an urgency to the Lochies’ play and Dave Martin found himself clear in the box only for his strike to hit the post with the follow-up being cleared for a corner.
The next goal looked likely to be crucial and so it proved. Albert Latorre glided past two players cutting in from the left and as he approached the Lochs keeper, he unselfishly squared for Fraser Macleod to tap home his fourth with just over ten minutes left.
Carloway were back on league duty in the next match when they met Athletic at Goathill Park. Although it was early May, it was a bitterly cold evening with snow showers. It was a frenetic start from both sides, though Carloway settled the better. After a near miss from Callum “Beag” Mackay, his cross from the right wing was volleyed in by Fraser Macleod. Great cross, great finish. The lead was short-lived however and Athletic were level shortly after. Carloway conceded a free-kick thirty yards out and ex-Carloway defender Ross Macrae placed a beauty past an unsighted Davie Beaton.
Fraser Macleod came close again, heading over from a Callum “Beag” Mackay corner, before Athletic’s midfielder Jon Clough hit the post after strong work from Lewis “Preston” Robinson. It looked like the teams would escape indoors all square, but Murdo “Squegg” Macleod had other ideas, curling in a well-struck shot from the right-hand side of the box to bring some much-needed warmth to the Carloway support.
The game was still finally balanced at this stage with the next goal likely to be crucial in a night increasingly dominated by the swirling wind. So it proved in the fifty second minute and thankfully it was the Athletic net that bulged with Fraser Macleod crashing home his tenth of the season from the right-hand side of the box via the boot of an unfortunate defender The home side continued to work hard and Carloway had to stand strong to protect their two-goal cushion and collect the 3 points.
Three nights later, Carloway hosted Point in the bank holiday sun at Cnoc a’ Choilich. Both sides started with intent, but it was Carloway who struck first. Joe Armstrong playing in an advanced position wide left crossed from the left and confusion in the Point defence allowed Callum “Beag” Mackay to sneak in and score. A great start for the Blues but Point were not for sitting back and nearly equalised when Angus Macdonald broke through the middle. His lob over Craigie looked goal bound but “D.I.” Maclennan appeared from nowhere to clear it off the line. Brilliant defending. Point weren’t to be denied however and their pressure paid off when Ali Gillies headed home Alexander Macdonald’s corner on 19 minutes. Both sides created and spurned opportunities and it remained level at half time.
Both teams came flying out the traps and Joe Armstrong, thriving in his new advanced role, brought out a fine save from young Macdonald in the Point goal. This was to prove important as within fifteen minutes Point were two ahead. The first was a beauty, Cammy Nicolson playing a one-two with Mikey Jones before firing past Craigie with his left foot. Then there seemed little danger when a free-kick was conceded on the half-way line but one straight pass freed Alexander Macdonald who slotted home calmly.
Carloway knew they had to react quickly, and Billy Anderson did exactly that, replacing Joe Armstrong with Andy “Bernera” Morrison and switching to a more offensive 3-5-2. There was an immediate reaction with Duncan Shirkie cutting the ball back for Fraser Macleod whose drive was kept out by a combination of keeper and post. Fraser wasn’t to be denied however and he kick-started five minutes of madness with a great strike from the edge of the box following a through ball from Dan Crossley to make it 2-3 in the 75th minute. Carloway won the ball back from the kick off but Dan Crossley’s pass back to Craigie was charged down by Angus Macdonald leaving his strike partner Alex Macdonald with a tap-in to restore the two goal lead for the visitors.
Na Gormaich were in no mood to give up however and the ball was immediately transferred down the right wing. Callum “Beag” Mackay swung it in and “D.I.” Maclennan arrived late to head in at the back post. Carloway were in full flow now and the equaliser came in the 83rd minute. Fraser Macleod hooked the ball into the danger area after concerted pressure and, when Point keeper Daniel Macdonald couldn’t hold on under pressure, Dan threw himself bravely at the loose ball to head home for 4-4.
There were no more clear-cut chances and both teams drew breath with a share of the points after a terrific contest.
Next up was a Jock Stein Cup tie at home to United. For this match, Carloway were missing Fraser Macleod, and were able to call on Archie MacDonald, as well as Ross Maciver at home from Florida. After the thrilling match with Point, this was an even though largely uninspiring match. Both sides struggled to gain the upper hand and as the match progressed it became an increasingly tetchy encounter as the result remained in the balance. In the latter stages, it was United who created and missed some good chances. The deadlock was finally broken in the fifth minute of injury time when Hamish MacDonald found the net for United. However, the match and the drama were far from over. Incredibly, Carloway forged an equaliser in the 90+8th minute when the ball bundled over the line with “D.I.” Maclennan credited with the goal. It was hotly disputed by United who claimed for a foul. Having somehow retrieved the game, Carloway may have been favourites to complete the job in extra time. As it turned out, it was United who secured victory with a long range strike from Seumas Beaton in the second period and Carloway were knocked out.
Cnoc a’ Choilich was again the venue for the next match, the seventh home tie in nine fixtures. The visitors were the ever improving and youthful Back side in the Highland Amateur Cup. Both sides were eager to progress in this competition and the opening exchanges were much like a boxing match and round one saw the two teams trying to get a foothold in the game, neither side could land a punch as the defences stood strong. Midway through the half, Back struck first as Euan Anderson used his body to turn Euan Shirkie before unselfishly squaring to Louie Macdonald who managed to squeeze the ball past Domhnall Mackay and David Beaton on the goal line. Carloway sought to get back into it, but it was Back who extended their lead to 2-0, when a great whipped delivery from Anderson found Louie Macdonald who was tightly marked by Euan Shirkie the powerful back striker challenged with Beaton and Shirkie for the ball and forced it into the net.
The returning Fraser Macleod was really starting to look in the mood becoming much more involved in the game and forcing a great save from “Titch” Macritchie after he had been sent through on goal by “D.I.” Maclennan. Carloway were knocking on the door and as we approached half time Cameron Macarthur powered in a great cross which was met by the head of Macleod he connected well and missed by a matter of inches.
Despite a promising start to the second half it was once again Back who hit the net. Joel Martin this time cut inside from the left before smashing the ball through David Beaton and giving Back a three goal lead. However, Carloway were playing well and not willing to accept their fate. Just past the hour mark they pulled one back through Domhnall Mackay, heading in at the back post from a dangerous Callum “Beag” Mackay delivery to give them hope. This goal was the catalyst the home side needed, and they found their second wind after a period of pressure. On 72 minutes, Dan Crossley rose to flick on a throw in toward the dangerous Macleod who lashed the ball into the net.
With a remarkable comeback now in sight Carloway continued to attack the now weary Back defence but were reminded of Back’s talented strikers when Stevie Mutch weaved his way through the Carloway defence only to be denied by good reactions from David Beaton. Despite that scare, Carloway continued to attack and on 80 minutes they won a free kick 25 yards from goal. Fraser Macleod stepped and slotted the ball past the keeper and into the side netting, a brilliant finish from Carloway’s front man. For the second match running, extra time was required.
The first period of extra time saw both times re-energised by the break and Back’s front two of Macdonald and Anderson continued to cause bother despite being unable to seriously test Beaton. Carloway did manage to create a clear-cut opportunity in the second period with Callum “Beag” Mackay finding the feet of Fraser Macleod who took a great touch before testing Colin “Titch” Macritchie. Carloway also had to contend with both of the Shirkie brothers departing during extra time due to work commitments.
As the game went on it became increasingly clear that this game was destined for penalties. Love them or hate them they are always the source of excitement and having fought back from 3-0 down Carloway now had to rely on the cool heads of the eleven still on the pitch. Fraser Macleod, “D.I.” Maclennan, Domhnall Mackay and Dan Crossley all scored their penalties for Carloway as Back missed two of theirs to give Carloway a remarkable 4-2 success.
Two days later, the Blues were back in action, travelling to a Creagan Dubh. This is a notorious venue for them, although it is also the scene of the Club’s first Eilean an Fhraoich Cup victory. Carloway were boosted by the return albeit temporary of Eachainn Miller, who was about to sign on in the Highland League with Clachnacuddin. The Blues were forced into changes as talismanic striker Fraser Macleod and mercurial Dan Crossley were not available. Along with Miller, Kevin “Barra” MacNeil returned from injury.
Lochs took only four minutes to puncture the optimism of Na Gormaich’s healthy travelling support. The ball was given away in midfield and quickly transferred to Ross Allison who toe-poked home and they went further ahead after 9 minutes. A cross from the left was well controlled by David Martín who slotted home after Davie Beaton had saved his initial shot. Not the best of starts for the Blues, however the comeback started on 15 minutes when Eachainn Miller crashed home a header from Murdo “Squegg” Macleod’s free-kick.
This changed the flow of the game and, after Stuart “Bubble” Macdonald’s effort was save by James Macleod at close range, Carloway drew level on 32 minutes. Eachainn Miller went past two defenders on the left before squaring to Kevin “Barra” MacNeil who fired the leveller high into the net. It only took a further four minutes for Na Gormaich to go ahead. This time Euan Shirkie carried the ball out of defence before playing through Eachainn Miller who rounded James Macleod and fired into the net. The celebrations had barely died down and Carloway were playing very well when Murdo “Squegg” Macleod was shown a red card, his first ever in senior football, after picking up a second yellow for blocking a quickly taken free kick.
Being down to ten men did not adversely affect Carloway, and they stretched their lead before the break. Domhnall MacKay’s shot struck the hands of a Lochs defender and the skipper slotted home with his left foot after his penalty was saved by James Macleod.
Carloway continued on the front foot in the second half and extended their lead on 53 mins. Eachainn Miller broke free on the right and his crossfield pass was met strongly by Kevin “Barra” MacNeil. James Macleod made a fine save but “Barra” was alert enough to get up and fire home the rebound with his left peg.
Lochs got one back against the run of play when former Carloway stopper Ali “Laxay” Macdonald crossed from the left and Lewis MacKenzie lifted a clever finish over Davie Beaton midway through the half. The scoring was completed late on when Eachainn Miller released Cameron Macarthur on a storming run down the right which was brought to an abrupt end in the box for a clear penalty. Miller completed his hat trick from the spot, capping an outstanding display.
The Blues looked to continue this run of form against the next opponents, Ness. With Point meeting Westside on the same evening, there was also the prospect of Carloway reaching the top of the league with a victory. Having fallen behind in the last three games, Carloway were determined to get going early and came flying out of the traps. Eachainn Miller made space on the right and when his cross was knocked down by Stuart “Bubble” Macdonald, Duncan Shirkie crashed a deflected left foot strike into the net in the second minute of the game to give the Blues an early lead. Ness were competing strongly in midfield and Carloway were caught napping on the right on 9 minutes with Innes Smith finding time and space to drive home at Craigie’s near post.
The game refused to settle and Carloway went back ahead on 15 minutes when Eachainn Miller sliced open the Niseach defence and Stuart “Bubble” Macdonald fired home his first of the season. The game continued to be fairly even with both sides creating chances. Ex-Carloway keeper Ross “Tiny” Maclean saved well from Stuart “Bubble” Macdonald following a “D.I.” Maclennan cross and Callum Mackay shot over from a cutback from Eachainn. At the other end, Craigie had to use his feet to clear a raker from Ali “Ness” Morrison before another former Carloway man Lee Johnson fired over when clear through.
It looked like Carloway would take a narrow lead into half-time but they increased their advantage on 43 minutes. Duncan Shirkie, playing with great composure and confidence in midfield, crossed from the right and when Eachainn Miller’s header crashed off the crossbar, Ben Smith was on hand to slot home.
If the first half was tight, Carloway pulled away after half-time with three goals and a fifteen minute hat-trick for Eachainn Miller. The first was a header from a Callum Mackay corner, one of many fine deliveries from Callum “Beag”; the second a clever finish after driving through the middle of Ness defence (5-1); and, the third, a precise right-foot lob over “Tiny” Maclean from the edge of the box following a pass from Cameron “Tiger” Macarthur. There was no respite for the Niseachs and Euan Shirkie, stepping out like a young Beckenbauer, split the defence with a precise through ball and Eachainn Miller, one-on-one with Ross “Tiny” Maclean, slid the ball home for his fourth and Carloway’s seventh. Ness scored a second through Mathew Maciver before Andy “Bernera” Morrison brought the entertainment to an end, firing home from close range after Ali Murray had saved a shot from Kenny “Dokus” MacDonald. Eachainn Miller was in imperious form scoring four goals and 3 assists. Carloway also finished the evening on top of the league as Point beat Westside.
Carloway then played host to Eriskay in the first round of the Co-op Cup. Na Gormaich had made a habit of falling behind in games recently and the curse struck again after an edgy start. Dominic Macaulay was a threat all game playing on his own up front for Eriskay and when he whipped a free-kick over the Carloway wall in the 7th minute, Craigie was at full stretch to palm it away. Unfortunately, the danger wasn’t cleared and, when the ball was squared back in, Liam Mackinnon knocked it home to give Eriskay an early lead.
Eriskay were clearly going to be competitive and Carloway were given little time to settle on the ball. Skipper Domhnall Mackay brought the Blues level in the 12th minute, bundling the ball home from another of Callum Mackay’s expert corner deliveries. The rest of the half was extremely tight with Eriskay competing strongly and disrupting Carloway’s attempts to play through them. Chances were at a premium and the home side spurned one of the few clear cut openings on the half hour. Eachainn Miller burst through on the right and squared the ball to the available-again Fraser Macleod who looked certain to score from the centre of the penalty box only for his scuffed effort to be saved by the Eriskay keeper, Roddy Paul Macdonald. Fraser made up for the miss just before half time when he latched on to a flick on by Eachainn Miller and slotted home comfortably with his left foot. So, two one at the break and Carloway relieved to be going in ahead.
Despite the lead, manager Billy Anderson tweaked the set up introducing Dan Crossley in an advanced position, with Eachainn Miller going to a more familiar midfield beat. The team immediately looked more comfortable and went further ahead in the 53rd minute. Crossley took a quick throw-in on the left and Eachainn dribbled past two defenders before finishing in the right-hand corner of the Eriskay net. Carloway were in full flow now and put the game bed in the 67th minute when Fraser Macleod drove home his second and Carloway’s fourth from close range. Four wins in a row for a Carloway side playing well and scoring goals.
Two days later Carloway travelled to Stornoway to meet a resurgent United side who sat just one point behind the Blues in the league.
Again, team selection was challenging. Fraser Macleod dropped to the bench to protect a back strain, Stuart “Bubble” Macdonald replaced Callum Mackay who had a minor injury, and regular keepers Davie Beaton unavailable and Gordon Craigie out with a finger injury, Gordon Macrae made a dramatic return in goals, 15 years after his last appearance. Ross Maciver moved up front to partner on-fire Eachainn Miller. Carloway had started slowly in a number of games recently and were nearly caught cold again with Kenny Macsween clean through after three minutes. Thankfully the young United striker screwed his shot wide and Carloway got time to settle. The game was evenly balanced and looked like it would be all square at the break but Carloway had other ideas and had an electric finish to the half. In the 43rd minute, Ross Maciver swept home his first of the season after a fine run and cutback from Stuart “Bubble” Macdonald. Two minutes later Eachainn Miller was brought down in the box but the referee brought play back for an earlier foul and a Carloway free kick from outside the box. Undeterred, Eachainn curled the free kick round the wall and past keeper Jack Maclennan for Carloway’s second goal. A breathless finish to the half.
Carloway were maybe fortunate to be two goals ahead and Billy Anderson reacted by bringing on Fraser Macleod up top for Ross Maciver. The big centre-forward nearly made an instant impression, striking a post with a clever volley from a “D.I.” Maclennan cross. Carloway were playing much more fluently and were four nil up just after the hour. Firstly, Stuart “Bubble” Macdonald capped a strong performance with a clever volley from Duncan Shirkie’s corner, then Kevin “Barra” MacNeil continued his scoring run of five in five games with a good finish following a clever Stuart “Bubble” Macdonald flick.
Though the game was won, Carloway’s first clean sheet of the season continued to elude them after Hamish Macdonald slotted him his twelfth goal of an excellent season. Na Gormaich reacted strongly however with Eachainn Miller hitting the bye line for Fraser Macleod to finish sharply from close range. The big centre-forward then scored his second of the night and seventeenth of a prolific season, volleying home sharply after a fine run and cross from sub Andy “Bernera” Morrison. This was a much harder game than the scoreline suggests and it took an excellent Carloway performance to make it so comfortable in the end. Billy Anderson had instilled the side with confidence and the quality of finishing continued to astound. With five wins in a row, this result also meant Carloway would top the league at the mid season break. This was also Eachainn Miller’s final match of the season. In just four matches, he scored nine goals and made six assists, and contributed hugely to some fine team performances.
Before the break, there was another important fixture. This was against Shetland champions Whitedale in the Highland Amateur Cup. The match was played at neutral Tain. Manager Billy Anderson had to juggle his team with Murdo “Squegg” Macleod, Eachainn Miller, Joe Armstrong and Ross Maciver all unavailable. Skipper Domhnall Mackay moved into midfield to cover for “Squegg” with “D.I.” Maclennan moving to centre back and Kevin “Barra” MacNeil standing in at left back. Dan Crossley replaced Eachainn upfront and Jack Buchanan made a welcome appearance on the bench.
Both teams had early starts. Whitedale flew from Sumburgh to Aberdeen and immediately travelled by bus to Tain to make the match. However, they started quickly and stunned Carloway with an early goal after five minutes. The Shetlanders were moving the ball quickly and extended their lead with further goals in the sixteenth and twenty first minutes to lead 3-0. They were a very slick outfit providing impressive pace and power and forcing the match against Carloway.
Anderson shuffled the pack, changing to a 3-5-2 and for the first time Carloway managed to get some possession and a foothold in the game. The improvement continued in the thirty eighth minute when Domhnall Mackay played in Fraser Macleod who smashed the ball home to make it 3-1. The boys were down at half-time but there was a swing in momentum and all to play for.
Carloway started the second half on the front foot with Fraser Macleod coming close twice. It was clear that the next goal would be crucial and unfortunately, these chances were costly, it went to Whitedale who extended their lead in the sixty fourth minute. A further two late goals by the Shetland team made the final score a painful 6-1 defeat. It was by no means a poor performance by the Blues, but Whitedale were the more clinical and deserved the win. It was a tough lesson for Carloway against a strong Whitedale team who would make a strong impact in the competition. They were also good sports in the short post-match de-brief before they had to rush off to catch the overnight ferry from Scrabster via Kirkwall back to Lerwick.
On the resumption of the season, Carloway’s next three fixtures were against Back in the space of a week. There were the two-legged Eilean an Fhraoich Cup ties as well as a league clash. The first match saw Carloway travel to Upper Coll in the Eilean an Fhraoich Cup. After many years of misery in the competition, Carloway won the trophy in 2016 and 2017. However, this season at least, there would be a team entered from Uig & Bernera. Whilst additional teams are to be welcomed, the impact of this team entering would result in greatly impacting on the geographical boundaries of eligibility of the Carloway team. Unfortunately, Carloway were unable to call on the services of at least ten players from the league squad. Billy Anderson was able to include brothers Coinneach and Domhnall Smith, and included himself in the starting line-up.
The team went out more in hope than expectation against a strong Back squad. Despite having little possession and some early scares the Blues were managing to hold their own. The Carloway defence was finally breached after 30 minutes when Euan Anderson eased home concerns. Three goals in the final five minutes of the half knocked the stuffing out of the Blues and put the match out of sight. Further goals from Back’s Anderson brought the score to 6-0 and his personal haul to five, before another late flurry rubbed further salt into the wounds and a 9-0 defeat. The result felt harsh on the Blues, who sought to be competitive throughout, though their opponents were sharp and took their opportunities.
After this chastening defeat, the teams met again, this time on league business. Carloway were able to field a stronger and more recognisable team. “D.I.” Maclennan, Murdo “Squegg” Macleod and Dan Crossley were all unavailable, the latter’s season concluded due to injury. Callum Masson, last season’s top goal scorer, had made a welcome return to the island though he was short of match sharpness. Within two minutes Carloway were behind after Euan Anderson continued his scoring exploits against the Blues. Confidence was clearly sapped and further strikes from Louis Macdonald and Connor Mackay had the visitors out of sight by half time. Joel Martin added a fourth late on for Back before Fraser Macleod’s consolation at the end provided the only glimmer of light for Carloway.
The final instalment of the trilogy of three matches against Back in just over a week was the second leg of the Eilean an Fhraoich Cup, with Carloway starting with a hefty deficit from the first leg. Available players were at a premium for manager Billy Anderson given Uig and Bernera’s entry to the tournament and he named the same line-up as started in the first leg, thus making a second start of the season himself. The line-up remained four-four two but skipper Domhnall Mackay moved into midfield with “D.I.” Maclennan moving back to centre-back.
The game was even in the first ten minutes but any hopes of a first clean sheet of the season were banished by a Chris Macleod free-kick which sailed past Gordon Craigie in the Carloway goals for Back’s opener. Back’s second came in the 29th minute and was a smart finish by the lively Joel Martin.
Carloway were determined not to fold however and started to cause the Back defence problems. Firstly, Cameron “Tiger” Macarthur made a strong run through the centre only to see his shot saved by James Macleod in the Back goals then (player) manager Billy hit a long-range effort wide. Unfortunately, Callum “Beag” Mackay had to go off injured just before half-time but this meant a welcome return to Carloway action for Calum Iain Macleod. Unfortunately, the break in play seemed to distract Na Gormaich and they conceded a third right on half-time when the excellent Stevie Mutch fired home a beauty from outside the box.
Things didn’t get any easier after the break with Back hitting the crossbar before going four ahead through a Euan Anderson penalty in the sixty second minute. The fifth goal came in the seventy eighth minute, Euan Anderson with his second and his eighth against Carloway over the three games.
Billy gave a debut to young keeper, Aaron Ingram, with ten minutes to go allowing Gordon Craigie to move up front to relive his years as Carloway’s centre-forward! Aaron, who is the grandson of former Point goalie Norman “Buck” Macaskill, looked very much at home and produced a fine save from a Louie Macdonald blockbuster to keep the score at five.
Next up for Carloway was a Co-op Cup tie against league pace-setters Point. Squad disruption continued with a number of regulars unavailable. Carloway started strongly with Cameron “Tiger” Macarthur breaking on the right and having his shot well saved by Daniel Macdonald in the Point goals. However, the Rudhachs were in good form, top of the league and unlucky to lose to Wick Groats in the Highland Amateur after a strong performance. They quickly gained a stranglehold on this game with Rob Jones pivotal in centre midfield, strongly supported by Stephen Dunn and Andrew Murray.
The chances started to come after twenty minutes when Jones twice shot over from good positions and Gordon Macrae in the Carloway goal had to look sharp to save a Dunn header before Jones headed over from a Cammy Nicolson cross. Ali “Wally” Maciver was prominent in the Point attack but couldn’t finish despite having four good chances towards the end of the half. However, the score remained blank at the break.
Carloway started the second half with renewed purpose. Fraser Macleod started to get on the ball and, after playing a one-two with Ross Maciver in the fifty-third minute, he found himself one-on-one with Daniel Macdonald. The young Point goalkeeper stood strong however and the chance was gone.
As so often happens, Carloway then conceded during their best spell of the game. “D.I.” Maclennan fouled “Wally” Maciver on the edge of the box in the fifty eighth minute and the young striker dusted himself down before firing the free kick low into the corner of the net. This turned the tide again and within ten minutes the young Rudhach had completed his hat-trick. His second in the sixty-sixth minute was a beauty, stroked home after a Cammy Nicolson cutback, and his third was a left-foot finish having been released through the middle by a Dunn flick-on as Point progressed 3-0.
The tough run of fixtures continued, with the Blues making the short journey to Barvas to meet a Westside outfit battling for the league. Having lost their corresponding fixtures 6-0 in each of the past two seasons at this ground, coupled with a five-match winless run this was always going to be a challenge for Carloway. The cause was not helped after conceding the opening goal within two minutes to Ali “Barvas” Macleod. The hosts continued in the ascendancy and added a second through Innes Iain Morrison. Ten minutes into the second half Morrison scored the third, before two goals in a minute from Shields and Ali “Barvas” Macleod heaped misery on Carloway. A late double from Fraser Macleod brought his tally for the season to 21 and gave the score a slightly more respectable look. It did, however, extinguish any faint hopes Carloway may have had of challenging for the league.
The next visitors to Cnoc a Choilich were a resurgent Harris side looking to build on their good form after a slow start. Both teams would have felt that this was a good opportunity for collecting points and they both created chances. There was a strong claim for a penalty when Cameron “Tiger” Macarthur charged into the Harris box and looked to be fouled. However, the award was a yellow card for the Carloway defender. Honours were even in a dour first half. The deadlock was broken just before the hour mark when Harris veteran James Maclean finished off from just inside the box after a fine pass. The visitors were defending well and repelling the increasingly desperate Carloway attacks. Whilst there was plenty of endeavour, it was one of those evenings when opportunities broke down in the final third. With the clock going past the 90 minute mark and another defeat looming, Carloway were given an opportunity to rescue a point when they were awarded a penalty after a foul on Cameron “Tiger” Macarthur. After the referee had waved away the furious Harris players, Kenny “Dokus” MacDonald calmly stroked home from the spot. The drama still wasn’t over, and with both sides pressing for a winner, Harris’ James Maclean hooked the ball home from the edge of the box to seal a dramatic 2-1 win for the visitors, and their first at Cnoc a Choilich since 2006.
The following fixture was Carloway’s last opportunity for silverware this season, in a Lewis Cup tie away to Point. The Blues had a reasonably strong squad, however, it was Point who started very quickly and were two up within six minutes. The first was a cracker fired home from the left of the box by Angus Macdonald, the second very fortunate with a cross from new Point signing Stefan Jackson rebounding off Cammy Nicolson and trundling into the corner of the net. Point went further ahead in the twenty first minute. Ali “Wally” Maciver found space to turn in midfield and played in Cammy Nicolson who cut in to finish calmly with his right foot. The fourth did arrive just before half-time and came directly from a Carloway corner. Angus Macdonald picked the ball up on the edge of his own box and, after driving forward and playing a one-two with Stefan Jackson, he fired home past Davie Beaton.
Billy Anderson’s half-time words had a clear effect and his team came out with renewed purpose, and created some chances of their own. The game was put fully out of Carloway’s reach with two quick goals in the fifty sixth and sixtieth minutes. The fifth gave Cammy Nicolson his hat-trick after being played through by Ali Gillies and the fifth was a cracker, headed home by Rob Jones after another break down the right. Point’s seventh came in the eightieth minute when Rob Jones knocked in from close range following a “Wally” corner.
Carloway regained some pride with two quick, late goals. Firstly, in the 87th minute, Murdo “Squegg’s” cross found the back the net when Fraser Macleod put pressure on the Point goalie, and two minutes later Fraser himself lashed home a fine strike from the edge of the box. This was a landmark strike for Fraser, his 100th goal for Carloway in just seventy four appearances. A fine strike rate and a total only eclipsed by legends Gordon Craigie and Kenny “Dokus” MacDonald in the modern era. Point finished the night as they started when Angus Macdonald fired home their eighth and his own third in the ninetieth minute.
Four nights later the teams faced each other in a league match a very important fixture for both the teams involved. Point in their league title aspirations, Carloway to redeem some pride after the previous 8-2 loss to Point and also to attempt to halt a depressing run of losses.
The stoic travelling Carloway support in attendance (who outnumbered the Point support within the ground, anyway) approached this fixture with some trepidation especially when the teams were lining up as Point were, arguably, stronger from Monday with the addition of Stuart Munro and Elliot Rudall and Carloway, arguably, were weakened with their missing talisman and prolific striker Fraser Macleod due to work commitments.
On a filthy night for football, Point, as expected took the initiative and were in the ascendency especially in the early stages of the game but the Carloway midfield and defence were disciplined and stood firm restricting Point’s attempts on Carloway’s goal. David Beaton also produced a couple of fine saves and also made some timely punches and catches to keep Point at bay. However, Carloway did have some opportunities of their own with Callum Mackay, Andy “Bernera” Morrison and Andrew “Pongo” MacIver causing the Point rear guard some trouble as the first half progressed.
With the assistance of the wind in the second half it did not take Carloway long to make an impact, when in the opening minute the ball arrived at “Pongo’s” feet with his back to goal, a deft touch got the ball under control ,despite the close attention of Ali Gillies, then, swivelling to his right he lashed a left foot pile driver over the keeper’s head from some 30 yards out. A spectacular, but a trademark “Pongo” strike, especially against Point in recent years. However, the lead did not last long as in the 63rd minute after some sustained Carloway pressure which led to a corner, the ball was cleared by a Point defender with the ball landing at Ally “Wally” Maciver’s feet. ”Wally “,who was standing just inside the Point half turned quickly, ran down the right touchline the length of the Carloway half sending a low cross along the six yard line ,which eluded the three Carloway defenders in the box, and found Rob Jones who slotted the ball into the right had corner of the net.
Carloway continued to press and were, arguably, in the ascendency until the enforced substitution of Domhnall Mackay and Andrew “Pongo” Maciver on the 75th minute. These changes together with “D.I.” Maclennan’s unfortunate sending off in the 82nd minute allowed Point to dominate possession but thanks to some resolute team defending and Beaton’s dominance of his six-yard box, as in the first half, with some timely punches and catches Carloway saw out the game to secure a well-earned and hard-fought draw. The team deserved great credit for such a performance after a tough series of results.
Encouraged by a superb display and a hard-earned draw against Point in Garrabost, the next match was more eagerly anticipated. Manager Billy Anderson was forced into a number of changes with Domhnall Mackay and Andrew “Pongo” Maciver injured and David Beaton and Joe Armstrong both unavailable, with Joe stranded in Barra with work. This allowed Gordon Macrae, Kevin “Barra” Macneil, Neil Sinclair and Fraser Macleod to return to the team against a Lochs side struggling in second bottom place.
Carloway started strongly and Fraser Macleod had an attempted lob saved by Lochs keeper James Macleod in only the sixth minute. However, Lochs started to get hold of the ball in midfield with the experience of Andy Murray, John “Uig” Morrison and Dave Martin enabling them to dominate possession. Lochs created a number of chances the best of which fell firstly to Lewis Mackenzie who hit the bar from a David Skene cross and then to Scott Ross who was foiled by an excellent Gordon Macrae save after being played in by Gordie Maciver. No score and stalemate at half-time.
The management team would have had something to say at half-time and Carloway came out with renewed purpose after the break with Andy “Bernera” Morrison’s strong running and energy was causing problems. Na Gormaich’s momentum was further boosted by the arrival on the pitch of substitute Archie Macdonald in the sixty-fifth minute and it was the Ubhisteach who opened the scoring. “D.I.” Maclennan played an exquisite free-kick behind the Lochs defence and Archie calmly placed it past James Macleod. The game was over three minutes later when the Lochs keeper was robbed when trying to dribble past Fraser Macleod at the edge of the box, Macleod calmly rolling the ball into the empty net to secure the Blues first win in ten matches.
Two nights later, there was a quick return to Cnoc a’ Choilich for Carloway as they faced Athletic. Kevin “Barra” MacNeil was injured and replaced at left-back by Ben Smith while it was Gordon Craigie’s time on the goalkeeper rota. Otherwise, manager Billy Anderson stuck with the same team on a cold and wet night.
As in the previous match, Carloway started strongly and were ahead within five minutes when the in-form Andy “Bernera” Morrison produced a stunning overhead kick after holding off the Aths keeper Reece Montgomery. Na Gormaich extended the lead on the half hour with Fraser Macleod heading home from a Murdo “Squegg” Macleod free kick. Murdo “Squegg” Macleod was in dominant form, winning the ball in the tackle and controlling the midfield.
After a timid opening half the town team started to dominate the game. Lewis “Preston” Robinson was finding space on the right-hand side and passed up three good opportunities when through on goal, the first being sliced wide, the second being cleared off the line by Cameron “Tiger” Macarthur and the third striking the post.
The pressure continued to grow and, in the seventy-fifth minute, Aths were awarded a penalty after a challenge at the edge of the box. Veteran goalie Craigie stepped up to the plate, however, and saved Darren Stewart’s effort.
This took the steam out of the Aths challenge and both Fraser Macleod and substitute Callum Masson had chances to make the scoreline more comfortable for Carloway in the last few minutes. However, another clean sheet and three points were a good reward for a hard night’s work as Carloway moved ahead of Back in third place.
After a clear upturn in performance and results, Carloway then played basement club Ness at Fivepenny in confident mood. It did not take Carloway long to pressure the Ness goal and Fraser Macleod opened the scoring from close range after a Callum “Beag” Mackay corner.
The lead was doubled on the 17th minute when Andy “Bernera” Morrison collected the ball just outside the Ness half and picked out Stuart “Bubble” Macdonald with an exquisite 45 yard pass, which split the Ness defence: “Bubble” then squared to Fraser Macleod who hit the ball from 10 yards out into the net.
In the 35th minute Macleod and Andy “Bernera” Morrison combined to present Stuart “Bubble” Macdonald with an opportunity to slot home from a central position just inside the box.
Carloway continued to press, and Andy Morrison delivered an identical pass to the one he had for the set up for the second goal, this time picking out Fraser Macleod who despite being on a hat trick had an opportunity to score himself but unselfishly set up Stuart “Bubble” to score his second of the night. There was still time for another goal before the break, as Stuart “Bubble” Macdonald turned provider setting up last year’s top goal scorer, Callum Masson, who beat the keeper from 18 yards to open his account for the season. In an outstanding 45 minutes of football, the Blues were 5-0 up at the break. Fraser Macleod tapped the ball into the empty net from 6 yards out to complete his hat trick with an hour played. The pace and intensity palpably dropped after this and the match drifted to a conclusion. Credit to Ness who finally got their consolation goal as Morgan Macleod found himself unmarked, to the left of the Carloway goal and slotted home. The Ness goal took only a slight gloss off what had been a dominant performance by Carloway.
The next match and final home fixture of the season saw Carloway meet United. The Blues were seeking to consolidate their third place, and it was “Cnoc a’ Choilich for goals” as Carloway hit United for fourteen without reply to record their highest ever league victory, with Fraser “Frazmac” Macleod grabbing 8 goals to increase his tally to 35 for the season in only 19 appearances. Carloway’s record victory is 15-0 against North End in the Co-op Cup on 1st July 2000, the day Gordon Craigie scored a remarkable 10 goals.
Carloway were ahead as early as the second minute, despite having scored five goals in 14 minutes Carloway’s insatiable thirst for goals continued throughout and they were 9-0 ahead at the interval. Into the second half and United managed to stem the flow for the next 15 minutes, before a further flurry completed their misery. The Carloway goals were scored by Fraser Macleod (8), Neil Sinclair (2), Andy “Bernera” Morrison (2), Kevin “Barra” MacNeil and Kenny “Dokus” MacDonald.
It was a truly remarkable performance from Carloway. United were undoubtedly weakened by missing two of their main players, top goalscorer Hamish MacDonald and keeper Jack Maclennan. However, you really have to credit Carloway with how well they played with their slick and incisive passing movements, breaking forward at speed, looking dangerous in every attack combined with being clinical in front of goal.
One of the ironies of the night was that the smallest home support of the season was in attendance to witness the best performance of the season.
The season concluded with Carloway meeting Back at Upper Coll. There were a number of notable absentees for this match with Fraser Macleod, Murdo “Suegg” Macleod, Neil Sinclair unavailable and “D.I.” Maclennan suspended. Back started on the front foot and earned a penalty after only six minutes when Joe Armstrong caught Back winger Stuart Macdonald in the box. Fortunately for Na Gormaich, Chris Macleod stroked the penalty wide of goal. Carloway made the most of the reprieve and were ahead on twenty minutes when Andy “Bernera” Morrison finished sharply from outside the box.
The lead was short-lived however and within five minutes Back were ahead. They equalised after twenty three minutes with a bizarre own goal. There looked little danger when Domhnall Mackay rose to head away a Louie Macdonald free-kick but his header rebounded off Euan Shirkie straight into the net leaving Beaton with no chance. Back’s second came two minutes later. Euan Shirkie upended Chris Macleod in the box and Louie Macdonald made no mistake from the spot. Carloway worked hard to get back into the game and Kevin “Barra” MacNeil shot narrowly wide from a Stuart “Bubble” Macdonald cross after good work on the right by Callum Masson. Back were more clinical in the final third though and Joel Martin increased their lead with a smart volley from a Louie Macdonald corner.
Once again Back started the second half the stronger and increased their league after fifty-eight minutes. Chris Macleod hit the bye-line and his cutback was forced home by Jason Macleod. Carloway didn’t give up but the Back defence, well marshalled by Callum Maclennan, stood firm and Chris Macleod fired home Back’s fifth in the eightieth minute to complete a 5-1 win.
At the end of the season, Carloway finished a creditable third in the league table, albeit well adrift of the top two. The team has played attractive football and eighty one goals in twenty seven games is testament to that. There will be disappointment that no silverware was secured nor cup finals contested. There is also no doubt the mid season break came at a time when the team were flying and at the top of the league, was unfortunate, but there are plenty positives for next season.
The management team of Billy Anderson and Gus Maciver were faced with constantly changing team selections virtually every match. On their day, the team was a match for any others in the league, and Fraser Macleod’s thirty-five goals in nineteen appearances was an exceptional return. “D.I.” Maclennan, Cameron “Tiger” Macarthur, Euan Shirkie and Callum “Beag” Mackay played virtually every match and provided consistently strong performances, and we look forward to the team challenging for further honours. The end of season awards saw Fraser “Fraz” Macleod collect the player of the year, players’ player of the year and top goal scorer prizes. “D.I.” Maclennan was runner up. The manager’s award went to Euan Shirkie, whilst the Under 21 player prize was won by Callum “Beag” Mackay.