Gray's playing comeback can't stop Pentland defeat
Pentland boss Michael Gray made a comeback between the sticks but not even he could keep out Wick Groats.
The Dunnet side were missing regular goalkeeper James More for their Eain Mackintosh Cup final against their rivals which meant Gray had to once again dust off his gloves and come out of retirement.
Gray has made the odd appearance for North Caledonian League side Thurso during the winter – again deputising for More when required – but these days prefers life on the sidelines as a coach, be it for Pentland or assisting Stevie Reid at Thurso.
Other commitments ensured More would not be around to face Groats and Gray rolled back the years one more time. Despite a fine performance, Groats still found a way past him en route to a 3-1 victory.
Sean Campbell scored a penalty for United as Martin Sutherland, John Budge and Ben Sinclair found the target for Groats.
Gray said: "It was not ideal but James had flagged up to us well beforehand that if we got into this final, other commitments on the day would mean he would be unavailable for selection.
"Given I'm more focused on coaching and managing these days, I'm not as sharp as I used to be.
"I've played the occasion match but there is still a bit of ring-rust there and you can't get up to speed in an instant.
"If this was a few years ago when I was playing regularly and in my prime, could I have maybe contributed more to the team. Who knows?"
This defeat is the third Pentland have suffered this season at the hands of Wick Groats.
The Eain Mackintosh final, the Colin Macleod Memorial Cup final and a CAFA Division One fixture have all gone the way of Kevin Anderson's men in red.
Should the pair win their respective David Allan Shield and Highland Amateur Cup ties, more showdowns will be on the cards – not to forget the small matter of a potential league title decider at Ham Park next month.
But with Groats winning three out of three so far, have they cast an Indian sign over Pentland?
Gray added: "I don't think we're at that stage. I don't think a lack of belief had anything to do with our defeat here.
"We started tentatively, lacked composure in the final third and we didn't overwork their goalkeeper.
"Players have an off day – it happens. We just have to bounce back from this."