Pentland boss proud of team despite semi-final heartache
Pentland boss Michael Gray insisted he was proud of his players after their defence of the Highland Amateur Cup came to a dramatic end.
Having bounced back, thanks to goals from James Murray and Shaun Forbes, from 2-0 down to send their semi-final against Wick Groats into extra-time, James Murray's miss in the penalty shootout left them crestfallen as their rivals won 5-3 from the spot.
Groats are the only team to have beaten Pentland this season with last weekend being the sixth defeat on the bounce for Gray's men.
Having won the cup against Lerwick Spurs last year, the blue and maroon ribbons that adorned the trophy will be replaced by those of either Groats or Avoch who will contest the final on August 24.
Gray though is not despondent and defiantly insists that the foundations are being put into place to breach Groats' stranglehold on the Caithness scene.
He said: "It's been a trying season – but sometimes the Gods do not look down so kindly on you.
"We've had so many close shaves against Groats and out of all the games we've played this season, this one was the closest.
"While we're disappointed with the result, there's a sense of renewed vigour amongst the players.
"Even when we were 2-0 down at half-time, we'd played well in the first half that I congratulated the players at the interval and told them to go out and repeat that display for the next 45 minutes.
"We came back to level and we had our chances in extra-time. All that was missing was the final ingredient.
"We were banging at the door but could not land the final blow. As always, such encounters are decided by small margins and so it proved with the penalty shootout.
"I'm not going to criticise James for his miss. He had the courage to step up and take a penalty. We gave him 15 minutes to feel sorry for himself before some good-natured ribbing from the lads cheered him up.
"What is encouraging is that the foundations are being built to hopefully help us reach the top and enjoy some success next year.
"Being 'best of the rest' is no consolation for us. All credit to Wick Groats who've done brilliantly this year. But next year we want to be where they are."
Elsewhere, there was semi-final heartache for Staxigoe United as they lost out to Avoch 2-1 in another thriller that went to extra-time.
It was a loss made harder with video footage of Bryan Reid's disallowed goal showing that his header with 10 minutes – that would have put them through to the final – should have stood.
Manager Andrew Banks said: "I was wondering at the time whether or not it was offside.
"When I went through the video footage of the game, Bryan is clearly onside and had the right decision been given at the time, we could have made it to the final.
"So we're pretty gutted – especially as the boys had played well. We did have other chances apart from Bryan's disallowed effort but only Grant Macnab took his for our goal.
"It's a huge disappointment not to get back into the final but we've the David Allan Shield final on Saturday against Wick Groats so hopefully we can bounce back there."