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Tight at the top – and bottom – as Caithness amateur teams return to action

By Alan Hendry

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Pentland United are top of CAFA Division One but the leading three teams are separated by a single point. Picture: James Gunn
Pentland United are top of CAFA Division One but the leading three teams are separated by a single point. Picture: James Gunn

There will be all to play for when Caithness AFA competitions resume next week after the mid-season break.

The top three teams in Division One are separated by a single point, as are the bottom three, while in Division Two there are four sides in contention for the promotion play-off spot.

Pentland United have the only unbeaten record in the league and have already picked up the first silverware of the season, the Colin Macleod Memorial Cup.

United are level on 20 points with High Ormlie Hotspur, with the Dunnet side having a game in hand as they look to recapture the county title after being runners-up to Wick Groats last year.

Clubs voted to use head-to-head results to determine league placings when teams are level on points this season. League encounters between United and Hotspur have ended in a 3-3 draw and a 3-2 victory for the Stabbies, so they have the advantage in that respect.

High Ormlie made it six wins in a row in all competitions when they beat John O’Groats 5-0 in their last match before the break, and as things stand they are fulfilling the promise made by player/co-manager Ryan Sutherland Jnr at the start of the campaign when he declared: “We seem to be a cup team, but we’re trying to change that and really push for the league this year.”

High Ormlie Hotspur won the Eain Mackintosh Cup last summer and are looking to retain the trophy with a semi-final to come against Lybster at the start of July. Staxigoe United take on second division side Watten in the other tie.

Fourth-placed Staxigoe extended their unbeaten run to seven and earned a fourth clean sheet in a row with last week’s 5-0 league victory over Wick Groats.

The reigning champions are unaccustomed to being third in the table, but with just one point in it they will be aiming to make up ground.

At the bottom of the table, Wick Thistle’s morale-boosting victory over Lybster last week brought the Jags to within a point of Castletown and John O’Groats.

Keiss, second division runners-up last year, are targeting automatic promotion this time and they have an eight-point lead over Swifts – albeit the Thurso side have two games in hand.

There are just two points separating the four clubs from second to fifth – Swifts, Halkirk, Watten and last year’s relegated team, Acks.

Still to come are two more county knockout competitions, the David Allan Shield and the Steven Cup for second division clubs, as well as the inter-county Archer Shield clash between Caithness and Orkney in Castletown on July 20.

The four remaining Caithness teams in the Highland Amateur Cup have been drawn against each other in the last 16 on June 29. Pentland United, record eight-times winners of the competition, will be at home to Lybster, while Wick Groats, who have won the trophy four times in the last 11 years and were beaten finalists last summer, are away to the 2022 winners High Ormlie Hotspur.

Fixtures – Tuesday, June 25 – CAFA Division One: Lybster v Wick Groats; High Ormlie Hotspur v Castletown; Pentland United v Wick Thistle; Staxigoe United v John O’Groats. Thursday, June 27 – Division Two: Keiss v Watten; Pentland v Acks; Top Joe’s v Swifts (all 7.30pm).

Saturday, June 29 – Highland Amateur Cup, third round: Black Rock v Culbokie; High Ormlie Hotspur v Wick Groats; Maryburgh v Avoch; Pentland United v Lybster; Rendall v Ness; Stornoway Athletic v Inverness Athletic; Stromness Athletic v Helmsdale United; Tomatin United v Sleat and Strath.

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