We took the difficult route, says Gray after Pentland United lift first silverware of Caithness season
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Co-manager Michael Gray pointed out that Pentland United had done it the hard way after they lifted the first silverware of the county football season with a 5-1 victory over Acks.
"We're delighted," Gray said after Saturday's Colin Macleod Memorial Cup final at Back Park in Castletown. "When you set out at the start of the season you want to win trophies.
"We've got here by quite a difficult route. We've had Lybster, Staxigoe, Wick Groats and now Acks, who are all first division teams."
Colin Maclean hit a first-half double for the Stabbies, either side of an equaliser by Kyle Innes. An own goal by Craig Trueman made it 3-1 to United at the break, with Sean Munro and James Murray adding further goals in the second period.
Gray said: "It was a really competitive game for long spells and I'm delighted for the guys to get that first one on the board and we can move on from there."
He picked out James McLean and Andrew Mackay as two of the top performers for the Division One leaders.
"James McLean had a really good game at the back for us, controlling things," Gray said. "Andrew Mackay was really busy in midfield and the guys up front worked very hard and gave them a tough time at the back.
"That was one of the things we set out from the start – we really needed to harass them and force them into mistakes.
"The game went well. Once we conceded the equaliser it kicked us back into action again.
"Maybe the second half died a little bit after the fourth goal, but overall we're delighted."
Acks player/co-manager Craig Trueman praised his team-mates for refusing to give up in Saturday's final but he acknowledged that Pentland United had been the better side.
"When we made it 1-1 we were in the game, but then we gave away a couple of bad goals," Trueman said. "I have to take responsibility myself – two of them were down my side and an own goal, so I probably let the boys down a bit.
"It was competitive but the better team won. As I've said before, they are strong in every area.
"One thing I would say about our boys is that we didn't give up. We kept going until the final whistle, but the better team won on the day.
"Kyle Innes and Kuba Koziol up front made it into a game for us. They were good for us against their back three.
"If we play like that in other games we'll do all right for the rest of the season.
"It's tough right now – 5-1 in a cup final is never nice, and some of the goals were avoidable. But they are a good team."
The final was followed by a challenge match between Castletown Veterans and Caithness Veterans, with Castletown winning 4-1.
Wick Groats were 4-1 winners over John O'Groats on Thursday night as the county champions kept up the pressure on Caithness AFA Division One leaders Pentland United.
Kevin Anderson's men had suffered back-to-back defeats against Staxigoe in the league and Pentland United in the Colin Macleod Memorial Cup. But they got their campaign back on track thanks to a double from Graham MacNab along with goals from Jonah Martens and Korbyn Cameron.
Jimmy Budge scored for JOG, who were reduced to 10 men when Gavin Shearer was red-carded.
Division Two leaders Castletown found themselves 2-0 and 3-1 down to Swifts before battling back for a 3-3 draw, while Pentland were 3-1 winners at Watten.
Friday brought another defeat for Top Joe's, who had 13 players missing, as they were beaten 5-2 at Keiss in the second division.
Alan Steven hit a hat-trick for the villagers, with Ryan Calder and Bradley Thomson also on target for the home side. Lewis Swan got Joe's first goal and the second came from Ties Sibma, one of three trialists who stepped in to make up the numbers.
Connor Macleod hit four goals for Castletown in their 7-2 victory at Watten on Monday night.
Pentland came out on top in a closely contested Thurso derby against Top Joe's. Liam Dykes and Charlie Fraser scored for Pentland either side of Derek Munro's equaliser.
Pentland keeper Ewan Grant pulled off some exceptional saves and was the difference between one point and three points for the home side.
Keiss won 2-1 at home to Swifts in the other Monday night game.
Results – Caithness AFA Division One: Wick Groats 4, John O'Groats 1. Division Two: Castletown 3, Swifts 3; Keiss 5, Top Joe's 2; Watten 1, Pentland 3; Keiss 2, Swifts 1; Pentland 2, Top Joe's 1; Watten 2, Castletown 7.
Colin Macleod Memorial Cup final: Acks 1, Pentland United 5 (at Castletown).
Tuesday – Division One: Acks v John O'Groats; High Ormlie Hotspur v Wick Thistle; Lybster v Pentland United; Wick Groats v Staxigoe United (all 7.30pm).
Saturday – Highland Amateur Cup, third round (ties involving Caithness clubs): Iochdar Saints v High Ormlie Hotspur (at Culbokie, 11am); Pentland United v Lairg Rovers (3pm); Stromness Athletic v Wick Thistle (noon); Wick Groats v Staxigoe United (3pm).