Highland Amateur Cup, Second Round
Hill Rovers 6 Ness 6 aet, 3-2 on penalties (att 65)
The Highland Amateur Cup has long been among my favourite competitions, bringing together teams from a wide area of the north of Scotland including Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides.
Ness are based on the isle of Lewis and set off at 5.30am to make it to Inverness, via a lengthy ferry journey, for a 1pm kick off timed to allow them time to catch the return crossing back to Stornoway.
They brought quite a few fans with them and they, like me, probably expected a routine win against opponents from the lowest of the Inverness and District League's three divisions.
An early Ness goal looked to have put them on the road to a place in the last 16, but Hill fought back and equalised. Twice more Ness went in front, but each time the hosts fought back to level.
The tie looked to have swung in Hill Rovers' favour when they edged 4-3 in front late on, but despite heroic defending against an onslaught from the islanders they were undone in the 88th minute, and at 4-4 the tie went into extra time.
In each period of extra time Ness scored first, and each time Hill Rovers equalised. The home side's sixth, to take the game to a penalty shoot out, was a converted penalty that was quite literally the last kick of the 120 minutes.
The deciding shoot out had its own drama, with both sides having spot kicks saved before Hill Rovers triumphed 3-2. All in all a remarkable cup tie, which reinforced my love for this great competition.
The venue was one of several pitches at Bught Park in Inverness. My plan had been to follow this match with one of the three other Highland Amateur Cup ties being played at Bught Park, all scheduled for 3pm.
Extra time and penalties scuppered that, but as I went for a walk to see how the games were going I spotted that one of them was about to kick off, 30 minutes late. I stayed and watched as IRN Security enjoyed a comfortable 4-0 win against fellow Inverness League side Polonia, whose players are Polish, scoring twice in each half in front of 15 spectators.
None of the drama of the earlier game, and played on the same pitch as an Inverness League game I watched in 2015, so not a new ground for me and hence so separate blog post.