Bute survive stiff test in Taynuilt

BUTE Shinty Club’s senior team continued their winning ways on Saturday with a 5-2 victory away to a very well organised and competitive Taynuilt team, who gave the islanders as hard a game as they’ve had in the league since the teams’ last meeting at the Meadows in July.

A double from Roberto Zavaroni, allied to goals from John McCallum, Robert Walker and Ruairidh Soane – the latter scoring his first for the club’s senior team – left Bute just one more win from their historic goal of completing a full league campaign without dropping a single point.

But they had to do it the hard way against a Taynuilt side who were just ten minutes away from securing a share of the spoils, before three late goals gave Bute maximum points.

The home side gave notice of their intent when they drew first blood after ten minutes, Stuart Scott firing a well-struck shot into the net from 20 yards after the Bute defence failed to clear their lines.

Bute had already created a few chances of their own by that point, with shots from Zavaroni and Walker asking questions of the home defence, but the heavy ground conditions proved at least as much of an obstacle to Bute as the Taynuilt defenders, with the visitors unable to play their favoured free-flowing game.

The equaliser, though, arrived after 15 minutes, when the previous week’s hat-trick hero, David Whitelaw, turned provider with a good pass to Zavaroni at the back of the D, allowing the forward to turn his defender before firing home from 25 yards.

Having got back on to level terms, Bute created a number of chances in the rest of the first half, with good work from the midfield and second forwards Graham Fisher and Gordon McMillan, but a combination of stout Taynuilt defending and the increasingly tricky surface meant there would be no other scoring in the first half.

Bute were hitting down the slope and on to drier ground conditions in the second half, allowing for cleaner hitting, and the visitors took the lead with a quick counter after breaking up a Taynuilt attack; captain McCallum’s clearance out of defence found Fisher, who picked out McMillan on the opposite wing – and he in turn switched play back across the park, where McCallum had sprinted the length of the pitch to retrieve the ball and despatch it into the Taynuilt net.

But Bute’s lead was short-lived; only three minutes later the heavy ground conditions at the other end of the park saw the ball stick in the mud in the visitors’ goalmouth, and Scott was quickest to react, firing home his second goal of the game to level the match at 2-2.

Taynuilt took a big lift from the equaliser and began to put some pressure on their opponents – but Bute’s defenders raised their game well in response, with good work from half backs Robert Ferguson and Iain MacDonald, full backs John Beattie and Brian Liddle and keeper Kevin Queen keeping the Taynuilt attack at bay.

Having thrown everything at their opponents to no avail, Taynuilt began to tire rapidly in the final 15 minutes, with the Bute midfield of McCallum, Whitelaw and James Craig getting stronger in the tackle.

Nonetheless, there were still plenty of sighs of relief in the Bute camp when Zavaroni put the visitors 3-2 up ten minutes from time, dropping deep to win possession before turning for goal and sending a well-struck shot past the Taynuilt keeper from 30 yards.

The loss of a third goal proved to be the home side’s undoing, and their heads dropped both mentally and physically as Bute’s superior fitness levels finally began to pay dividends.

Soane came on for Fisher in the closing stages, and was involved straight away in some good link-up play, setting up Walker – who had been well marked by the Taynuilt defence all day and had earlier seen a screamer blocked by the home keeper – to turn his defender and run into the D before slipping the ball into the net.

Jason Reid replaced McMillan for the final few minutes, but it was the other substitute, Soane, who had the last word when he picked up a Zavaroni pass 35 yards from goal and sent a lovely flighted ball into the roof of the net – a memorable way to open his account for the first team, and one which, judging by his leap of celebration, he’ll remember for quite a while!

* This Saturday, October 8, Bute play their final league match of the 2011 season away to a Kilmory side whose relegation to South Division Two was confirmed last weekend after a 3-1 defeat away to Kyles Athletic.

Throw-up on Saturday is at 2.30pm.