Bute YFC’s under-17s enjoyed a convincing 4-0 win away to their Elderslie Amateurs counterparts on Saturday - despite travelling with a squad of only 12 players.
The absence of several regular squad members meant the game would be a good test for players who had not received much game time in previous weeks, though the new-look Bute back four, with Ryan McTaggart at right back, Lex Elliot and Duncan McLean in the middle and Zander Varney on the left, were untroubled early on, with keeper Ryan Leitch having nothing to do but play the ball from side to side for the first 20 minutes.
The central midfield pair of Max Allan and Kalum Ledicott soon took the game to Elderslie, creating a great chance for Ronan Officer early on, but his shot was high, wide and none too pretty.
However, Officer’s pace would give the Elderslie back three a torrid time throughout the day, while Nathan Kernaghan grasped the chance of a place in the starting 11 and was impressive in the first 20 minutes, pushing forward and tracking back at will.
Nico McBride and Matthew Leitch were up front together for only the third time this season, with both looking high in confidence after scoring against Quarriers the previous week - and it was Leitch who made the breakthrough just on the half hour when a beautifully whipped in cross from Officer caused the keeper problems and Matthew jumped with him to nod the ball home from close range.
The goal gave Bute a 1-0 half-time lead, but Elderslie rapidly tired after the break, giving the visitors the chance to mount attack after attack, playing some very nice football and building confidence in their passing.
Substitute Craig McLean was another who showed that game time is essential for confidence, running himself into the ground after three months out.
Allan and Ledicott continuted to control the game in midfield, and it was Allan who started the move which set up Bute’s second goal with a neat through ball to Leitch - and though the striker was beaten to the ball by Elderslie’s keeper, McBride chased down the lost cause, and when the keeper’s clearance came off McBride, Ledicott knocked it into the net.
The third arrived after more good play from the visitors, leading to a powerful shot from Officer which the keeper could only parry; the rebound fell at Kernaghan’s feet, and he made no mistake from just inside the box.
McBride got in on the goal action late on with a fine fourth for Bute when he beat two players out wide and looped the ball over the onrushing keeper and into the net from way out on the left.
Ronan Officer received the referees man of the match, but special mention should go to all four scorers and also to the back four and keeper Ryan Leitch for keeping their seventh clean sheet of the season.
Bute’s next game is a tough one away to high-flying KSC United in Kilwinning in what will be the island team’s last ever away game.