Inveraray were the visitors to the Meadows on Saturday in the quarter final of the Macaulay Cup.
This competition, run by the Macaulay Association in Oban, keeps the north and south clubs apart until the final and a place against either Kyles or Glasgow Mid Argyll in the semi-final was at stake for the winners.
Bute’s first team was at full strength with the exception of Adam Stirling who was sailing round the island.
Bute were hoping for a positive start however that was dashed when Inveraray raced into a two goal lead with barely 5 minutes on the clock. The opening goal came from an innocuous looking shot which was bouncing wide of the post when the ball kicked and spun awkwardly at the last minute deceiving Kevin Queen who was ushering the ball out of play. Inveraray doubled their lead when they worked the ball through their forward line to player/manager Gary McPherson whose accurate drive gave Queen no chance. There were fears that this could lead to a Bute collapse and heavy defeat however those qualms were allayed with a stirring first half comeback.
Bute reduced their arrears just after the 10 minute mark when a corner from the left was taken out of the air by the Inveraray defender but Iain McDonald wrested possession back and fired the ball into the bottom corner. The home side took heart from this goal and began to exert some authority on the match with clean hitting out of defence, pressing and harrying in midfield and one touch movement in the forward line. Bute crafted an excellent equaliser in the 21 st minute, James Craig won the ball in midfield and set Leighton Reid free down the right and he cut the ball back to the penalty spot where Duncan Davidson took a touch to control before lashing the ball past the despairing Inveraray keeper.
The first half ended with the match firmly in the balance, with both defences soaking up periods of pressure but not really testing either goalkeeper though Bute had a good shout for a penalty when McDonald was felled in the area but referee Lachie Wood waved play on.
The second half began with Bute on the back foot as Inveraray started stronger and began probing at the home defence but found Arran Dunn, Donnie McDermid, Ryan Craig and Chrissy Lawrence in excellent form. Despite their impressive performance the nimble Inveraray forwards managed several shots on goal but found Queen in irresistible form with at least four top quality saves the last of which seemed to defy the belief as the Bute No 1 showed lightning reactions to get his stick to a scorching drive from the edge of the D and push the ball to safety in the same movement.
Bute finished the stronger of the two teams in at the end of 90 minutes with McDonald flashing a number of drives just over the Inveraray goal but couldn’t snaffle a winner.
With the teams deadlocked the game went into extra time and Inveraray took the lead again in the 5th minute of the first period. After Queen produced another superlative save he was finally beaten by the rebound at close range. Bute toiled manfully thereafter but couldn’t muster enough inspiration to find another equaliser and force a penalty shoot-out.
Despite the end result this was one of Bute’s most impressive performances of the season showing grit and character to drag themselves back into a game that looked out of sight early on, though without the contribution of Queen the score could have been vastly different. This Saturday Bute travel to Ballachulish in a crucial game against the bottom club in the National Division with a win seeing the islanders move up to 7 points and open up a 4 point gap on second bottom Inverness with two games still in hand. As an appetiser to the senior match Bute Primaries play against Portree
Primaries for the Tulloch Cup and the first team squad will be in attendance to cheer on their young counterparts.