Bute hosted Inveraray at the Meadows in the National Division last Saturday, four weeks removed from an excellent performance against the same opponents in the MacAulay Cup.
The league campaign is now reaching its conclusion meaning every game is of vital importance as the pressure for points to escape the drop intensifies.
Bute have not lost to the Argyllshire men over 90 minutes this season and the reds were keen to add to their points tally and increase the gap over an Inverness side that were idle over the weekend.
Inveraray fielded an understrength team as some of their players were attending T in the Park but it looked as if the Bute players had stumbled hungover out of a tent such was the lethargy and ineptitude shown in the first half.
Bute began by playing well within themselves, looking to absorb any pressure from Inveraray and try to catch them on the break, however this passive approach to the game meant that Inveraray could assert themselves on the game. Bute were caught out after 15 minutes just as they seemed to be coping the Inveraray probing, when Allan McDonald cashed in on a defensive slip, bore in on goal and snatched the lead.
Similar to the cup game a month ago the home side conceded a second goal in rapid succession going 2-0 down after 18 minutes with Bute ponderous all over the field giving the slick Inveraray forwards too much time on the ball leaving Fraser Watt in space to pick his spot. The fighting qualities displayed that day were sorely missing and Bute found themselves dead and buried by the half time whistle.
Inveraray’s centreline had a stranglehold on proceedings and their half backs had pushed high up the park with the play only going in one direction. They were playing passes into the feet of their forwards with ease with and their third goal came on the half hour when another well worked move was struck high into the net by player/manager Ruiradh Graham.
Bute just weren’t at the races in the opening period with only poor finishing from Inveraray preventing any further goals. A combined lack of cohesion, desire and communication meant Bute’s performance had descended into shambolic chaos with the referee’s whistle for half time saving the Bute players from any further embarrassment.
There were some green shoots of recovery in the second half with Craig MacKay taking off from where he finished against Beauly with a more assured performance on the wing, Leighton Reid putting in his best shift since returning from Australia and Ben Clark with an encouraging cameo at half back.
Despite this upturn in performance it was Inveraray extended their lead on the hour mark with a simple finish for McDonald to give him a brace for the day. Bute were then forced into a substitution when Scott Harvey caught the end of a stick on his knee and was replaced by William Boag. In the most surprising turn of events since the Tory leadership race it was Bute who actually produced the move of the match; working the ball out of defence then moving the ball swiftly down the right wing with a series of one touch passes culminating in McKay’s shot just going by the far post.
Bute finally had something to show for a torrid afternoon when Davidson finished another well worked move but is was a goal that would have offered scant consolation to the Bute fans.
All in all it was a performance to forget for Bute however lessons must be learned so there will be no repeat of the first half debacle and every player will need to reflect on their own performance and redouble their efforts at training to face up to the challenges of the relegation run in.