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Arch rivals set to do battle for Milne Cup

Orkney and Shetland face each other in the 102nd Milne Cup clash.

One of the “jewels in the crown” of Scottish amateur football is set to go ahead on Saturday — as Orkney welcome arch rivals Shetland for arguably the most surreal Milne Cup clash that’s ever taken place.

There will be no spectators, no changing or showering facilities, and the pre-match build-up will include temperature checks and health questionnaires, as both counties abide by strict COVID-19 regulations.

The match is set to take place at the Pickaquoy Centre pitch on Saturday at 2pm.

Both the Orkney Amateur Football Association (OAFA) and Shetland Football Association (SFA), working in collaboration with the Scottish Amateur Football Association (SAFA), have left no stone unturned in fulfilling the stringent public health regulations and guidance to allow the match to take place.

Orkney manager Karl Adamson said it was a “privilege” to play such a “meaningful” game when other areas of life are restricted.

He said: “Certainly, it was described by the president of the SAFA that it is one of the jewels in the crown of Scottish amateur football and they would like it to go ahead on the basis of that.

“So they assisted us in that regard. That gives its own pressure on both counties — that we live up to that billing and we make it a memorable fixture.”

The pain of losing the Milne Cup last year is still fresh in the memory of the Orkney management team and players.

An injury-time equaliser denied Orkney a first win on Shetland soil since 1981, as the blues went on to the lift the cup after a 5-4 win on penalties.

Orkney hold the upper hand in home clashes against Shetland, though, winning the 2016 and 2018 fixtures, including that memorable 5-1 thrashing in the 100th Milne Cup game.

In preparation, Orkney have travelled south to take on Highland League sides, Brora Rangers and Wick Academy.

The match also represents new Shetland manager Neil Fenwick’s first Milne Cup clash.

Adamson, who will go up against Shetland for a sixth time, including the 2017 Island Games, knows the abilities and character of the side he has at his disposal, but is wary of an unknown Shetland team.

“These big games are so difficult to properly predict, in the sense that we don’t see the opposition every week.

“Obviously, we are getting a fair idea of Shetland’s strength as we meet them every year, but with a new manager there’s always that little bit of unknown what line-up will he prefer, will there be players we don’t know from previous seasons, but we really need to be on our mettle to make sure we get the return out of the game we want.”

Shetland manager Neil Fenwick said: “Orkney are a good side. They seem to have improved since I first moved to Shetland ten years ago, when Shetland were winning most of the time and winning games quite comfortably.

“That’s certainly not been the case over the last few years, so it will definitely be a tight game. Both teams are probably a little bit rusty, but they’re full of good players so I’m looking forward to a good encounter.”