Local legend Susan Boyle rose to fame after singing Memories on Britain’s Got Talent, but for spectators at the Blackburn Juniors ground for the Albion Rovers vs Arsenal under 19s SYFA Scottish Cup Semi Final, their memories will be of Rovers’ Connor Shields as the striker scored four in a 6-0 victory to put his side into the final.
Anthony O’Kane and Alexander More were the other scorers in a rout that was one way traffic from the moment Shields grabbed his first after only two minutes. Arsenal looked a yard off the pace from the very first whistle, second to every ball, misplacing passes, and struggling to put together anything of substance. However, while it was clear the Arsenal players didn’t play to their full potential, how much of that was down to the fact the Albion Rovers players didn’t give them a chance to settle and played with incredible intensity right from the off?
Shields, by far the best player on the pitch for the full 90 minutes, showed his class instantly when he opened the scoring with the first shot of the game. Picking the ball up on the edge of the box he dragged his marker wide and then fired back across goal and into the far corner.
It was no fluke and Rovers continued to press high up the pitch, helped by a slack and tired looking Arsenal who seemed desperate to turn every 50/50 into a 70/30 in Rovers’ favour. More’s cross was turned goalward by Ryan McManus in search of a second but the striker’s mishit effort was comfortably saved by Ben Collinson in the Arsenal goal.
Collinson was again called into action to prevent a Ben Cappie free-kick creeping in low to his left.
Set pieces were causing problems in the Arsenal back line as Rovers won every header in the box and they got a deserved second following a spate of corners. After one corner had been put behind for another, More’s first effort was blocked at the near post and came back out to him, after taking a touch to get into a better position he unleashed a high curling effort that kept going until it found the top corner.
Two goal down and all at sea defensively Arsenal finally responded with a couple of attacks. Paul King’s corner was only headed half-clear by the Albion defence but Mark Callaghan didn’t connect properly with the shot and it rolled wide. Then Callaghan’s cross-cum-shot looked to be heading in but for a timely intervention on the line from Cappie who headed it away.
The problem for Arsenal was no matter what they did, Albion Rovers could simply hit the ball towards Shields and they’d get another promising attack out of it. He was simply too fast, too strong, and too skilful for their defence to deal with so it was no surprise when he added to his tally.
It was a breathtaking couple of minutes in the lead up to the third goal with the action moving quickly from end to end.First Shields was released to chase a ball over the top that he fired against the legs of Collinson, sparking an Arsenal counter attack with King’s cross finding Gary Guthrie unmarked in the box but he didn’t connect cleanly. Arsenal had moved players forward to help with their counter and this left them vulnerable to a counter of Rovers’ own and once again it was a long ball over the top for Shields but this time he made no mistake, slipping it under the keeper for 3-0.
McManus should have put the game out of sight before half-time as he twice fired off-target from inside the box, the second effort the culmination of a lovely one-two with O’Kane to create the chance. McManus wasn’t pleased with himself, telling Shields “I’m having a shocker” in front of the Arsenal fans who could only ask themselves “If he’s having a shocker then what are the Arsenal players having?”