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Soccer match links Inverness, Inverness

In Sunday's much-anticipated soccer match at Whispering Pines Park, Inverness scored three second-half goals Sunday to defeat Inverness, 4-1, although Inverness later said that Inverness had a pretty good team.

Confused? Don't worry; Sunday's match was all about two cities reaching out in the spirit of sports and brotherhood _ and sisterhood.

Inverness, Fla., hosted an amateur select team from Inverness, Scotland, marking the first function between the sister cities. The game was only appropriate at a time when some associated with the downtown Inverness renovation look for links between the Scottish town and its Florida namesake.

Dave Patillo, project administrator of the Inverness Community Redevelopment Agency, took the Scottish team on a tour of our Inverness earlier this week, including a Scottish graveyard.

"Their spirit is so much of what we're trying to achieve," Patillo said. "All the work is to try to develop that Scottish link."

After the game, the teams exchanged gifts, including a pair of soccer balls signed by both teams _ one ball to stay here, one to go back across the Atlantic Ocean.

"The hospitality has been tremendous," said the Scottish team's coach, Rab Mulheron.

As for the game itself, the Scottish team, made up of some of the top amateur players from the town's four-division amateur league, clicked on more of its plays and at times displayed outstanding dribbling and passing skills.

Jake Anderson scored the lone goal for the locals around the 65th minute to make the score 2-1, but the Scots struck back with two late goals, one on a pretty cross-goal strike from Mike Pollard.

Gavin Matheson scored the only goal of the first half to give the Scots a 1-0 halftime lead. Charlie Barbour and David Lumsden scored the other goals for the Scottish squad.

But the Inverness, Scotland coach had encouraging words for his American counterparts.

"This was a tremendous game," Mulheron said as he addressed the crowd after the game. "There are some teams back home that are not as good. To be honest you're a very good side. Don't give up now because we'd like to come back."

The visitors were slowed a bit by the heat, although to the locals the overcast afternoon was quite temperate.

"It's probably as hot as the height of our summer," said Gary Follen, one of the Scottish players. "It made the ball a little soft and hard to get control of.

"But it's nice to see the town coming out, that's just brilliant. We're very thankful."

Amid the hoopla of hosting foreign visitors and seeing them play soccer in a land where the sport is king, another development must not be overlooked _ a positive step for adult soccer in Citrus County.

The Citrus County team had only practiced together for about two months, and Sunday was the first time it had been tested in match play. Now, head coach Joe Mackin said he hopes to match his crew against adult amateur teams from around Central Florida.

"Once we get together, we'll be able to beat a lot of (the local) teams," Mackin said. "My team was excellent . . . some had never even played before."

Citrus County player Fred Bennett, who played prep soccer at Crystal River until he graduated last year, emphasized the importance of the progress made by the Citrus County team.

"I hope we stick together," Bennett said, "We just all came out to have fun. (The Scots) have a good team."

The locals will have another year to prepare for a rematch, one which was already being discussed as the teams left the field.

Mulheron even expressed interest in coming to America permanently. When asked about his plans for the 1994 World Cup, to be played in the States, he said he'd be here "whether Scotland is playing or not."

And yet another link could be established between the sister cities.