The Final Solution.
MacTavish Cup Final 2006
Kingussie 5 Fort William 2 (aet)
Kingussie may have stuttered in the Premier League so far this season but a vintage display of goal scoring by ace marksman Ronald Ross underlines the fact that when it comes to winning trophies the Badenoch side are in a league of their own. That said however it took Kingussie into the second half of extra time before they were finally able to overcome a physically robust Fort William side in what at times came across as a war of attrition. Referee Colin Macdonald had to reach for the yellow card on several occasions as tempers between these two evenly matched sides began to fray.
The pattern was set as early as the third minute when teenage Fort defender Duncan Rodger brought down Ross as he was bearing in on goal. A card at that point might have stabilised matters but the defender went unpunished and the free hit was frittered away. The match then settled down into a dour battle for the control of midfield in which neither side had the upper hand though pick of the bunch was Kingussie’s James Maclean at full centre whose work rate and classy movement was a reminder of the heights that the game can aspire to.
With marking extremely tight and forwards being forced to shoot harmlessly from distance it looked odds on that the first half would end without either goalkeeper having to make a save. A face injury to Kingussie defender Ian Borthwick just before half time saw him leave the field for treatment and Fort took full advantage of the extra man .
Kingussie manager Jimmy Gow attempted to plug the defensive gap by pulling Ronald Ross back but he was unable to prevent James Clark sending in a cross from the right. The ever lively Gordon Mackinnon flicked it on into the path of Chris Bamber and the Fort went in at half time with a barely deserved one goal lead.
Within 5 minutes of the restart, Kingussie were back level thanks to a fine strike from veteran Michael Clark who pounced on a poor clearance by Fort William keeper Scott McNeil. With the score even the war of attrition continued though Gary Innes who had just returned earlier in the week from a shinty coaching trip to California began to exert more influence for Fort William.
The deadlock appeared to be broken in 75 minutes when Kingussie were awarded a penalty for a foul on Ronald Ross : the big striker took the hit himself and fairly blasted the ball past McNeil to put his side into the lead.
The match was always physical but at this stage matters seemed to be on the point of anarchy and Fort Williams John MacLeod was lucky to remain on the pitch having appeared to raise his hands to Russell Dallas. To be fair to referee Macdonald however he did book Dallas for the original offence.
Fort William did not give up and if anything played their best shinty in the latter stages of normal time. Their equaliser in 82 minutes was a tribute to the perseverance of James Clark in the Fort William attack. Having just set up Victor Smith for a drive which Borthwick had done well to stop he finally got himself behind the defence onto the end of a through ball from Mackinnon and gave the keeper no chance from close range.
If Fort had competed well in normal time, the extra period belonged to Kingussie. Perhaps it was simply a matter of superior fitness but they also began to find their touch. A normal Kingussie display is as complex as a piece of Celtic knot work and with the interchanges between Kevin Thain and Ross something of the old template began to reappear in their outfield possession. First Ross glanced a ball on to the bar and then, after Ali Borthwick had been allowed an age to drive in a thunderbolt from distance, he tucked away the rebound.
Two excellent goals for Kingussie followed in quick order. A neat interchange between Ross and Borthwick was beautifully finished by Thain while right at the death Ross completed his hat-trick by squeezing the ball past McNeil from the acutest of angles.
The win makes it four MacTavish titles in a row for Kingussie and for the second year in succession Ronald Ross has notched a hat-tick in the final .It wasn’t pretty but there’s no doubt about it that when a cup is on the table and the presentation caman gleams on the podium, there is only ever one team in town.