Sunday, May 11, 2008

Even Stevens or What?

North Division 1
Glenurquhart 2 Kinlochshiel 2

After all the negative publicity you read about the old game in the papers and after the Treasurer had moaned on to the Wing Centre about a boorish spectator who had refused to participate in the collection, it was a pleasure (almost) to be present at a high tempo match which was an advert for most of what is good about shinty.
It was, sadly for the Blairbeg support, a game of two halves and for some reason Kinlochshiel refuse to be beaten which, if there is a good quality for any shinty side to have, must be at the top of the list.
No doubt there will be an excellent report in the WHFP which will come out as usual on Thursday and may - as would be natural -have a Kinlochshiel angle to it and why not?
The WHFP reports have been excellent of late and no way does the Wing Centre have either the energy or the sheer number of pages in his notebook to match their scribe. Thus a broad brush approach will have to suffice though there will be some attempt to dwell on the Glen goals-as would equally be natural.
As for the ‘Shiel strikes they came courtesy of Neil Fraser and if he keeps on scoring like that no doubt he’ll soon win his way back into the Lochbroom first team alongside his dad. Actually while the subject has been raised , it seems pretty clear too that young Mark Macdonald is now just about ready for a step up into the Lochbroom team, so one should expect Ruaridh and Mr Irving to pay up the £50 quid each and give them a call now to get them back from the nursery club.
From the Wing Centre’s point of view, Mark and Neil appear to have developed enough not to look out of place in the Broom squad. Hopefully these transfers will have gone through before the Glen next meet Shiel in the return League fixture.
Enough of this nonsense except to say Manager Keith Loades looked very sad in the first half and his legendary shortness in the grain with his team was on the point of erupting so whatever hairdryer treatment he and Johnstone Gill gave them at half time must have been very special because it did the trick. The two supremos know their shinty and certainly moved their men about , made their centre line compete to get a grip and ultimately that forced the chances required to square the game out of a Glen defence that did not like the questions being asked of it. It would not be unfair to say that Shiel took both their chances.
The first half however was another story. The Glen started with a bang and were one up within a minute. Paul Mackintosh fired a ball up to Neale Reid on the left who sprinted his way past Steven Callender, fired the ball across the D where it was sharply dispatched by Gregor McCormack before the Shiel defence had woken up to the fact that the game had started.
For the next 30 minutes the Glen had the game in their pocket and it was not long before Neale Reid-a constant thorn in the flesh of the ’Shiel defence despite taking big hits from the his marker- doubled the Glen lead with a super strike. The ball was worked up right to Gregor McCormack and he fired it out to the left wing ,where Reid coming in at pace skipped into the clear and powered the ball high into the top corner of the net with keeper Graham Kennedy helpless
At this stage of the match the Shiel defence looked ragged and referee Macrae had to keep on top of a range of persistently late defensive challenges from the ‘Shiel backs and centre men who seemed to be off the pace. However, keeper Kennedy was on form and while he was helped by the post on one occasion , he still had the reflexes to deal with strikes from Reid , Andy Corrigan and a particularly fierce drive from 30 yards from Lewis Maclennan which counted as a game saving stop.
Gradually however, in the last quarter of the first half things began to change. Perhaps the Glen’s fitness was not enough to sustain the opening speed, perhaps the physicality of the Shiel resistance took its toll or perhaps the ‘Shiel boys are simply scared of Keith and Johnstone and began to play better as the Glen tired.
Whatever the reason the Kinlochshiel centreline began to win more of the ball and Finlay Macrae came more into matters. The introduction of Scott Maclean also had a great deal to do with matters from the Shiel point of view since it was clear that young John Macrae was not fully recovered from last week’s knock to the ribs.
Shiel maintained their competitive edge in midfield and for a while the Glen defensive hitting looked snatched and uncertain. The ‘Shiel fight back properly began in the 61st minute when Scott Maclean crashed through two tackles on the left to force the ball across the D where Neil Fraser was on hand to crack it past Stuart Mackintosh from close range. From a defensive point of view the Glen had time to clear the ball but neglected the opportunity to do so and paid a heavy price.
The pattern of play continued in the same direction with Shiel edging it for possession although the Glen made themselves sufficient opportunities at the other end to seal the game. By now however their shooting was out of sorts and Paul Macrae was finally proving to be too strong for the Glen forwards. The Shiel forwards however must have earned the wrath of their managers because of the way they neglected to put shots in on target when they had legitimately won the opportunity.
As play became more physical both the Glen’s Andrew Macdonald and Shiel’s Scott Maclean were lucky to remain unbooked and it was from a controversial decision by referee Macrae on the left-a foul by Maclean was not picked up -that the ball was played across to Neil Fraser once again unmarked on the edge of the D , and he had a simple task to finish it off.
The Glen mounted a late surge to get back what they had thrown away but there was not enough time or passion left in them to turn back the tide. As a game it was almost a repeat of last season’s League match when the Glen romped away to an early lead before neglecting to keep it right to the final whistle.
Shiel have themselves probably thrown away too many early points at the start of the season to feel happy about their League winning chances and being out of the Balliemore- thank goodness - they can look forward to a barren season unless of course they win the Camanachd Cup which, lacking goal scorers as they do would not seem to be a good bet. They are a hugely talented and determined team however and they have a nice edge to their play. For the Glen the message must be train harder and make sure you finish off teams when you have them at your mercy.
Even Stevens or What? Too much what in these encounters for the Wing Centre’s liking.
*Thanks to Brian Denoon for the picture

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