Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Glen Keep the Winning Habit - For Now

Balliemore Cup
Glenurquhart 2 Lochcarron 1

Whatever happens in the rest of the season, it has to be said that the early part has gone well. The Glen are unbeaten still and, with this week’s match against Beauly having been prevented from happening, yet another week goes by without a Glen defeat. How can this have happened?
Well the Lochcarron match perhaps gives an inkling as to how. The players have dug in and yes they have had some luck- especially with winning the semi-final tosses (there are plenty jokes to be made there and doubtless other sides will make them, though the Wing Centre won’t ) but in the end they have stuck to the task and with no exceptions they have worked to earn the victories.
This one was an easy one to lose. OK it was the Balliemore Cup- the one trophy which the Club should fancy itself to win - but coming after the amazing extra time penalty decider against Kilmallie it would have been a game which the Glen could have chucked away. On other days in other seasons this was a banana skin waiting to trip the Glen up -just as next week’s Camanachd game against Inverness is another banana skin - but so far this season the side have refused to give up.
The game seemed to start brightly for the Glen and very quickly after a battle round the edge of the D in which Gregor McCormack put the ever excellent Lochcarron full back Alan Mackenzie under a bit of pressure, the ball was flipped back to Andrew Corrigan who had a decent strike. Michael Macmillan in the Lochcarron goal however was alive to most of the early danger and was quick to clear his lines on the occasions that the quick moving Glen forwards burst through.
At the other end however disaster truck for the black and reds when a mix up in the home defence allowed a ball to fall to John Martin Phillips and in 16 minutes the Lochcarron forward slammed the ball home past a helpless tangle of players. Part of the problem in the Glen defence was because big Davie “Ham” Mackenzie is not the sort of forward most Division 1 defences come up against too often. He is not the fastest but he is the strongest and can pull a ball into him and hold off the defender- at least in the early stages of a match when he is fresh. If he does get to turn he can hit a ball well and yet everyone underestimates him while pretending to take him seriously. He made it clear on Saturday that pretending is not enough until he eventually ran out of steam.
One wonders what would have happened if Mr Cushnie was available? The boys at the back would say “Nothing.” They may be right but then again? Cushnie might have linked up even more effectively with Peter Mackenzie, a player who did for a time, look to be a possible threat to the Glen defence though he faded in the end, possibly because he had to do all the running on his own.
The Glen however up front worked a free hit and Neale Reid smashed a shot into the side net and then EJ Tembo - having a run out in the front line for a change - had a strike in 29 minutes but it was left to Lewis Maclennan to equalise with a glorious drive in 35 minutes. A corner taken on the right eventually hopped into his path and his low strike beat the Lochcarron defence for pace.
Lewis is in good goal scoring form just now and he knows that hitting the net is something that he needs to keep at the front of his mind in the next few weeks. Few can hit a ball better than him but he sometimes needs to simplify his game-go for the ball with the body rather than always with the stick when at the higher level he will be nudged by experienced backs just enough to make him misconnect.. However when he does connect he is deadly and fortunately this was one of these times.
By this time in the match- and indeed for the rest of the game except for the occasional flurry the Glen were in command but apart from Neale Reid’s match winning strike just after the interval the boys failed to add to their tally.
Yet it was not a bad performance and truthfully an interesting game . Rumours of it being flat as a contest were much exaggerated. Arran Macdonald had an excellent game against Kenny Ross- and that was a contest that Arran will one day no doubt look back on with some satisfaction because Ross is one of the iconic players in the sport who has deservedly played at international level in the senior side.
The centre line also performed well. Billy Urquhart was extremely effective on one flank while on the other, David “Dixon” Maclennan also had a fine game. He was however evenly matched with “Dickie” Mackenzie. “Dickie” is one of these players that the Wing Centre had not seen much of in recent years because whilst he was plying his trade for Lovat, the Glen were in the old National Division I and never actually came against them .
One has to admit that Dickie has the superb Lovat eye for the ball and worked hard in the wing -centre position but “Dixon” gave and took with Dickie and both contributed greatly to the shape of the game.
So why did the Glen not score more goals? Probably the answer lies in the name Alan Mackenzie. He has quick hands on the club and certainly held his team together at the back on more that one occasion - in fact probably on about five or six occasions.
The Wing Centre’s recollection of formidable full backs is that of the old National Division 1 twosome of Hector Whitelaw of Bute and of Graeme Mackechnie of Glenorchy -defenders who are uncompromising as well as good in their reading of a game, powerful in the tackle and mighty in their clearances. They are also extremely verbal in their marshalling of their defence when under pressure. Mackenzie , who is reported by those in the know to be the merest shadow of his former self , looked mean and lean at the back. He too reads the game well and while Gregor McCormack was tenacious in his pursuit and tackle, Mackenzie dealt with much of what came his way with craft and skill which was good to watch.
The result though went the way of the Glen. The confidence is high as it should be and for now the results have gone well. The task is to keep the winning habit, habitually.
In the picture, while John Barr walks off the field with his hero Kenny Ross , Manager Maclean appears to be attempting to snap Alan Mackenzie’s caman over his knee. Before the game, Bill would have been better!

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