Friday, September 26, 2008

Skye left feeling blue-but Glen will need to lift their game to kill ‘Mallie off

Glenurquhart 4 Skye 3
A game of two halves - well not really . There was an opening first half hour of tremendous quality and then there was the rest of the game most of which was very hard on Glen nerves. Not that the Wing Centre was present at the occasion. Having failed to see the last match against the Islanders -the game that presented them with a cup final place in the Balliemore- it was only fair that he keep away from this game in case he put the “buisneachd” on the boys. If only he could put it on the Kilmallie lads -vain hope!
Naturally the phone was red hot and when, after 20 minutes or so, the news came through that the Glen were 3-0 up and playing excellent shinty - without Lewis Maclennan too it must be said - then the rest of the afternoon trawling round the wool mills of the Trossachs was tolerably easy to do.
A call to the manager at the end of the match and a long answer message from the retired Presidential figure told a more scary story . The Skyemen had pulled themselves back into the match before the end of the first half and if it had not been for some smart scoring by the boy who bears the very name of the Glen, then perhaps this weeks match up against Kilmallie for the dubious privilege of Premier League status would be a much flatter affair.
So what happened ? The WHFP gives a version of the truth - there is no truth in shinty reporting of course, only the moody accounts of witnesses - and naturally this account will tell what happened through the prism of black and red specs.
In the first half hour the Glen played superb shinty and looked likely to sweep Skye back up into the Enrick. According to Jimmac this Glen played some of the best shinty they have ever played - an opinion that was supported by the fact that, inside two minutes good movement up front led to Andrew Corrigan firing the ball into the net from the right. Some quick interpassing amongst the mobile Glen forwards saw Billy Urquhart thump home a second. By the 16th minute the third goal had been added when Gregor McCormack was on the end of some good play to finish from close range. Meanwhile Nouie MacDonald , in goal to help out the Islanders defence - the WHFP gives a list of Island players who missed the match - pulled off a string of superb saves to deny the Glen the chance to add to the goal difference between them and Kilmallie.
Then Sorley happened - twice! A bit of footering about in the midfield and defence and the ball was into the postage stamp in 38 minutes . Two minutes later and the boy from Braes did it again . He is an excellent player-there is no doubt- but the reports say that the Glen had switched off at this point which is what they are too liable to do when they are leading again. Last season it happened against Lovat and Kinlochshiel -this season there were signs of it against Inverness and also up at Shiel where a superb first half ended with a fortunately successful second half scramble to hang on to the points .
By good luck Billy Urquhart was on hand just before the interval to pop in a goal which ensured the Glen had the relative security of a two goal lead at half time. Nice to note that the Sunday Post credited the strike to Lewis Maclennan and him in Brisbane at a wedding ! Knowing Lewis, he will want to claim it to ensure he ends up top scorer this season.
The second half was filled with chances at both ends but the Glen were inaccurate in their strikes and young John Moir had an excellent game at the back. He is - if reports are to be believed -only one of eight teenagers in Ally Morrison’s side and that being so the future must be bright for Island shinty.
Games are however won in midfield and while Eddie Tembo - always forceful in moving the play forward - had a superb match the other lads did not enjoy the midfield dominance they have had in other matches. Skye did score through Ally Maclennan but the report that filtered through to the Wing Centre made more play of the fact that the Glen defence should have dealt with the occasion much better before it was a goal , so to speak.
In the end the day went with the Glen and now all that matters is the next game against Kilmallie who appeared to have had their own troubles in overcoming Cabers 5-3. That 3 is important because it implies that there is a way past Bochy MacNiven and that way is even more accessible when young Sunny Rodgers is playing up front. Whatever way they line up Kilmallie are good - though Skye have beaten them when it mattered.
In the end, it’s not about Kilmallie - it’s really all about the Glen and only about the Glen . The trick will be for the players to play with as if they really believe it
A picture? Who are you kidding? This game is much too serious for that. The effort that went into the headline should be enough for you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Archie the Goalie fails to foil the Glen-Phew!

North Division 1
Caberfeidh 0 Glenurquhart 4
It’s official: Archie the goalie can be beaten but don’t run away with the idea that it’s easy. If the rest of the Cabers team had played half as well as Archie did on Saturday then there is little doubt that the Glen would have struggled even more to obtain a result that they actually did. In the end 4-0 seems a comfortable victory. When you are watching it from the side of the park then nothing ever seems quite so simple.
Right from the off, when he got his feet to a Neale Reid snap shot in the first minute, Archie looked to be in unbeatable form whereas when Smack had a wee sit down on the job in six minutes- the ball bounced over his head and slipped past the post,- the nerves were severely jangled. Wearing the traditional black and red specs, it was possible to say that the first 20 minutes or so, saw the Glen in fine form, firing the ball forward on all cylinders (how many metaphors can one hack mangle?)
Andrew Corrigan slipped a neat pass down the line- he appeared to be running freely on what is a traditionally sticky surface- but the ball was scrabbled wide. Next Eddie Tembo- you only realised when you thought about it seriously afterwards that he had a superb afternoon-drove the ball up to Calum Miller who pounced on the pass , made some space but drove it wide.
Worryingly, Cabers made a move or two forward themselves and just on the 20 minute mark, Ian Bartlett combined well with Lee Nicholl but his shot went wastefully high over the bar in the general direction of Dingwall. At the other end however, putting the ball over the bar looked as if it was about to become the flavour afternoon when after some neat work by Neale Reid, Andrew Corrigan lofted his shot into the trees towards the Spa Pavillion.
However, it came good for the Glen in 30 minutes when full centre Dave "Dixon" Maclennan, who had a productive afternoon in the cockpit of the conflict, played the ball through to Calum Miller who had his drive deflected by Archie for a corner. From the corner, the ball was worked back to Lewis Maclennan and his shot gave the Glen a well deserved lead though it was as well that Stuart Mackintosh was on his toes to save two minutes later from Graham Macgregor when he broke through for the home side.
Archie then came to Caber’s rescue when he saved a rasper of a drive from Neale Reid but it was all to no avail when a foul was awarded to the Glen. Andrew Corrigan danced around the ball for what seemed an age but in the end his polka was worth it because, having slipped the ball eventually to Lewis Maclennan, the second Glen goal was wrapped up. It was 42 minutes and that was Lewis twice on the score sheet and –sadly -once in the book because of too vigorous a protest at an offside call from ref Donnie Fraser.
The second half belonged to the Glen more completely though there was always the danger-in theory at least in the overheated mind of the Wing Centre- that Cabers would score and sneak back into the game. The third call effectively put an end to that when in 59 minutes Lewis Maclennan slipped a free hit to Neale Reid who hit it low into the D where by some miracle it sneaked past Archie in at the post.
The last quarter saw the Glen camped in the Cabers area of the field driven up there by the will power shown but the Glen centreline of Ally Mackintosh, Eddie Tembo and above all Dave Maclennan. All three guys put in a power of work and matched the Cabers midfield cleek for block. Glen brought on Gregor McCormack and Calum Fraser and these two helped keep up the pressure on Archie’s domain though front man Calum Miller had a sterling game up on the D and was unlucky not to hit the net on several occasions. The big man had an excellent game and it was most fitting that he had a hand in the creation of the final Glen goal in 82 minutes. The ball was driven long up the left by Ally Mackintosh to the big front man who swept it across the D to the inrushing Gregor McCormack. He dispatched it with panache past Archie, who had every right to be unhappy with the protection afforded him by his dispirited defenders.
And that was basically that. The Glen collected the points-if collected is not too complacent a word to use and Archie went off home.
"Well played, Archie" said the Glen backroom staff thanking the Almighty that the rest of the Cabers team could not have been accused of playing well. Doubtless even they will agree with that assessment: Archie’s body language and expression showed that these were his sentiments also.
"You can’t keep them all out," he said and then he wished the Glen luck in their next few games. Something is happening in the world of shinty-first Beauly and now Archie of Cabers being nice to the Glen. They must be up to something but what? Time will tell.
The picture- Mr Miller. He had an excellent afternoon and was well worthy of a snap.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Hendo’s Heroes : A Satisfying Blend of Youth and Middle-age

Division 3
Glenurquhart 8 Strathglass 1

Having been held over from last Saturday when Strathglass had too many youngsters away with a youth team to put out a side , this game was squeezed in on Wednesday night. In the event there was just enough light for it to be completed and it was good of ref. James Gallagher (Lovat) to help the clubs get this fixture out of the way. In a sense the timing worked both for and against the Glen.
On the one hand players like Andrew Crichton and Roger Grant were unable to be present due to work commitments: on the other there was an opportunity for unlisted senior players to have a run out on the field.
In the end Manager Henderson went for a mixture of youth and age on the field giving a run to Calum Fraser, Gregor McCormack and Calum Miller for a part of the evening while always keeping his eye on young players like Ross Macfarlane who came on in the second half. Calum Smith , at wing back, has been more or less a fixture all season and his no-nonsense attitude to holding down the wing back berth shows his development as a player.
The night began on a sombre note with a minute’s silence in memory of both the former Strathglass youth player Graham Mackenzie who died in a tragic accident earlier in the week and Glenurquhart (Strathdearn 1977) player Davie Morrison who died suddenly in Aberdeen the week before . However the night was lit up by three sparkling performances which are worthy of note.
The first was that of five goal hero Ben Hosie. Ben took his five goals excellently and was always looking to play constructive shinty, moving the ball into space and going for a return. He likes to control the ball and turn to lay it off. He also has a touch of the predator’s instinct liking to follow up on the ball and some of his strikes over the evening were severely classy.
Hosie opened the scoring in 10 minutes having nipped on to a through ball from Calum Miller . Twenty minutes later he was again on hand to clean up matters after Calum Fraser’s shot had been smothered by Strath keeper Davie Stirling.
Glen then went through a period of lethargy in which the young Strath team could have come back had their shooting been more accurate. It didn’t help their cause however that keeper Dave Emery was in sparkling form for, well, most of the first half. He had a series of good stops including one rocket shot which he diverted nonchalantly with the heel of his club and a number of others which he swept away wide. However, he did concede in 43 minutes- a bad time to lose a goal - when Ally Macadam, who was having a tidy game on the wing nicked one on target.
The half time score reflected well on the young Strath side - the Wing Centre liked the contribution of Seth Jones, Mark Macleod and young Balharry while in Mark McLaughlin they have more or less the finished article. That they were unable to penetrate more thoroughly was due to the fact that the Glen backbone of more experienced players could contain their youthful enthusiasm. Talking of youthful enthusiasm ,didn’t Roy Mackenzie put in a fair shift at buckshee until old Father Time eventually beckoned him to the bench of repose. Roy and shinty are synonymous in the Strath : he is in danger of becoming an institution, though sometimes when he takes the craze on the field - thankfully he is mellowing with age - you feel he needs to be locked up in one!
The second half went totally with the Glen. and was notable for a fine hat-trick from Stuart Morrison who finally got his shots on target though he would forgive the mention of one ball blasted massively over the bar.
Morrison struck his first in 50 mins after good work from Hosie and picked up his second in 58 mins. with another fine strike
Ben Hosie then completed his hat-trick in 61mins while Morrison did the same five minutes later, running the ball through the demoralised Strath defence to slip it past the young keeper. The last two goals fell to the predatory caman of Ben Hosie in 75 and 80minutes respectively, one of them being a particularly fine drive into the roof of the net after good work by Ross Macfarlane and Bradley Dickson.
The player the Wing Centre liked best on the turf was David Smart : he handled his midfield role well and with his good stick control and shinty brain he added a touch of style to the side. Davie Stewart, Gary Mackintosh , Ross MacAulay, Garry Smith and Ewan Fraser also turned in solid performances and hopefully they came through the match without injury in time for Kincraig this week.
Overall for the Glen it was a good win and a necessary one. Again they are in the position that, if the nerve is kept, a trophy is available. Now is the time for all hands on deck.
The picture? Having featured Bennie earlier in the season, the pic simply had to be one of the hat-trick hero himself, Mr Morrison.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Glen Pass the Beauly Test - Just !

Glenurquhart 3 Beauly 1
With five games still to go at 2.25 on Saturday it was clear that every game yet to come was as important and as big as the MacTavish Cup final. At 4.20 on Saturday with two points having been collected from a difficult game against Beauly, it was still true. Every one of the remaining four games is as big as the MacTavish Cup final and with Kilmallie posting a 4-0 nil victory on the island against Skye ,it could be that the pressure is beginning to build. It is not really : we are now into classic one game at a time territory and its better to be there than nowhere. The next potential banana skin is Cabers and that day will come when it comes. All that matters is to keep the nerve and possibly stick pins in a doll of wee Archie the Goalie. May the Gods of Shinty decree he has an off day.
For the Wing Centre however, the Beauly game was more than a little close for comfort. Never one to be optimistic , he spent the whole first half pretending to be cheerful while secretly hoping that Sean Stewart and Barry Macdonald would trip over and twist an ankle in one of the marks left by the caber from last week’s games. Uncharitable thought- but that is what the Beaulies can push you to.
The Glen had the upper hand in the first part of the first half but despite clear territorial advantage, there seemed to be little sense of progress up front. Early on both Lewis Maclennan and Neale Reid had chances but pushed the ball wide while Calum Miller, starting after a fine display against Kinlochshiel found the going harder against full back Roger Cormack.
A word here about Roger. It has always been clear that he was one of the best players in the game. Full back is his true position and it was the Glen’s bad luck , that after a season playing somewhere else on the field, the Green and Whites persuaded him to turn out in the back line.
In the course of the afternoon along with Innes Simpson at half-back who was also on song , he was the main man holding the line. The Glen variously tried three different players on him and despite the fact that the goals eventually came, no-one in the home dressing room could say other than “Some player that Roger Cormack” Fair as well. There were a couple of occasions when young Neale Reid-one of the three who faced him - managed to get into his stride and get slightly ahead of Roger but there was no attempt to halt the young man illegally.
No doubt Roger has gone through his career with few medals of substance to show for all his years at the top. There will be guys in other areas with Camanachd Cup medals and perhaps silver mounted camans on the wall that don’t have half his ability-but then again that’s the way it goes.
Of course the Glen should have gone ahead in 34 minutes when a drive up from Dave Maclennan in the centreline left “Corky” Corrigan with the goal at his mercy and the defenders off the pace. The goal remained at his mercy for an agonising spell while Corky deliberated as to what he might do. In the end he decided to save his best strike for a more auspicious occasion and the Beauly defence breathed a sigh of relief. Not for long however because in the very next minute Cork turned provider and having raced onto a through ball he pushed it across the face of goal where it fell nicely for Calum Miller who slipped it in from close range.
Any thoughts that the floodgates might open were quickly dispelled when after a period of pressure which forced Stuart Mackintosh into two neat saves, Sean Stewart rattled one home for Beauly. A vintage goal from Stewart but fortunately rare enough for him these days for it to be snapped and the photograph put up for auction at the Phipps Hall.
The second half saw the Glen continue to press and the breakthrough was always going to come when Beauly’s full centre Jamie Maclennan ran out of puff. The two Maclennans , Glen’s Dave and Beauly’s Jamie, had been conducting, for parts of the afternoon at least their own private battle over the peat-cutting rights to , one assumes, Strathconan . It was at times fierce and , when they shook hands, at times friendly but in the end when Jamie tired there was to be no way back for the Greens.
In no time Neale Reid had latched on to a ball and Steven Lymburn had to make an excellent save; then Eddie Tembo was caught by a late swing from Connor Ross which probably merited a booking.
Finally just before things began to get desperate for the Glen , Reid released Corrigan who bulleted a low hard shot off the inside of Lymburn’s post to put the Glen one up. It was left to Lewis Maclennan to wrap up the points for the Glen when, after some confusion in the Beauly defence he latched on to an imperfect clearance and walked the ball into the D before slipping it over the line to make the points safe.
“Good luck for the rest of your season,” said Barry Macdonald as he went into the dressing room at the end of the game. A nice gesture but not something the Cabers boys will say-at least until after tomorrow.
So there’s nothing for it then but to beat Cabers -if not for ourselves then for Barry and the Beauly boys who now support us . They would hate to have been beaten by a side that can’t beat Cabers.

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