Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Return of the Native

Glenurquhart 4 Boleskine 0
Iain Macleod has been a long time gone: in terms of experience and medals you could say he made the right move when he shifted his shinty playing talents over the hill .However all that is in the past – this past Saturday he was back in the black and red for the first time this century and you have also to say, with a goal in the 80th minute, it was a dream debut.
Macleod lined up in Manager Henderson’s youthful team – which for the record included a number of youngsters who had defeated Beauly under-17s that very morning (5-3 as it happens, with goals from Ben Hosie, Neale Reid and Ewan Brady) and played a well-nigh perfect part at full centre in a match which, though it turned out fine in the end did not always feel as if it would be a straight forward victory.
Of course the truth is you never know how friendlies are going to turn out but given that Boleskine are a one team club there was every chance that a side with too many youngsters might find itself in trouble. In recognition of this Hendo and new sidekick Glen legend Mike Cameron rostered a side which contained up to 6 subs so that in addition to old heads like Gary Smith and Davie Stewart , youth players like Ewan Brady, Ross MacDiarmid , Calum Smith and Ewan Menzies were wearing the black and red too. There were Glen call-offs too-Donald Fraser, Ross MacAulay and Calum Fraser were unavailable while Gary Mackintosh is recovering from knee surgery. Ian Macdonald too was absent and while his presence is a necessity for the bigger games, against Boleskine young Drew Maclennan stepped into the full back role like a veteran.
Boleskine too looked to be a little short up front and as such they never really threatened in the match and sadly missed a penalty. This now means that Dave Emery in goal has not been beaten by the last two penalties he faced, though this one, unlike the superb save at Ardnamurchan, was a shot that flew past the post.
With Graham Black and Matthew Ross in the back line, Boleskine, though they were short of firepower up front, were not easy to score against and it took up till 40 minutes of even play before Calum Miller opened the scoring for the Glen with a fine drive.
The second half saw some juggling of Glen players-Ewan Menzies came on at wing back and put in an extremely fine shift with nice long hitting up the line- and the new line up saw David Smart running in on goal in 50 minutes to put the Glen two up. A minute later it was disaster for the Boleskine keeper who otherwise had a fine afternoon when he palmed a long ball that was going past the post back in to the path of Glen front man Davie Stewart who gratefully accepted the gift.
The game then settled back into its default position with Glen pressure and Boleskine defending that at times was on the robust side of desperate as Glen forward Brad Dickson will doubtless testify. At the same time, the Glen forwards probably were guilty of overplaying the ball to some extent.
The Glen defenders however were on their toes and despite the concession of a penalty looked comfortable at the back with Euan Fraser in particularly fine form along with Maclennan, Menzies and the two Smiths, Calum and Gary.
The older heads were however concentrating on how well Mr Macleod was playing and despite the nature of the opposition they were not disappointed. Of course there will be quicker and more physically intense matches but Macleod’s sharp shinty brain was clear to all: he did most things without fuss, read the game and anticipated much and at all times was keen to move the ball wide. When circumstances called for the long hit, he hit it long. When the little slip was on, that is what he used.
The final polish to the afternoon’s performance was provided by the goal and the Wing Centre who is often accused of blethering rather than watching a match, observed the whole thing. It was a simple goal and deserves a simple description.
The Boleskine defence, under pressure as always, did not manage to get the ball out to that no man’s land between the buckshee back and the full centre. Macleod ran on to the ball, tussled with his opponent and fired a long ball forward which was too much for the keeper to deal with.
That goal signalled the end of the story and the urgency ebbed away from the game, helped, no doubt, by the bitterly cold wind that was blowing in, one can only assume, from Strathglass. Well maybe not, for after all Iain Macleod is a native of the Glen and the Wing Centre is certainly glad that he has decided to return.

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