Friday, September 04, 2009

Glen keep Oban at bay

Glenurquhart 4 Oban Camanachd 2
It was twenty past four and the Wing Centre was heading to the pavilion at the end of a match which the Glen appeared to have won convincingly, when he met another of the old timers coming down the steps of the stand.
“How did that happen?” said the aged plumber, for it was he. There was no easy reply though it did bring to mind the old days of Oban Camanachd and the great “Pongo” Macmillan when the Glen used to play the Seasiders in “The John Collie Cup.” No doubt Colin Clarke or somebody had looked up the North League table and selected the Glen as opponents who were likely to put up a good fight but then lose : the problem was that it never worked out like that. No matter how crap a team the Glen put out or how many kids were willing to travel down to Ganavan (no Mossfield for the likes of the Glen) as long as we kept wee Billy in goal and more importantly put big Ron up on the dust, then it didn’t matter how pretty the Oban shinty was, the Glen simply banged the ball upfield where the story was always the same four words. Ron shoots: Ron scores. Except that is when one day Dougie Maclean shot and scored a winner from miles out.
Then there was the Camanachd Cup semi-final in Fort William in the early summer of 1988. Same story once again.
Not that Saturday's match was like that completely but it had its moments. Oban played well enough and certainly impressed but “Its goals that count “as Nigel himself said- and given that they had pinched two points in the reverse fixture at the start of the season then justice was served .
As usual the Glen opened brightly and within 5 minutes Neale Reid, who was to have an excellent game, fired in a snap shot but it flew over the bar. The evidence was though at this point that Oban were more solid and looked sharper up front. Big David Devine looked lively and Aidan Macintyre was extremely sharp- he crashed a ball into the net in 24 minutes only to have it ruled off-side but then two minutes later he put the visitors ahead with a sharp low strike past Glen keeper Stuart Mackintosh. It was just as well for the Glen that this happened for it seemed to wake the side up and almost immediately there was a meaningful clash of camans between Glen full forward Gregor McCormack and the Oban full back which was dealt with by referee Deke Cameron.
Within a few minutes Billy Urquhart had a chance to level but was crowded off the ball by the committed and determined Oban defence and then Eddie Tembo had a drive which flashed past the post. The breakthrough came in 38 minutes when Neale Reid latched on a ball out on the left , swivelled and fired a low drive on goal which was parried by Oban keeper Robert Dunnings. His push out however fell to the inrushing Billy Urquhart who snapped up the chance from close range to level the tie.
The rest of the half showed increased Glen activity but no further goals though that was not to last long when the second period got under way. Again it was Neale Reid who pushed a ball on the Oban goals and once more Billy Urquhart was on hand to fire it home from the edge of the D.
The next twenty minutes was seesaw stuff and the going for the Glen in the centreline began to get tough. Oban had their share up front at this point too but most of what came through on the goals to Smack was on the ground and tricky enough to clear but not the sort of thing to really bother a keeper of his class. He does the straightforward business so well –the balls are cleared upfield so far and so firmly- that it is too easy to take him for granted. Also on the money were John Barr-the Wing Centre’s view is that he has been the player of the season- and Stuart Reid who had an equally sound game and so well did these guys play that while Oban ran and hunted in the midfield Andy Corrigan and “Dixon” Maclennan generally stopped them playing effectively enough to make any difference to the score line.
The Glen finally got a winning grip on the game when Lewis Maclennan scored a trademark distance special from the centreline. It’s not like he does it occasionally-he pulled the same thing against Newtonmore the previous week- and over the years there has been no-one at the Club who has his natural accuracy with a stick. Playing further back, his strike ratio has fallen from a few years ago but if he gets on the ball then if he plays it simple and long, the keeper is always forced into action.
The Glen then brought on Calum Miller and it wasn’t long before the big forward sealed the game. Once again it was Neale Reid who made the chance but the finish from Miller was top drawer-he controlled the ball, turned inside and drilled it low past Dunnings to make it number 4 with 20 minutes to go.
There were other chances but Oban were in determined mood and a fierce strike from the left by Scott Macmillan pulled one back for them. However, as it turned out it was, to recoin a cliché, too little too late and the Glen were content to hang on bringing on Iain Macdonald to shore up the defence. The big man did the business- and the Glen finished their Premier League season at Blairbeg with a win.
Yet there was unease at the end. The Glen did not appear to play all that well as a team despite some excellent individual displays. One of those individuals who put in a performance was Mr Reid (the senior junior) though his mam would have liked the snap better if he had taken out his mouth guard.

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