League Honours Even at Blairbeg
Glenurquhart 1 Lovat 1
If there is any pleasure to be had from a shinty match against old rivals it is usually not derived from the quality of the play on the field. This match was no exception in that the game as it was actually played filled the black and red spectators in the St Drostan’s stand with so much anxiety that enjoyment was not the word that immediately sprang to mind. It was the classic four pointer which is a way of saying that the points taken from Lovat were doubly precious- as much as for the fact that any damage done to the black and whites was every bit as valuable as whatever progress was going to be made by the Glen. The pleasure in the fixture however comes about because the rivalry between the spectators is friendly and relaxed-full of banter and good humour which is part of the package that the ancient game brings with it everywhere except perhaps in Oban-or maybe it is like that there too only the accent hides it away.
It would be nice however if the Glen had been able to score goals commensurate with the amount of possession and territory they enjoyed in this match. For the first half the Glenners appeared to be camped up at “Sandy Whytes” for most of the 45, weaving pretty patterns of possession but never quite being able to work the ball wide enough past Martin Bell ,the Lovat full back ,to have a decent shot on goal. The Glen started tremendously well- as always- and the first strike of note came from the left where youngster Ewan Brady got an early drive on target only to find Lovat keeper, Stuart Macdonald in his normal fine form. Indeed such was the Glen pressure in that opening period that it actually took Lovat 14 minutes to mount an attack on the Glen goal and when they did it was a timely reminder that they are a pretty useful bunch in front of goal- and they forced a corner which like most corners in most games came to nothing.
For all their territorial dominance the Glen appeared to be unable to get strikes on target from close range though Calum Miller came close on one occasion but it was not until the 30th minute that keeper Macdonald was forced to pull off a truly excellent save tipping a Lewis Maclennan drive from the right over the bar.
Shortly after this Glen’s Eddie Tembo, who had been on the receiving end of shall we say rather enthusiastic Lovat defending, was booked for reacting to provocation. A few minutes later matters were evened up however when Lovat’s Drew Howie found himself in Ref Graham Cameron’s book for continuing to disobey the rules particularly in regard to back charging.
The first half ended with the Glen still on top though just on the whistle the predatory skills of Lovat’s Greg Matheson were in evidence when he whipped home a ball which had come carelessly out from the Glen defence. Fortunately for the Glen the goal was disallowed because one of the other Lovat forwards had remained inside the D – and therefore offside- after the initial attack.
The second half was to Glen eyes more of the same with again the first action of note being an accurate drive from Ewan Brady which Macdonald dealt with coolly. If there was a clear message from the Glen attacks it was that for whatever reason the forwards were slow to follow up on the initial strike once it had been stopped by the Lovat keeper. Eddie Tembo began to become more of a threat at this point and his shooting began to be more menacing until finally in the 69th minute he gathered in a ball just outside the D and fired home an unstoppable drive from close range.
And that should have been it- but the Glen defence – who had Ally Mackintosh booked for encroaching at a foul took their eye off the ball –literally- and allowed Lovat winger James Macpherson to waltz through one handed and level the game in the 71st minute.
The goal it must be said was greeted with particular disappointment in the Glen because young James has a strong Glen connection, his father Alan being a former wearer of the black and red and indeed one of the legends of the ’77 side which won the Strathdearn . To lose such a goal to such a scorer at such a time in the match is hard indeed but perhaps some revenge may be extracted by publicising the young man’s Glen connections. It should certainly guarantee him a frosty reception in the Lovat camp the next time he turns up at Balgate. If they would only teach him to keep both hands on the stick!
One feature of the match worth commenting on was the consistency with which Referee Graham Cameron penalised the push from behind. This is a foul which is not always picked up by refs at the highest level but if it is done so consistently it should make for a more attack orientated game and will force defenders to play in front of their forwards. The experience however in other matches is that back charging of a more subtle kind is an offence which is all too easy to get away with especially given the fact that refs are perhaps quite far away from the backs-full and wing – who perpetrate this offence. Cameron’s application of this rule changed the pattern of the game for the better- and he is to be commended though it might be an idea if Camanachd Development manager Graham Cormack reminded the rest of the Premier League refs to apply this rule equally vigorously
So the game ended 1-1 and if the Glen are to take any small comfort from it, they have to remind themselves that at least they have taken 3 points out of 4 from Lovat and the closeness of the encounter suggests that the Camanachd Cup encounter on the 22nd of May at Blairbeg will be at the very least competitive.
The main figure in the picture is of Dave “Dixie” Maclennan back after taking a clatter on the foot against Oban- but look in the background- what is that huddle of Kiltartans proud up to? You can bet it will not be good.