It could have been a day to forget- but in the end it was a night to remember. Or rather bits of were. Walking up the bumpy path from Lewiston to Balmacaan Road with the base of the Strathdearn in a coop bag along with a modest “cairry-oot”, the Wing Centre uncharacteristically mused on what actually had been, rather than his more natural subject of “what might have been.”
What actually had been was a win against Bute in a game where a loss or a draw would have left the side wondering what might happen in games yet to be played by other less trustworthy sides: as it was the two home points took the Glen clear of the relegation zone and up ahead of Lovat on goal difference. It set the seal on a season which saw Glen perform in an uneven manner throughout the season discarding points that really should have been gathered in and losing out on at least one occasion to a freaky goal.
Saturday saw a comfortable win - and it could have been more -but at the back of the Wing Centre’s mellow mind was the fact that Smack had saved the day by stopping two penalties-one from Hector Whitelaw in the first half and another from Roberto Zavaroni in the second. Though that was balanced by a save from Bute’s Kevin Queen of a Glen penalty by Neale Reid. It was that tight.
The 1 pm start did catch some of the lazier Glenners having a late Saturday lie in but when Duncan Kelly threw the ball to start the action it was clear it was going to take both sides a while to settle. The opening encounters were nervy and not much worthy of record occurred until the 8th minute when Eddie Tembo fired in a rasper which was excellently saved by Bute’s keeper Queen. At the other end Bute had some pressure but nothing direct on goal until the penalty was awarded. Whitelaw struck his shot firmly enough but Smack was equal to the stop and more importantly killed the danger by firing the ball out over the bowling green for a shy.
That’s how you can tell the class of a keeper: it comes down to the way he clears his lines. Every premier keeper is a good shot stopper- the measurable difference comes in how they deal with the balls they stop. In this respect Smack had a superb afternoon: all these nasty little bouncy shots around the D with forwards following them up - and let’s face it shinty doesn’t do many forwards bigger than Hector Whitelaw unless you count Danny Macrae-were tucked by or volleyed wide despite the fact that the Glen keeper knew the incoming forwards were going to hit him anyway. He couldn’t afford an error: he simply didn’t make one.
The game swung from end to end until the 32 minute when Calum Miller playing well at full forward pulled in a ball tight to himself and slipped it left to Eddie Tembo who found the net with a nice strike. Bute were not to be outdone and with James Craig pushing them on at centre then mounted a series of attacks on the Glen goal none of which came to anything more serious than a number of corners. Glen then missed a penalty and Bute, heartened, upped their efforts. However, the Glen defence marshalled by Stuart Reid, who had an excellent afternoon against Hector Whitelaw, kept the Islanders at bay and the Wing Centre for one was relieved to hear the half time whistle while trying not to find a ball in the grass after it had been fired out into Sandy Whyte’s field for a corner.
Glen started the second half well and almost immediately after the restart Calum Miller had made it 2-0. “Game over,” thought the Wing Centre. “What we have we hold. Pull John Barr back to buckshee, concentrate on hammering the ball up long and not letting them through.”
But before these negative, Rangers-like thoughts were fully formed in the Wing Centre’s brain (if he possesses such an organ and there are those in relationships with him who contend that he doesn’t) Bute’s Robert Walker had won a ball on the right and finished excellently to make it 2-1.
Then Bute had their penalty saved , then Calum Miller had a sharp shot saved by Queen , and the game flowed on from end to end until in the 81st minute the unfortunate Bute defender Ian Macdonald, under pressure, directed the ball past his own keeper to make it 3-1. That was really it-though Paul “Mac” Mackintosh came on for the last two minutes to help run down the clock.
Apart from Smack, Stuart Reid, David Maclennan and Andrew Corrigan were top drawer though everyone played their part. As for Bute, they are a good side and it has to be said extremely sporting in a contest when with so much at stake, the temptation to swing the stick must have been strong. They must be reflecting however on the bitter truth that losing 4 points to the Glen in the one season is no way to safeguard Premier status.
And so it was a happy throng in red and black who went over Culnakirk to Prioryville. The thing was that when we got there we found the pitch going the wrong way-how the houses on the up side let that happen is hard to explain-and we had to park on the pavement. Then we found there wasn’t a programme- how were we to know who we were playing?
Truthfully there is little to say about this game except that both sides will agree that they did not play as well as they did in the Sutherland. Perhaps it was the earlier rain or perhaps the Beauly grass held up the ball but the wee flicks and touches which both sides pulled off at the Eilean were all but impossible at Braeview. Both sides were a player or two short but perhaps both sides were truer to the spirit of the whole campaign in their selections in which the kids predominated.
Lovat opened strongly and gave the Glen a few hairy moments at the start and racked up two or three corners all in a row while at the other end Kelvin Mackenzie managed to force a ball over the line but the goal was disallowed for offside. Then Glen’s Ruaraidh Cameron shot over the bar while up at the houses end Lovat’s Greg Matheson had the ball in the net- but only after the ref had already blown for an infringement.
Glen began to come into it here and with Ewan Brady switching to full centre after a lacklustre start on the wing the Glen began to fire on a few more cylinders. This in fact quickly paid off when after some neat interplay Kelvin Mackenzie ran in on goal in 35 minutes and, meeting a cross from the left from Ewan Menzies, flicked the ball past Chris MacCallum in the Lovat goal.
The second half saw the introduction of Ewan “Boo-Boo” Fraser initially at wing forward and pressure mounted somewhat on the Lovat goal and in 60 minutes a long high shot from Kelvin Mackenzie deceived Lovat keeper Chris MacCallum and crept over the line. You had to feel for the youngster but when you reflect that he won his club the Sutherland, then you cannot be too hard on him. Anyway the men in black and white had plenty time to get back in the match but they didn’t. At this point the Wing Centre went away to his car to phone Astie to see how the other matches were going, then he went off down to Beauly Square to have a look in Jock’s window knowing the man himself-freshly unbanned- was at the match. You can’t go when he is there in case he thinks you’re going to buy something- and you would be left with feelings of guilt if you didn’t.
Anyway when the Wing Centre returned to the field of battle, Glen were in defensive mode. “Boo Boo “ had been hauled back and along with fellow defenders Ian Macdonald, Donald Fraser , Ian Macleod , Gary Smith and Mackintosh the Shopkeeper were taking absolutely no black and white prisoners.
In fact the Wing Centre spent the last ten minutes blethering in a state of calm confidence with Ronnie Milligan, Coke Macdonald and Martin Maclean about life and shinty while they seemed to hint he should be worried. Not a bit of it: he came across as the coolest guy in Cooltown. The simple fact is that he was blissfully unaware that 5 minutes after Kelvin’s second goal, Greg Matheson had pulled one back and Lovat were in fact pushing for an equaliser. The two goal cushion did not exist except as a piece of misknowledge in the Wing Centre’s head.
In the end- well the Glen’s name is going on the Strathdearn 2010. Though it has to be said that while the 1962, 1972, 1977 numbers are on the old silver cup-there is no sign of 2002.
Still there’s a whole year to sort that out and meanwhile the club cat now has a new bowl from which to drink its milk.
Anyway, then we went to the Loch Ness Inn, then we went home-then we were sick.
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