Friday, March 25, 2011

Drawing with Drew

Glenurquhart 0 Kingussie 0

A pleasant day with a bit of warmth in it provided you did not stand in front of the pavilion out of the sun-a perfect day for shinty,but with Kingussie arriving for their first visit of the season,it was always going to be a testing day as well. Certainly the last time the sides played Glen came out on top 2-1– and while no one wants to denigrate a victory the bottom line was that Kings did not need to win that day. The League had already been won by Newtonmore–and the Glen was safe for another Premier season.
Saturday was different in every way. Kingussie had come off a comprehensive home win over Lovat while Glen had succumbed to Fort William in the opening day fixture without, so far as reports returning from An Aird indicated, looking as if they were ever going to do much. So whatever the media might have thought and despite the home advantage Kingussie went into the game as favourites.
Absent of course was Ronald Ross-a damaged ankle will keep him out till the Cup campaigns start-and also missing was Lee Bain : Glen were without Davie Girvan and Ruaraidh Cameron while, on the morning of the match the management had to send home Paul Mackintosh who was suddenly taken ill. Indeed such was the pre-match gloom in the ranks of the spectators that they welcomed the sight of Kevin Thain in the Kingussie ranks. “At least when he’s here” went the comment, “he cannot be scoring a barrow load against Hendo’s boys on the Dell” It was a curious crumb of comfort to clutch-yet clutched it was.
It was Jimmy Gow who first noticed what was different.
“Is that Drew MacNeill over there with Jim Barr and the Glen boys?”
You can’t fool Jimmy, given that he’d been head to head with Drew numerous times in all sorts of senior finals and so it was as well to admit that it was indeed Drew and that he was helping out Glen in a coaching capacity.
“Good idea,” said Jimmy.
A fair enough endorsement from a man who always had the vision to look beyond the local if it was in the best interests of the club. He had the foresight to accept Oban’s Fraser Inglis into the Kingussie fold–and decisions like that can be tricky in a sport which prides itself on its community roots.
In point of fact, MacNeill’s position in the club is as yet informal but in the absence this year of big Ron Fraser, for the last week or two he has helped out with training and acted as an assistant to first team manager Jim Barr. A double bonus in every way-the side benefits from his input and MacNeill himself gets the opportunity to keep his hand in at coaching as well as getting a look at all the Premier League’s best players over the course of the season.
But is he a Glenner? Of course! As a Lochaber man he has a perfect right to be called a Glenner. After all his Lochaber ancestors spent 500 years raiding the Glen for cattle–and it is more than probable that in his veins flows the blood of the ”Gille Dubh nam Mart” the Lochaber man who was fostered in the Glen in the reiving times. It wouldn’t do to push the comparison too far-the Gille Dubh had his flaws- but for those who are interested in such old Highland tales, Mackay’s “Urquhart & Glen Moriston” is worth a wee look.
The match itself merits some attention because of how it panned out. With only one sub to roll, Glen were never going to have much by way of tactical ploys to outwit Kingussie’s own group of strategists - but by and large the defence stuck to its task and over the piece restricted Kingussie to just a few chances. There were two major scares late in the second half-Fraser Munro was left clear on the left hand side and his shot fired back off the post and finally of course there was the penalty.
Given away perhaps a little unnecessarily by Stuart Mackintosh when he brought down a Kingussie forward, it was well saved by the same fellow. Kevin Thain hit it hard-ish but perhaps a little high and too near to a keeper who has top class reflexes. A quick flick of the wrist and thankfully it went past the post.
At the other end, early misses from Neale Reid and Eddie Tembo kept Glen from imposing their will on Kingussie and a couple of excellent saves from Borthwick-one in particular down by his left hand post from youngster Fraser Heath – also kept Glen at bay. For the most part, however it was a tense competitive game and the Glen midfield-in the Wing Centre’s humble opinion- shaded it. Arran Macdonald, Eddie Tembo and John Barr did the business though at times it looked tough. The defence were fine–and Stuart Reid managed to handle Thain reasonably well, the trick being to prevent him getting in a strike on goal. On the one or two occasions he did have a drive he certainly showed ferocious power in the shot-though by good fortune his aim was off. The one occasion in the first half when he might have done something, Thain imagined himself to have less time than he actually did and his rushed shot lifted up and over the bar.
The plus side for the Glen was that the side kept its shape and coherence: the minus side is that though Glen created chances they did not put them away. We were certainly playing against a good defence:goalie Andrew Borthwick and defenders Ally Macleod and James Hutchison are as good as you get- but there is a need for a cutting edge. A side like ours needs a 20 goal a season man-the modest nature of this ambition only becomes clear when you consider Ronald Ross’s annual stats-but until that fabulous figure appears……????
Did Drew’s partnership with Jim make a difference? In as much as there was a more coherent feel to the side than was apparent in the previous game, it certainly seemed to do the trick.
This week we face Kilmallie in the MacTavish at Canal Park: not an easy gig but then again the guys have to stick to the game plan through thick and thin because from the perspective of the club it’s not this week that really matters. Whatever happens the focus has to be on the positive.

The week’s pic is of Dave Smart coming off at the end of the 90mins. What with the snow on Drumbuie behind him ,if it were taken with a real camera it would have been an iconic shinty snap- but then again that sort of status requires at least a win over Kingussie.

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