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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Saturday, March 19, 2011

All Snow and No Show-will the real Fraser Mackenzie please stand up?

Lochaber more Glen Urquhart 1

“I see Fraser Mackenzie’s back on the score sheet again”
“I heard that. It must be the first one he’s hit since about 1985”
The Wing Centre pricked up his ears. The conversation was taking place on the other side of the bread shelves in the VG-except it’s not the VG now but the Co-op and the D dare not breathe its name because that would be advertising and for that to happen someone has to reply to a letter from Russell Fraser. The speakers so far as he could make out from the voices were male and local though one of them had those high Highland tones that you associate with someone from Kingussie.
By the time he’d got up to the end of the aisle, pushing past pensioners queuing for their bread ration, and peeped round to see who was talking there was no sign of anyone other than a few strangers from Culanloan who were unable to help because on questioning they didn’t know who Fraser Mackenzie was.
The news of the goal scorer’s identity was intriguing. Doubly so because if it really was the Fraser Mackenzie who scored in 1985 then that would be a surprise since that chap very rarely got on the score sheet even in real time when he actually had a chance to get on the score sheet. He did however score one goal that really mattered- and that was further back in history, the spring of 1984 to be exact, when the Glen surprised Scottish champions Newtonmore by beating then 2-1 at the Eilean in their Weatherseal Double-glazing League Division 1 Match. This was the first time that the Glen had beaten Newtonmore at this venue since the club turned senior in 1963 and the narrative went as follows. “After a goalless first half Newtonmore took command early in the second half and opened the scoring in the 60th minute through John Fraser (who was he one wonders?)The Glen withstood some further ‘More pressure before Fraser Mackenzie equalised. This pepped them up and they gradually took control. With three minutes left Martin English snatched a sensational winner” For those of a curious disposition it is as well to record that the headline stated “English gives Glens cause to celebrate” One assumes the plural was used because all the neighbouring Glens - including Glen Cannich and Glen Affric- were equally delighted at the defeat of the Champs by a neighbouring side.
Intrigued at the existence of this iconic goal–written off by the media through the use of the word “equalised” and intrigued that such a veteran should still be scoring in 2011 the Wing Centre phoned up the man in question to enquire as to both matters.
First that goal-;
“It was a cold windy day up on the moor. Indeed at one point a shed blew across the field and from the noise it appeared that there were still hens inside. The ball came to me between the buckshee and wing centre positions and I had my back to goal. I turned and hit it first time but knowing it was Hughie Chisholm in goal I deliberately mistimed the shot causing it to bounce along the ground. Everyone knew in those days you could never beat Hughie with a real shot. You had to be crafty.
Then Martin grabbed the winner and the rest is Glen history.
They went mental and that was the first time that I noticed that Newtonmore guys also speak in high voices.”
And what about the Lochaber game?
“I wasn’t playing. In fact the last time I scored against Lochaber, wee McGregor was full back."

So it wasn’t him. It was an altogether different Fraser Mackenzie who scored against Lochaber-and goal keeper Garry Mackintosh provided some details of the way the game had gone.
Playing and adapting well to the snow, Lochaber got some easy goals which can never be reported in the “D” because Gazza M wasn’t willing to say what they were like. Glen had chances themselves but were unable to convert them.
Glen then went in at half time 1-1 because-a familiar phrase-“Fraser Mackenzie equalised”
Then the second half happened in the snow-and Lochaber won-simple as.

And what about this new Fraser Mackenzie?
The Glen have strict rules-indeed rules which are more convoluted than those required to play for Scotland itself.
There Garry was able to provide re-assurance. It seems Fraser actually is a Glenner. Analysis of his mitochondrial DNA has indicated that his mother hails from Bunloit and that by picking up a black and red bound Tanera (product placement-forgot to check with Russ?) he is merely coming home to his mother club.

Garry was also able to provide further re-assurance about other signings. Liam Girvan is a Glenner obviously because there have been Girvans in Corriemony and throughout the Great Glen for hundreds of years–stands to reason he’s a Glenner.
And Fraser Heath ?
His first name is Fraser-what other proof is required? Garry is so logical and his mother was also a Fraser.

Saturday sees Kingussie in the Glen and Garry is off to that ancient burgh with the seconds.
“I’m fair looking forward to hearing all those friendly high pitched voices once again” he said. “but what’s with that particular vocal inflection ?”
The Wing Centre pondered on the question.
“ Nobody really understands but the phenomenon has been known about in Drum ever since The Glen fell into the hands of the Grants back in 15oatcake when the king gave them the castle and orders to keep down the Macdonalds. Waste of time – the Grants are gone but the Macdonalds still play shinty for the Glen. The theory is though that because they live on the High Chaparral, Badenoch guys adapt their vocal chords to the thinner air pressure thus causing them to squeak. That’s my theory whatever”
“Pity they did not play shinty as if they had squeaky voices?” said Garry.

Pity indeed!

In the photo Whytie welcomes the new Fraser Mackenzie – and reads his palm. The omens are better than they were.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Glenurquhart 4 Fort William 7

It was a much changed Glen team that went out this week for the start of the League proper compared with the side that performed against the pride of Ross-shire last weekend. This week Hendo and Mike welcomed back to the fold Gary Smith, Gregor McCormack and Iain Macleod. Drew Maclennan made his first appearance of the season alongside his brother Lewis while Fraser Mackenzie (formerly of Lochcarron) and Craig Cameron were on the bench. Absent were Ewan Lloyd –out with a knee strain – Donald Fraser, Brad Dickson and Jack Hosie.
The top side down at the Fort had also made some depredations on Hendo’s pool of available livestock while the youngsters who performed well against Cabers were deemed as just too wee to be risked against Victor Smith’s Fort William team. The Fort side certainly does contain many youngster but most are in the upper teenage age group and as such probably just too mature for the Glen to compete against. However, James Hurwood started the match as did Rory Maclean and Cameron Maclennan while Lachlan Smith was on the bench with the two veterans.
With a low sun troubling the young Fort keeper, Glen started strongly firing up towards “Sandy Whyte’s” end and Daniel Mackintosh looked lively on what was an uneven surface. On a number of early occasions he attempted to nip the ball forward but the Fort backs were slick – and the pressure came to little. However Glen did go ahead in 12 minutes when a long drive from Lewis Maclennan dropping out of the sun deceived the Fort keeper who let it bounce past him into the net for the opener.
Veteran Michael Slezas equalised however within 5 minutes and the strike was no more than the Fort deserved though truthfully their front men did have a tendency to overplay the ball, a luxury that this year’s Glen side given the absence of Kelvin Mackenzie and Ewan Brady can no longer afford.
However the Glen centreline continued their barrage of high balls on the Fort goal and in 25 minutes Daniel Mackintosh having quickly switched wings broke wide on the right and played a nice ball across the front of the D but Fraser Mackenzie was unable to convert the chance.
Lewis Maclennan however sent another high ball in –this time on the goal- and as the ball broke back off the keeper, Billy Urquhart was on hand to ram home the rebound.
Next it t was Fort’s turn then to break away and a fine drive from youngster Ewan Campbell made the game even at 2-2. Parity did not last long however because ref Ronnie Campbell judged Glen defender Gary Smith to have kicked the ball and from the resulting penalty Daniel Stewart sent Fort William in at half time with a 3-2 lead.
Glen restarted the second period with a bang and within 5 minutes of the restart Billy Urquhart had helped himself to a second and brought the game back level. Better was still to come when in the 62nd meeting Gregor McCormack finally got a quality strike on target to put the red and blacks in the driving seat. And there they should have stayed.
Indeed Glen even looked for a while as if they would actually add to their lead and pressed hard but without coherence up front they found the Fort defence unwilling to yield. However it took a bit of careless play starting with the concession of a foul just about the penalty spot to let Fort back into the game. From the free hit the ball was touched to Daniel Stewart and with the marking not tight enough to matter he fired the ball past Garry Mackintosh in the Glen goals. There were precisely 70 minutes on the clock.
The game moved on for a further 15 minutes with any further score though it was clear to all that Fort were becoming stronger while the Glen defence and midfield were finding that the fitness and speed of their Fort counterparts gradually enabled then to get the upper hand. The games finished on a grim note with three late Fort goals - in the 84th 85th and 87th minutes- and without a marvellous reaction save by Garry Mackintosh of an Iain Macleod deflection the result could have been more embarrassing.
For the record the Fort William scorers were Daniel Stewart, who completed his hat trick, youngster Jack Fraser and veteran Michael Slezas.
Looking back on the game, it is more than probable that inexperience on the field in a variety of positions and perhaps too cavalier a desire to push men forward late on when perhaps the defence should have been shored up to protect what we had, led to a Glen defeat the size of which the first 83 minutes of play certainly did not warrant.
Still , it’s reserve shinty life but not as we have known it over the past three years. Let’s hope we don’t have to get used to it.
There is no intention of commenting on the first team match except to say that Ed had an excellent game – and he is still looking good in training.

Two photos this week- main one being Glenners leaving the field a little despondent. The Wing Centre? Didn’t even bother going down to the Loch Ness Inn for a plate of soup.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Disappointing Day at Blairbeg for Henderson the Strain King

Glenurquhart 3 Caberfeidh 3+

Have to say that Hendo had a hard job getting a squad together for this match and in the end he put a side out that did OK considering Cabers were able to bring some senior players along for the afternoon. Not that Cabers planned it that way-they had a friendly postponed and merely took along some extra guys for an afternoon safari in Monsterland. Most importantly they took along Archie the Goalie and he always makes a difference.
So Hendo was most certainly under strain getting a side together and for the second time in two weeks as well-if reports are correct last week’s 2-2 with Boleskine was also accomplished with a depleted squad. Not to worry-you play with that you’ve got – and so far as the Wing Centre could judge Hendo unearthed a fair bit of child talent in the village. The young boys all played well and tried hard- indeed not since they stopped putting kids up chimneys have so many youngsters worked so hard for so little reward.
The start was promising however. In 5 minutes Ross MacAulay got on to the ball out on the right and fired a hard low shot on target that managed to elude the attentions of the Cabers goalie and put the Glen one up. For the next spell the match was bitty but evenly contested with the Glen youngsters James Hurwood and Sam Maclean playing sensible shinty while they were still fresh. Both got to the ball first and moved it on without giving their opponents a chance to tie them up in tiring tackles.
In 20 minutes Daniel Mackintosh –the only one of last year’s crop of youngsters on the field- got the ball under control, zipped past two defenders but his shot flew wide of the post. Five minutes later the same thing happened- and it was encouraging for the Glen support that he was able to get on to the ball and go clear of the defence.
Cabers Mark Macdonald then levelled the scoring with a fine drive and his team mate Ian Macdonald put Cabers ahead after he pounced on a rebound from Glen keeper Gary Mackintosh who had done well to save the first attempt.
Glen managed an equaliser just before the halftime break when teenager Rory Maclean picked up the ball on the left, rode a heavy Cabers challenge before squeezing the ball inside to Mackintosh who hammered home an unstoppable shot. There were 44 minutes on the clock and the evidence was at this stage that Glen were well in with a shout of getting a result from the match.
The second half was different.
Scott Maclennan scored two goals –one after about 15 minutes sneaked in at the post while the other could be regarded as well worked. Then a long ball from Martin Macdonald increased the difference but Billy Urquhart then bagged one back for the Glen. Fort a short spell with Ian Macleod and Bradley Dickson putting in determined shift, things began to stabilise and young Lachlan Smith at left wing back soon showed that he too could play sensibly at second team level.
It was however too hard for the kids to keep hanging on and with young legs looking tired and heavy in the last ten minutes, Arran Ross fired a ball into the roof of the Glen net and then five minutes before the end veteran Alan Ross finding himself in space just outside the D caught the ball correctly and blasted home the final goal of the day. A nice goal indeed but from a Glen point of view-at the wrong end. Oh dear! What a pity! Never mind.
And we certainly don’t mind about the Skye game- a 4-2 for the homesteaders with Glen goals from Ruaraidh Cameron and Ally Mackintosh – and the absence of Stuart Mackintosh, Eddie Tembo and Davie Girvan. Glen provided a good first half display followed by a weak second half with errors which allowed Skye to score goals they should not have been allowed. The Sgiathanachs indicated that we were sporting in defeat-not a habit the Wing Centre would like to encourage!!
Just as well the Primary 5 boys made it to the final of the First Shinty Festival in Fort William on Saturday. They actually beat two Skye sides (south Skye and Portree) and Kingussie. On the same afternoon! Now that’s a habit to get used to.
The photo is of Rory Maclean at the end of Saturday’s encounter: he carries his caman in the same manner as his Maclean forebears carried their claymores.In the background Ross MacAulay and Lachlan Smith.

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