Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Tough test for Glen in opener.

Glenurquhart 3 Kilmallie 2
Skye 3 Glenurquhart 0 (Seconds)

If you are going to choose a windy day to start the Shinty season, it is as well to choose one which is dry-though reports from Argyll indicating that the Inveraray /Kyles match had been pulled for weather conditions certainly proved that it wasn’t dry everywhere. That is also what Iain Macleod’s squad for Skye found out to their cost when they finally penetrated the rain curtain which was tightly dawn over the Island of Mist. But that’s another story.
Back at Blairbeg the top squad squeezed out a win in a match they made harder than they ought to have. Certainly they were light, in as much as both Ruaraidh Cameron and Neale Reid were absent on the day, as a result of injuries and it could be argued they were missed. Kilmallie too were without one of their own forwards ,Michael Rodgers ,who picked up a ban for the start of the season. Doubtless there were one or two others absent-there always are – but Kilmallie seemed to possess the most effective forward on the day in the person of Liam Macdonald-but more of that later.
Glen started powerfully and within five minutes had carved open the ‘Mallie defence when David Smart, who has had an excellent pre-season spell in midfield, fed the ball through to John Barr. He knocked it back to Lewis Maclennan who fired a tremendous drive on goal which was somehow stopped by Kilmallie keeper Kevin Toye. From the resulting corner however some slackness in the Kilmallie defence allowed John Barr time to hammer home the opener in just on 4 minutes.
The loss of an early goal was probably hard on keeper Toye because he was –despite one costly second half slip-at his best in this match and he needed to be.
Kilmallie held on during early Glen attacks and gradually began to come more and more into the match particularly building from the midfield and bringing front man John Stewart more and more into the picture. He was though tightly marked by fullback Stuart Reid and although the Kilmallie man tried to force the pace the nearest he came was a drive that went past Glen keeper Stuart Mackintosh’s left hand post. However the mood in the Glen camp changed abruptly in 21 minutes when defensive slackness allowed Liam Macdonald to fire the ball home for the Kilmallie equaliser. A good finish certainly- but slicker tidying up at the back would have prevented the strike.
Glen pressed at the other end however but Toye had his eye in and he was equal to two further attempts on goal. A rocket shot from distance by Lewis Maclennan looked to be heading for the top corner, but Glen full-forward John Barr stopped the ball in the air and the Kilmallie net was preserved intact.
Further drives from Maclennan and Smart were also stopped by Toye just before the interval and just when you thought the sides would go in 1-1 at half time, the Glen struck, probably against the run of play. The ball was hit forward by Lewis Maclennan, played across by John Barr and with the defence out of position youngster Fraser Heath kept a cool head and tapped the ball home from close range to put the Glen in with a 2-1 interval lead.
As they queued for the half time scoff, it was hard to guess which group of supporters felt more uneasy especially given the reports of crazy scores coming from elsewhere in shinty’s small parish. It seemed in particular that the sky had fallen in all over Badenoch what with Shiel having beaten Kingussie and Lovat storming ahead at the Eilean.
After all the banter is cleared out of the way the Wing Centre would like to record that Kilmallie certainly looked sharp- and their hitting was cleaner- but the Glen forwards in the first period had made the Kilmallie keeper work harder than their own man though that is sometimes hard to bear that in mind when your heart was in your mouth every time the Kilmallie front men got onto the ball.
Glen did not manage to hold onto that lead for long however because just after the restart Kilmallie equalised through Macdonald when he capitalised on another sloppy Glen clearance.
That was the pattern of the rest of the match- it was tight and it was competitive and also played in a good spirit- and nothing separated the sides except the winning Glen goal which came in the 72nd minute via Eddie Tembo.
Netbuster? Even Eddie says it was a dirtbuster and you have to feel sorry for the keeper who had also graced the second half with a number of neat saves though the Glen accuracy rate fell off somewhat as the afternoon progressed and the wind developed. Either the keeper made a mistake or was deceived when the ball took a bobble off the hard shop-end ground. Both are possible: Mr Toye will know which he prefers. Anyway it gave the Glen a lead which they just about deserved – and ultimately a victory which they also just about deserved.
Kilmallie’s shooting? Less accurate than the Glen despite Liam Macdonald’s two counters– and they will probably rue the fact that late in the second half they blasted at least three shots over and wide when Mr Morrison, their boss, would have wanted them at least to make the Glen keeper work.
Verdict? Two teams that will have to do better if they want their names on a trophy this season. No doubt they will play better in the better weather: they usually do- but then so will everyone else. It is still too early to call but with Lovat and Kinlochshiel taking two points each from the Badenoch big two, then there might actually be senior trophies up for grabs to sides beyond the favoured few this year. One shall see - but better to have the two points than not.

Up on the ‘Park of Heroes’ the reserve side found the going wet and heavy. It wasn’t helped by the fact that they had to leave Ross MacAulay and Calum Fraser, two of their most experienced lads, behind with the sickness bug. Jack Hosie missed out too while player/manager Iain Macleod had to come off the field in 20 minutes because he felt unwell. That said, the lads dug in and made it to half time only one goal down-though the main disappointment was that the side were unable to score the chances they created.
An injury to James Hurwood further upset the side and in the end two further goals were conceded. However the management squad were delighted with the attitude commitment and effort from all of the players-in particular Donald Fraser at full back who was strong in the tackle and gave the whole game 100 %. The big man also takes care of his team mates and is sure to have a big influence on the side this season if he keeps clear of injury. Ross MacDiarmid, Drew Maclennan and Ewan Lloyd also shone for the Glen while David Girvan who made the trip to Skye at short notice also impressed with his attitude and it was good to see him getting in a full game after such a long spell of injury.

The pictures? Eddie explains to Drew that he deliberately tried a ground shot to beat Kilmallie. Drew looks as if he can’t quite believe him but congratulates him anyway. The other shot? The guys after the match wondering how they got away with that.

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