Friday, April 20, 2012

Smart work gives Glen the points in Fort while youngsters do the business at Blairbeg.

Going up Balmacaan Road last Saturday at the back of half past four, the Wing Centre made a call to Astie Cameron in his office at Alton Towers to let him know that the young black and red D-Dodgers had beaten Fort William 2-1 in a game that should have been more comfortable than in fact it turned out to be. “You’ll have heard about how the game at the Fort went,” said Astie.
Of course the Glen had heard-the score was 4-2- and when we had last found out about the course of the game, Fort had been winning just before half-time, so there could have been no doubt about how the game would have turned out in the end. Not only that but everyone knew that Ruaraidh Cameron had been injured early on and was off to the Belford-so the mood was lowish.
“A good win for your boys,” said Astie.
“Very funny Astie-April 1st is long past”
and with that the phone was switched off and the Wing Centre went off home to reflect on the second team and to mark down the names of Cameron Maclennan , Jack Hosie , Bradley Dickson and Donald Fraser in his “Little Book of Excellent Performances”.
It certainly was a good result at Blairbeg even if the score was a little tighter than it should have been – and that was all to the good given that two of the young lads Ewan Menzies and Euan Lloyd had travelled with the top team to Fort William while Calum Miller and Drew Maclennan were also unavoidably absent. In the event however, Glen mounted an attack right from the start and provided all the early pressure, which to be fair Fort William handled quite well. Eventually however the breakthrough came in 17 minutes when after a corner from Calum Smith on the right , Glen front man Calum Fraser forced a save out of Fort keeper Cal Brown. The ball however broke to Jack Hosie and he rattled it home for the opener.
At this stage Hosie was on top form and his sure first touch out on the right was creating confusion in the Fort defence as he controlled, then moved balls forward into Daniel Mackintosh and Calum Fraser. Fort goalie Brown dealt well with the pressure which included a fine save from a drive by Daniel Mackintosh which he deflected by for a corner. The second Glen counter was a little unfortunate for him however when a long goal-bound shy from Ross MacAulay bounced awkwardly just in front of him and though he stopped the ball with his palm he had no time to get it away before Calum Fraser was in quickly to pop it in the net.
Within a few minutes Hosie had fired the ball into the net for a third time but the strike was rather harshly ruled out by ref Ronnie Campbell for a kick. So far the crowd had seen little of Fort William as an attacking force because not only was the Glen midfield trio of Calum Smith, Iain Macleod and Ross MacAulay extremely strong but also because buckshee back Bradley Dickson was having an exceptional afternoon. He was reading the game well and his speed allied to his first touch meant he was always ahead of the attacker.
Just as well Brad was in form however for the Glen were to really need his services in the final part of the second half. Before that however Glen had thrown away two glorious chances to increase the lead when first Calum Fraser put the ball over the bar from close in and then Daniel Mackintosh fired a penalty attempt wide.
That marked something of a turning point in the pressure and Fort as they were always going to, came into things more as the afternoon passed. Glen keeper Cameron Maclennan pulled off a series of good stops before Fort’s Graham Campbell pulled on back to put his side in with a shout.
Manager Victor Smith, revered throughout the shinty world for his pace and his delicate skills up front, then introduced Fort shinty legend big Addie Robertson as right wing forward. Sometimes if the job is big enough the craftsman has to use a crowbar – and all the Mums and Dads in the Glen crowd were scared for a moment- but Addie knows all about context and linked in with the rest of the Fort forwards nicely despite the fact he probably hasn’t played up front since he was in Primary 7.
Fort had a bit of territory by this stage and Calum Smith was called back into the back line to help out but central to the Glen’s success in this department was the display of full back Donald Fraser. From having had nothing to do in the first half he was unbeatable in the last 15 minutes and his long hitting out of defence relieved the pressure on several occasions. It wasn’t all one way though and the Glen launched further attacks of their own at least one of which might have been worthy of a goal when with 10 minutes to go Rory Maclean latched on to a ball out on the left and cut it back across the goals but Calum Fraser’s resultant drive whizzed narrowly past the post.
Glen held on – and there is nothing further to report- except one little scene at the top end before Addie decided to go back into defence to thwart the danger of late Glen attacks. Out on the bowling green side where the grass is lush Addie slipped and fell with the ball lying right in front of him. Wing-back Ross MacDiarmid who had a fine game throughout lifted up his club but held back the swing and looked over at ref Ronnie Campbell : he was awarded a free hit. These are the sort of sporting touches which shinty needs - and too often does not get.
So that was it- a win but truthfully it should have been more convincing and if that had been the only Glen win of the day it would have been fine but surprise surprise it wasn’t.
Up in the house just after five the Wing Centre opened up the Camanachd’s results e-mail attachment. Wowsers! Glen had won: Astie had not been trying a wind-up-he had indeed been genuine!! There was nothing for it but to put the tea in the oven and head off to the pub to await the return of the heroes. Eventually they made it- and they brought with them a tale of boldness and bravery of the sort that Glenners must have told after they had returned from cattle raids in days of yore. They had won 4-2. They had even taken an early lead when ball forward from Andrew Macdonald to Neale Reid tempted Neil Robertson into playing it clear of goal with the club only to find that the ball deflected past Paul Mackay into the net for the opener.
Of course Fort fought –literally in at least one case though least said etc…and they came back with two goals of their own, the first when Garry Innes fired a low shot past Glen keeper Stuart Mackintosh and then when Ryan Campbell shot past Stuart Reid’s attempted block to let Fort have a 2-1 lead. The driving force for Glen was half forward David Smart who put in a brave and committed performance and who despite taking a ball in the face which broke several teeth and a club on the head which required stitching refused to come off- and was rewarded with two goals the first coming just before half-time when he picked up a loose ball, drove forward and fired it high into the net past keeper Paul Mackay.
The Glen management pushed the centreline forward on the smallish Black Park – and though Fort dominated somewhat in the initial period of the second half the tactics eventually came good when Glen grabbed two goals.
The first came from that man Smart when he fired the ball home from a tight area and the second from Neale Reid a few moments later when blasted a shot in from close range. Glen were then awarded a penalty when Duncan Rodgers was judged guilty of double swinging but Paul Mackay made a good reaction save from what was a soundly struck shot by Neale Reid. Both young subs were used –Ewan Menzies put in a good shift right from the start when he replaced the injured Ruaraidh Cameron who had to leave the field in side five minutes after taking a blow on the head. Euan Lloyd also made an impact in the last 10 minutes or so when having replaced the injured Neale Reid he saw his shot whistle just past the post. The third bench player Billy Urquhart got the last half hour, played well, almost scored and altogether looked to have been untroubled by the injury that has restricted his appearances this season.

However, the winning of two valuable points away from home only serves to rub in the fact that others were carelessly dropped at Blairbeg to Inveraray and Kinlochshiel. As for players Saturday saw the team also play without the Bute hero Arran Macdonald who was down with a virus, Fraser Heath (broken hand) Paul Mackintosh (broken hand) Dave Maclennan (knee) and Dave Girvan- not to mention Ruaraidh Cameron who played no part after five minutes. Of these both Paul Mackintosh and Dave Girvan will be out long term but it would be nice for once to have a full squad. Goodness knows who else will be missing for the Beauly game but even with a full team they will be out to prove something against the Glen especially over in Calderville especially after them not doing so well in their last two games. Glen need to start well and make sure they keep an eye on both Jamie Maclennan and Barry Macdonald only two of whole group of Beauly players who would walk into most Premier sides.
Make no mistake about it Beauly are a big banana skin and Glen have to watch where they are putting their feet.

Pictures are from Neil Paterson– except the one of Cameron Maclennan. Can’t you tell? The focus is on David Smart who was man of the match v Fort. Liam Girvan features in the other while Drew and Fraser must be worth a snap after Saturday. Is that a wee smile? Let’s hope it lasts.

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