Thursday, February 21, 2013

Strath Prove They Are No Duffers

Thank goodness those confrontations are out of the way for another year- and that Glen came out on top in both games. It’s hard to think that only a few short years ago things were totally different and Strath were the team in the Premier and Glen were pretending that they didn’t care.It always as well to maintain a little humility in all matters pertaining to shinty. Look at Lochcarron-less than ten years ago they had the best most athletic side they ever had: now they have been reduced to a single team in Division 3. Still ‘Glass did not go down that route. Having struggled to keep their dignity last session, they have brought aboard a new management team and re-signed Glen-born Scott Douglas from Inverness. Now they look as if they will be a match for most North Division 1 sides in the months ahead, always  provided they can keep all their players  fit-though the injuries to Mark Macleod and Donald Fraser in friendlies should remind us how thin player resources are in all rural areas. Worse still Strathglass still have not managed to get Seth Jones back on to the field after his nasty injury last season- and if he had been available along with Robbie Stokes and youngster Josh Fraser, new manager Calum Duff might have had some more options on his bench.
Still the Wing Centre is getting ahead of himself. This piece should properly start with a look at the Ali Ban result and at 6-0 Glen should be happy with the outcome though for a long time despite their superiority they failed to score the goals they ought to have.
Glen did go into this match admittedly with a good number of regular players not available :  Dunc Fraser, Brad Dickson and Calum Smith were away on the gallivant while Drew Maclennan was unwell. However, the re-appearance of big Donald Fraser at full-back plus David Girvan and Paul Mackintosh gave the side a rear-guard that most North Division 1 sides would find hard to penetrate especially when you consider that the other back was Ross MacDiarmid, a consistently good hitter whose distance strike is so good that the older guys step aside to allow him take the hit-outs.
Glen opened well and pushed forward and the early play between Calum Fraser, Euan Lloyd, Jack Hosie and James Hurwood was excellent but the early chances were not converted largely due to a mixture of carelessness, bad luck and some uncompromising Strath defending. Arran Redpath at full back had a sound game but the man who did most to defy the Glen front men was Strath’s new goalkeeper Josh Grant who always looked sharp- and truthfully if it were not for a spate of late goals lost, about which admittedly he could do little, he would have been in the frame for the man of the match award.
As it was Glen opened the scoring about 15mins in when Strathglass’s Lewis Douglas deflected the ball into his own net. Glen doubled their advantage with a superb strike from distance from manager Iain Macleod.
Glen should have killed off the game by this stage but they neglected to do so and were a little fortunate that their opponents who got into the game for the first time failed to convert either of the two decent chances they created for themselves.
Glen tightened their grip on the match in the second half particularly in as much as the defence began to break down the Strath attacks with more conviction and the centreline took control. The Strathglass defence held out for a bit with Lucy Macleod in particular winning the ball and moving it forward sensibly, in contrast to some of her fellow defenders who seemed to prefer getting involved in more physical play which ultimately led nowhere.
Glen centre man Ross MacAulay grabbed a good goal by pushing forward and rasping a shot high into the net –then Calum Miller bagged two, one of them an excellent drive from distance and the second fired low into the net from close. Miller has committed to serious training - and worked tirelessly and unselfishly all afternoon:  it was good to see him rewarded with two fine goals. Finally Calum Fraser who had also kept the attack going with energy and effort hit number six with an excellent shot from the tightest of angles.
At that point manager Iain Macleod decided to blood some of his young bench players and both Lachie Smith and Liam Robertson got some more experience of the big time under their belts.
A good result, and the Ali Ban retained – and youngster Euan Lloyd picked up the inaugural man of the match trophy which has been presented in memory of the late Russell Cameron, a stalwart of the Glen club as player and manager from the mid-70s until his untimely death in 2002 at the age of 44.
The Macdonald Cup match was, despite the 6-1 score line, a much sterner test than perhaps it should have been. Credit for this must go to the Strathglass management duo of Calum Duff and Innes Simpson and it took a considerable time before the Glen earned the right to feel comfortable in the match.

Glen had most of the play up front in the latter part of the first half and the Glen centreline did not really get a hold on the match in the manner that the home support had probably expected. The main reason for this was that Strathglass full-centre Innes Simpson had an excellent game particularly in the first half and he seemed to have enough time in the middle of the field to direct the two men on either side of him. Glen weren’t helped by an early injury to Arran Macdonald which upset the rhythm but gradually the Glen centres in particular Eddie Tembo came into more prominence and in 31 minutes David Smart put the Glen ahead from close range.
The game continued to be a tight affair and though Scott Douglas caused a bit of bother in the Glen defence Stuart Mackintosh was rarely troubled in the Glen goal. At the other end, though Ruaraidh Cameron and David Smart created lots of space the absence of the injured Neale Reid was obvious to all. Glen rang the changes bringing on Liam Girvan and James Macpherson in an attempt to gee-up matters , while Ewan Brady dropped back to put Simpson under pressure. An injury to Strathglass full back Donald Fraser – he tweaked a hamstring-then deprived Strathglass of a key defender at a crucial time in the game.
However despite that it took the Glen till the 60th minute to get a second and that came courtesy of Fraser Heath who bravely dribbled the ball through the defence before forcing it over the line.
With that score on the board Glen should have been comfortable but The Glasaich had other ideas and Stuart Mackintosh pulled off a couple of good saves from their determined forwards. Robert Geddes then nicked a ball back and shortly afterwards Gary Reid fired a penalty attempt over the bar.
Eventually Glen edged further ahead after an excellent cross field pass from Ruaraidh Cameron found James Macpherson at the back post and he knocked it home with a precise flick. A poor Strath hit-out then found John Barr free 15 yards from goal and he controlled the ball and turning his wrists to keep the ball low he fired it past the keeper to make it four.
‘Glass were on their knees by now but from a Glen point of view the best was yet to come. Ewan Brady who had put in a shift in the midfield moved into the front line and showed his class with two superb goals within a four minute spell: the first was a superb drive from all of 30 yards high into the net while for the second he juggled the ball over his head and smashed it first time past the demoralised Strath goalie for number six.
Fraser Heath picked up the Shewglie Trophy for man of the match: it was presented to him by former Lovat all-time great, Ally Macrae.
A disappointing final score for the visitors undoubtedly but the match certainly tested the resolve of a Glen squad which possibly approached the match not quite in the right frame of mind deny it though they might. Still a win is a win- and it was a derby game- and they are notoriously hard to call.
Whatever you can be sure that there will be sterner tests just down the road -one of them this Saturday when it would appear Glen are due to play Newtonmore in a friendly. Given that Glen are due to play them again in the Premier League the week after with both matches to be played up on the high moor, you have to ask the question why?

The pictures? The team ones are from the Wing Centre’s own Box Brownie, the snap of Euan Lloyd  and Russell’s family with the trophy also comes from the Wing Centre. The other one of Euan walking on air through the Strathglass defence comes courtesy of Tina Marshall ( and Neil Paterson ( provided the others of Fraser and Ally and Smack with Alan.
Big Donald ?He's a farmer:he's not going to sign for any cup unless he's sure its not broken.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Glen are back in Shinty Business-at last!

Quidditch is back – although serious competition for the sports Premier Prize does not commence for a week or two yet. However, on Saturday before a nice crowd of the faithful both Glen sides chalked up wins - of a sort certainly - but wins nevertheless. Personally the gap between the finish of one season and the start of another is just a little long and what a shame that the beginning of the shinty season seems to coincide with the point at which Scottish Rugby reaches its annual anti-climax as the national team endures its predictable losses to England ,Wales and Ireland. Why so? Because over recent years the spread of a unified culture throughout the land has tempted unwary teuchters to travel to Edinburgh believing that they have a stake in a game that ought to be as alien to them as - well Quidditch!
It will never win over the Wing Centre: in his heart he will support any team that defeats Scotland at rugby whether it be from a remote archipelago in the South Pacific or comprises a war-band chosen from amongst the Saxon hordes of the south. But how did the Wing Centre get deflected from discussing Saturday’s matches? No matter.
The main contest was between the Glen and our neighbours from Beauly.
Now Glenners like Beauly: it is hard to think like this but it has over recent decades morphed - one almost said “murphed”- into a bit of a poshac place with coffee-shops, art galleries, antique shops, the tweed shop, an optician and plenty free parking. It is a bit like Dornoch without the golf-course, but unlike Dornoch it has a pretty fair shinty team that should be in the Premier League if only they believed they should be.
Glen squeaked past them thanks to a second half goal from Fraser Heath - a well struck shot that came off a pass inside from Billy Urquhart - and though not even “Murph”  himself would have claimed his side should have drawn, nevertheless the Green’s boss man should be happy with his sides defensive performance. Full back Scott Macleod was excellent in that he did what he had to and did not moan at either ref or opponent: Blaine and Ross at the back also kept focus as did Mackay Murray in the goals. Over the course of the afternoon he pulled off about three really fine saves, which might indicate that the Glen forwards were a little over-elaborate , but then stopping the ball from going in the goals is what Mackay  is supposed to do.
Beauly were also without Connor Cormack who had sustained a nasty training injury a week or so back and it is a moot point as to what sort of difference  he might have made to the game but the fact that they also started without flu-victim Jack Macdonald did not help their cause.
Glen were without both Stuart and Neale Reid while James Macpherson is at present working away and could not participate but if you look at matters in the cold light of day this Glen side is as good a side as the red and blacks have put out on the field in recent times. Of course saying that is giving a bit of a hostage to fortune but with four men up front on Saturday such as Ruaraidh Cameron, Fraser Heath, David Smart and Liam Girvan to be bolstered by James Macpherson, Neale Reid and Ewan Brady then Glen have the potential for some pretty impressive forward play. That’s not even mentioning Andrew Corrigan and Lewis Maclennan who are also stick playing forwards to trade but who have been successfully converted to the defence.

Blairbeg was a little heavy so trying to play free flowing shinty with neat touches was always  going to be hard but Glen stuck in and to be fair to Beauly they made  the first half an even affair though Glen started to be the more dominant side towards the end of the half.  Beauly did have their bacon saved by goalkeeper Mackay Murray on a couple of occasions and as well as that a couple of Ruaraidh Cameron strikes just flew by.
The centre line of Arran Macdonald, Eddie Tembo and Dixie Maclennan have the potential to be as good a midfield as any in the business. They certainly looked very strong and didn't lose many tackles with some decent supply into the forwards. At the half - hour mark Ewan Brady came on at half-forward for Liam Girvan and his full-forward berth went to Fraser Heath. Former Glen under-17 star Brady looked sharp and lively and showed glimpses of the potential Glenners know he has.
Five minutes into the second half Glen replaced Dixie Maclennan with Andrew Macdonald, and soon after Billy Urquhart gave Ruaraidh Cameron a break.
Glen looked much stronger going into the second half and this soon paid off when Fraser Heath gave Glenurquhart the lead with a snap shot into the far corner from 15 yards.
Paul Mackintosh was brought on for Arran Macdonald midway through the half and then he moved to wing back with Lewis Maclennan moving into the centre line.
Glen maintained their dominance in terms of territory though as the forwards continued to create but not to finish, Beauly were allowed to come more into the game. Glen defence remained steady under fire with John Barr very solid at full back and try though they might, Beauly didn't get any shots on target all day. But then you must remember they had to face up to John Barr, Andrew Corrigan, Ali Mackintosh and Lewis Maclennan before they even got to international keeper Smack Mackintosh between the posts.
With the three lads who are missing this Glen side can muster a  potentially excellent squad- and  provided they can avoid injury they need fear no other Premier side and what is more in the second team there are a number of equally capable players who are also very able and can make the step up if they want to.They seemed to want to against Boleskine who are,let’s face it, not an easy team for a side of youngsters to beat.

Glen started with Calum Miller at full forward with three young players around him, Euan Lloyd, Jack Hosie and Bradley Dickson. This game saw Brad feature at half forward (last season he played buck-shee back) and his pace and fitness will be an asset there in the season to come. For long periods in the first half this worked well particularly when Euan Lloyd fired Glen into the lead with an excellent strike which bent low into the Boleskine net. Lloyd in particular had a very good game and, despite not being at his best because of illness, he showed his ability to get on the ball and strike it well. Jack Hosie also shone getting on the ball and moving it with economy though the sticky conditions did not really favour his touch play.

Unfortunately just when things were looking as if they would turn out well, Glen lost a careless goal though at least it was home made in that former Glen under 17 player Donnie Forbes was on hand to knock it past Cameron Maclennan in the Glen goal. The defence which was without stalwart full back Donald Fraser did manage to improve as the game went on and a pleasing feature was the excellent performances of Drew Maclennan, Ross MacDiarmid, Calum Smith and returning senior player David Girvan. Big Dave has been out of the sport for nearly a season because of a knee problem and he certainly put in a fine shift on Saturday.
Glen were disappointed to go in at half time 1 – 1. Still if you want to go in ahead then you should really have scored more goals.
Calum Miller lifted everyone’s spirits midway through the second half when he scored with a blistering strike to put Glen 2 - 1 ahead. Mind you, given that he cost the Treasurer £75 to pay for the excess on a windscreen he burst in the Co-op car park during the hit around before the match then he certainly had to come good in the game. Manager Iain Macleod rotated players in order to give the subs an opportunity and he was happy with the contribution of the younger players.
Not that any of the above actually foretells how the Glen will do against Strathglass, but deep down the Wing Centre actually believes that it does. Sort of!
 Enjoy the pictures the best of which are from Donald Cameron i.e. the three of the players who have returned to the side after absence -Paul Mac, Ewan  and Girv. The other two are from the Wing Centre himself-one of the guys sort of listening to Drew before the start and the other.... why that's the backroom staff noting down the stats.
Impressed? Thought not. On the other hand you should check out Donald Cameron's pictures and you can find them here at

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