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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