Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Lochaber Once More

Lochaber 3 Glenurquhart 3 (Camanachd Cup 1st Round)
If you want to know the truth then the title of this post should have been “Lochaber No More”. Why?  Because  Glenurquhart really ought to have managed to score four times in the first half which ought  to have been enough to finish off the game as a contest. Of course that ignores the simple fact that Lochaber themselves missed a chance at the Ben Nevis end in the first period.
In the second half Glen had chances but then Lochaber missed an open goal which was only outdone in “open-ness” by both Neale Reid and most memorably Eddie Tembo later in the match.  Finally when Glen finally did grab a late, late equaliser with the very last hit of the ball, most Glenners actually felt sorry for the Lochabermen and that, given the appalling behaviour of their ancestors in raiding, harrying and burning the Glen over the centuries, takes a bit of doing.
So what happened then? A lot actually. If this game was an espionage thriller it would be right at the top of best seller list. It had the lot: skilful play, six goals, the lead changing hands, an unusually focused referee who actually applied the rules, and believe it if you can, dry weather in Lochaber.
Lochaber actually started best moving with their young team at high tempo and it is doubtful if the Glen got out of their own half for the first 15 minutes. The Glen back four were fine and kept Shaun Nicholson and Neil Macdonald in check though youngsters Zander Ferguson and Stuart Callinson had a bit more freedom. They may have tested keeper Stuart Mackintosh once but then all of a sudden more ball got down to the other end-and with the wind it really had to- and the first clear shot of the match was a drive from Neale Reid which brought a competent save from youngster Calum Macdonald in the Lochaber goal. David Smart then began to break free from his marker and he had two more shots on target which drew saves from the keeper.

Neale Reid then burst through and fired over the bar when he ought to have buried the ball in the back of the net.  A snap shot at the other end from Shaun Nicholson brought a save out of Mackintosh but Glen continued to pour forward and Liam Girvan brought a super save out of keeper Macdonald with a fierce and accurate drive which would have been goal of the day if the youngster had not got his stick up to it.

Next Liam Girvan fumbled a chance and then finally Glen made the breakthrough when a shot by Liam Girvan was saved but not cleared by Macdonald and the ball popped back to the edge of the D. With the Glen forwards getting themselves in a tangle it was left to Ewan Brady to prod the ball into the net for the opener.  
Girvan continued to find room on the Glen left but from his cross Reid managed to miss from close range. More Glen misses followed first from goal hero Brady and then from Reid to the extent that when the teams went in 1-0 at half-time most Glen supporters felt that old familiar “here we go again” feeling come over them. A pile of chances wasted- and now we face Lochaber and the wind and what is more Lochaber actually will believe they can win the game since the Glen clearly don’t want it.
Then the unthinkable happened right at the start of the second period. Glen gave away a silly foul then conceded another twenty yards out from goal-the marking was slack and Nicholson slipped the ball to Callinson who hit a quick bouncing shot home through a ruck of players past the unsighted Stuart Mackintosh.
Glen pushed on and with Eddie Tembo coming on in the midfield appeared to take a better grip of the game, a judgement that was backed up when Neale Reid got on the end of a shy and rammed the ball home to restore the Glen lead. Glen then seemed to lie back a little and Lochaber equalised after some poor defensive play.
Glen pushed forward once again but when Liam Girvan slipped a through ball to put Reid one on one with the keeper, he hit Macdonald’s body with the ball just feet from the line. Seconds later, from a corner Reid turned his man and fired in a tremendous shot but Macdonald got enough of his stick on to it to pop it over the bar-it was a fabulous save and one that made the Glenners in the crowd begin to believe that it was never going to be quite their day.
Then the unthinkable happened; the Lochaber front men worked a move that left Zander Ferguson free wide on the right and he casually shot the ball past  Mackintosh to let Lochaber take the lead- and then it really began to look as if time would run out for the red and blacks.
Glen redoubled their efforts to get back on terms: Reid again missed from close range but Lochaber also had a good opportunity and all they probably had to do was run the clock down legitimately by holding the ball in the corners. However they picked up knocks and went down using up time that ref Graham Cameron judged should be added on.  The clock was running down and when Eddie Tembo had a glaring miss in front of an empty goal with the Lochaber defence stranded, it looked all over. The saviour of the Glen bacon was Ewan Brady. Once, back in 2009 he wrapped up the third division title for the Glen with a timely goal against Caberfeidh:now after a so-so first half he had begun to perform at the highest level in the second period. He began to make long runs forward; he switched a number of times with Tembo and always looked a class act costing a booking to one of the Lochaber lads who put in a late challenge.
Fraser Heath was moved up to full forward and youngster Ewan Lloyd came on at the back to release Lewis Maclennan into the centre line where his accurate stick work might make a difference.  It certainly did.
Maclennan who had earlier fired a half chance feet over the bar, picked out Brady perfectly with a free hit  and the young man turned , gained space and from all of 15 yards he fired home a controlled and much welcomed equaliser in what must have been the 94th minute. Talk about a close shave!!
The ball went back to the centre, ref Cameron threw it up then blew the final whistle. Were Lochaber disappointed? You could certainly say so- but then, on the other hand, the Glen were pleased.
The sides meet again at Drum this Saturday. If the replay is half as exciting as the first game it will be worth watching- and then the winners get a home tie with Fort William which is certainly better than the away visit to Kyles which Beauly drew as a thank you for beating Oban Camanachd.

Newtonmore 4 Glenurquhart 3 (North Division 2)
Like last week’s encounter with Aberdeen this encounter was a classic game of two halves- and if Glen got off with it last week, they simply did not this time. For whatever reason the first half was poor and Newtonmore, on their day the best side in the Division, romped away to a 3-0 lead in 20 minutes. Position changes then made a difference and the game stabilised though the loss of James Hurwood to an injury in the first half was a disappointment.
The second half was a turn around and the Glen began to play more effectively. Ruaraidh Cameron went to full forward while Jack and Ben Hosie on the wings and Billy Urquhart at half forward began to get some change out of the Newtonmore defence. Cameron was at the top of his game and his movement, control and distribution were excellent and this allowed the forwards around him to shine and play well. Glen scored two excellent goals in this period through Cameron and Urquhart. Being well on top, confidence began to grow in the side that they could go on and win the game.
Then, disaster!  Totally against the run of play through a defensive mistake Newtonmore were gifted a goal. However that did not push Glen heads down. The side continued to fight as a unit and once again scored to get back into the game through Ben Hosie. Unfortunately they were unable to equalise despite having several good chances to do so in the closing period in the game- and Newtonmore were lucky enough to hold on to both points.

A disappointment then but given that the other team got out of jail at Lochaber Glen can’t be too greedy.
Thanks to Tina Marshall for the pictures of the Newtonmore match. The others are of the lads after their great escape: Ewan Brady has pride of place.

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