Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Longest Day

It might have been the midsummer solstice but for Glen supporters it certainly felt like it was the longest day ever. In any event, it was a day that took a very long time to come to an end. However there was no real sense of what was to come in the first minute or two when Lovat full-back Drew Howie had to come off the field. He had aggravated an old injury and was replaced by Fraser Gallagher. In truth that Howie injury turned out to be lucky for Lovat because Gallagher went on to have an excellent match at the back and was rarely troubled until very late on when he found the physical strength of Glen sub Callum Smith a bit more of a test for him. But that is to jump ahead of matters.

 The reality of what they were up against did not strike the Glenners, who actually had a little bit of pressure early on themselves, until the fifth minute when an error in midfield allowed Greg Matheson to run forward unchallenged and he fired home the opener from a narrow angle.  Glen fought back and Lewis Maclennan forced a save out of Stuart Macdonald but Glen were too slow on the follow up allowing Cruden to hack the ball away to safety. Next Lovat’s Lorne Mackay at the other end first timed a shot over the bar when he might have done better. Lewis Maclennan then just missed the target with a drive that flew just wide of the post. It seemed to be end to end stuff but the knowledgeable ones amongst the fans could sense that Lovat were actually the more direct and threatening of the two teams.
By the 17 th minute when Glen attacks had petered out on the rock of a sound Lovat defence or shots were having to be taken from too long a range to be effective, the truth became clear. Lovat were too focused, too fit and too quick to allow the Glen to get back into the game at this stage. It’s not that the Glen players were all playing poorly – youngster James Hurwood in the centreline had as much off his man as could be expected; the Glen shies consistently were longer and more reliable but the Lovat hitting was quicker and crisper out of defence and they also had players fit enough to pack the back line and deny Glen space.

At the other end the pace of their forwards left the Glen defence struggling. Something was bound to give but instead the crowd were treated to two excellent saves inside three minutes from Glen keeper Stuart Mackintosh. Greg Matheson took a knock at this point as Fraser Heath cleared the ball and Ryan Ferguson went into the book for protesting that ref Innes Wood should have cautioned Heath. A third strike was also saved but the rebound flew out beyond the D where Kevin Bartlett was quickest to react and he fired home number 2.

Glen’s Neale Reid then made some space and fired a shot in on target which was stopped by Stuart Macdonald but once again the Lovat keeper was not put under sufficient  pressure at the second ball and he was able to clear it comfortably out for a shy. Glen were under pressure after this but though they dealt with most attempts reasonably well they were undone when a ball broke kindly in front of goal for Lovat’s Graham MacMillan and he rammed it past Stuart Mackintosh to make it three nil.

Lovat, now high on adrenalin and confidence continued to play with fluency and speed for the rest of the half but the Glen defence managed to hold together sufficiently well to deny them further goals before the half time whistle.
Credit is due to Lovat for the fact that they forced the pace of the match and for large parts of the half the Glen front players and midfield were pushed back too deep for any attempted breakout to carry much threat. Lovat kept a high line and their pace up front allowed them to create chances which they cashed in in the shape of three goals: one from a tight angle, the second via a well taken rebound from a save and the third from a break of the ball which was finished off smartly.
The point was that the Lovat front men were on hand to take the chances: at the other end, rebounds were not chased down, and the shots on target were just not accurate enough. It was clear that the holes left by the absence of Glen first choice defenders Mike Brady and Ally Mackintosh were just too big to close.

The second half from a Glen perspective was not quite as bleak though Lovat continued to look the more dangerous side whenever they broke forward while the Glen did not really ask questions of the Lovat defence on the occasions they attacked. Lovat too came close when the excellent Graham Macmillan was allowed to burst through and carry the ball forward for twenty yards before hitting a shot which came back off the post. It was a strike created by vision but executed by speed and fitness and showed that the Glen were going to be on a knife edge all afternoon if they did not manage to get to the ball first.
Almost immediately the Glen did manage to mount some pressure when Neale Reid cut a ball across from the right to David Smart in the centre but he was eased off the ball with the cutest of back pushes and the chance was lost. Kevin Bartlett was mysteriously booked next but a careless swing from Calum Cruden which caught David Smart on the top of the head also received a card which, on a different day, might have been red.

Still, the Glen continued to try to push forward and Lovat keeper Stuart Macdonald managed to hack away a shot from Lewis Maclennan which had squirmed past him, a save which tended to confirm the Glen support in the belief that this was never going to be their day. Indeed Glenurquhart attacks lacked the fluency of interpassing which characterised more or less each Lovat incursion into the Glen half – and the pace of the Lovat front men really meant that the Glen defenders really could not get any real depth or consistency to their clearances under pressure. Glenurquhart did to be fair, spend more time in the Lovat half in this period of play and this yielded a snap shot from close in from Neale Reid which was saved by Macdonald and cleared away.
To underline the fact that it was simply not Glenurquhart’s day Lovat’s Lorne Mackay scored a fourth from another Glen mistake when a rebound from goalkeeper Mackintosh was not cleared by Glen full-back John Barr.

Lovat then enjoyed a further spell of pressure before a snap shot from distance by Eddie Tembo brought another fine reaction save out of Macdonald.

The strike was to mark Tembo’s last involvement in the game and he was replaced by Callum Smith who moved to take up position at full forward while Dave Maclennan moved to his more natural centreline berth. This switch allowed Glen to mount some more sustained attacks but again the shooting was wayward, except for another powerful drive from Reid which Macdonald kept out. Always though, the pacy Lovat front men were liable to cause damage when they moved forward but it was actually Lewis Maclennan who was on the target at this stage when he picked up a little knockback from Callum Smith who was beginning to get some change out of Lovat fullback Gallagher.

Lovat took a fifth goal in the 90th minute when yet again another of their fast breaks won them a free hit when Andrew Corrigan threw the club to put Kevin Bartlett off his strike. The free hit was rolled across the face of the goal and Lorne Mackay was not marked closely enough at the back post and was able to finish from an acute angle. The only thing left to add to Glenurquhart woes was the bizarre end that came to the match when a Callum Smith strike in injury time flew into the net and came back out off the stanchion and the goal was not given much to the justified anger of Neale Reid who was booked for protesting. One would like to think this card would be rescinded given the circumstances once the officials have had time to think about it but given the way the Glen’s luck turned out on the day one would not bet on it.
In the end then Lovat ran out justified winners of the MacTavish. Somewhat flattered by the score perhaps but not much. They were certainly in parts too quick and clearly too fit for the Glen. While they weren’t first to every ball, as the post-match narrative would have it, they were first to more than their share and while the pace of Mackay, Macmillan and Bartlett was killer and helped them make their own luck they were also helped by Glen errors, which to be fair, the red and blacks were forced into. Superb goalkeeping from Stuart Macdonald also played its part in the Glen defeat as did the fact that until late in the game the Glen defence and centreline were really unable to take the game forward to the opposition. One might have thought that with injuries causing the loss of big players like Howie and Matheson that the Glen might have had a chance to get back into the game but the Lovat squad had clearly enough strength in depth to be able to cope.

Lovat now will want to push on and their next big test will be in the MacAulay against Newtonmore. They ought to win but you never know; they will certainly face more focused opposition from Newtonmore than they met at the Bught on Saturday.
As for the Camanachd Association, they need to cut the grass, do something about the stanchions and get someone to dust the seats at the Bught before the next final. On the other hand it was probably just as well for the Glen that the grass was not bowling green short since that might have helped the quick Lovat forwards to even more goals. On reflection, that long grass may well have been appropriate for the longest day. Perhaps even if the game had been played at Balgate, the Glen might have had a better chance!!

The action pictures are from Sheena Lloyd: the rest from the Wing Centre. The pictures of Mary Ann were provided by Neil Paterson.

 Last week the “D” made a pledge to get a decent picture of Mary Ann because the one we had was not very good- so here we have two. Obviously one is a lovely portrait but the other one is the real Mary Ann who is a legend in North shinty circles and received a well-deserved honour in the Queen’s Birthday List.

Behave yourselves-of course the other pictures have a Glenurquhart focus but if all else fails , read the text.

Why the band? The last man on the right- and this is the first time the Wing Centre has been able to use this line- is a genuine “Drum drummer.” Take a bow John Goodfellow of Druimlon, the only Glenner who had a successful day.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Not an Orchid - not a MacTavish preview even.

Everything shinty related this last two weeks or so has been a distraction from the MacTavish final, hasn’t it? But what a lovely surprise for everyone in both camps to find out last weekend that two of the best loved figures in each camp have been honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Both Glen’s Alan Bell and Lovat’s Mary Ann Henton

have given many years of service to their clubs and communities and it is good to see them and of course the ancient sport honoured in this way. Charlie Bannerman has a nice piece about both of them in this week’s Highland News – and while Charlie sometimes obsesses about football in the irritating way only a townie of his generation can, he hits a nice tone in this article. It is certainly worth a read.The up-coming MacTavish final is the real reason why this biased voice of Glen Shinty has been silent for the last two Saturdays. What’s to say? The top team has been on the back burner or the back foot - whatever metaphor you like - as the first team guys try to avoid injury and picking up caution cards.  The second team have had a pile of cup games all at once and given that the pressure was on for second team lads to step up to the main squad to fill in gaps caused by suspensions and niggling knocks, it has not been an easy time for either set of managers.

Kyles Athletic 1 Glenurquhart 0 (Orion Premiership)
There is no way that the above could be other than a disappointing result notwithstanding the fact that Kyles had knocked Newtonmore out of the Camanachd the week before. The game apparently turned on a very early strike for Kyles - Roddie Macdonald in the fourth minute - but in fact the Glen felt hard done by on their return north because they had a last minute equaliser ruled offside   - so it could not actually be an equaliser. The guys thought they were worth a share of the points. The pitch? Not good given the fact that this game was the second of two on a ground which is not great in wet conditions at any time of the year. Pity.

Lochaber 1 Glenurquhart 2 (Orion Premiership)
Lochaber must be sick of the Glen by now. They have not had a successful season but for all that they have capable players like all Premier Teams have. The last time they played the Glen, Lochaber were without Shaun Nicholson-he had damaged his back in the season’s previous encounter with the Glen – and this time he did not manage the full 90. Andrew Corrigan, John Barr, Ally Mackintosh and Mike Brady were left out of the Glen starting line-up for various reasons but the presence of Paul Mackintosh, Billy Urquhart and Ross MacAulay helped put a reasonable 12 on the field for the encounter.

James Macpherson put the Glen ahead with the only goal of the first half - his goals have been invaluable this session - and Billy Urquhart grabbed the second when he first timed a rebound off the keeper into the net to give the Glen the points in 81 minutes.

 Stuart Callison scored for Lochaber with two minutes to go but the Glen kept both points. Not much of a game to watch said the old guys in the pub but at least everyone returned to Nessieland with a full set of fingers and teeth.

Iain Macleod’s second team has had mixed fortunes in the past fortnight too: they too have won one and lost one but in as much as both these matches are cup games they have had knock on effects for the rest of the season. Both were close affairs.
Glenurquhart 3 Lovat 4 (Sutherland Cup)
This was a game which left Glenners saying “What if?”  What if in fact the Glen’s big players had put in a performance? What if Callum Smith had not been offshore?
Ben Hosie scored after 15 minutes but Lovat’s Thomas Fraser equalised 4 minutes later. There was no further first half scoring but Thomas Fraser scored two more for Lovat as they enjoyed a period of superiority largely due to the Glen’s inability to get to grips with Lovat centre man Sandy Tulloch who had an excellent afternoon. Referee Deek Cameron awarded the Glen a penalty on 78 minutes, Jack Hosie stepped up to convert. Lovat’s Scott Mackenzie made it 4-2 with what was to prove to be an important goal on 83 minutes and although Ben Hosie got his second goal a couple of minutes from time to make it 4-3, Lovat held on to get through to the next round, though it has to be said that the Glen had some clear chances to score the net earlier on.   

 Glenurquhart 2 Fort William 1 (Strathdearn Cup)
This was a tight game which the Glen did well to nick at the end. It was not an easy gig in any way and such was the shortage of players the Glen had to call on veteran Drew MacNeill to fill in at full back where he had a fine game.
Glen actually started well with the Hosie brothers (Jack and Ben) looking lively up front though the various chances the good lead up play created were not taken.

An early claim for a penalty for a kick by Fort goalie Ricky Fraser was dismissed and Gearasdan boys went on to take the lead thanks to a nice strike by Graham Campbell in 22 minutes. Jack Hosie slammed in the equaliser in 34 minutes and Glen went on to have a nice spell of pressure with Ben Hosie rattling a drive off the post with Fort keeper Fraser beaten.
The second half followed a similar pattern though the heavy rain falling on hard ground began to make conditions a little tricky and on one or two occasions sticks began to slip from hands. Fort’s Scott Knox took a nasty knock below the knee and had to go to the sidelines for a minute or two but was tough enough to return to the field after treatment.

Glen lost Brad Sneddon with a wrist injury a few minutes later but fortunately Ross MacDiarmid stepped in to take over in the backline and the Glen held firm. The
winning goal came in the 65th minute when Raymond Robertson managed to get a hard drive on target which was blocked by keeper Fraser but the ball fell kindly for Jack Hosie who fired it home from close range. Glen then fought hard to hang on to the win and were glad to make it through eventually to the semi-final and a date with destiny and Newtonmore wherever the tossed coin decrees.

 Glen have been lucky up to date with tossed coins so the law of averages probably means that we’ll be going for an afternoon out in Newtonmore. Let’s hope big John Mackenzie has to go stalking on the day - indeed perhaps Gary Mack could hire him for an afternoons hunting to keep him safely occupied!

And so to the MacTavish Cup final.  Preview or Déjà vu?  As the Chairman would say “May shinty be the winner.” For himself, the Wing Centre would actually prefer the Glen to win and could live with shinty being the loser even;  and if victory came from a mistimed sclaff of a shot in the 90th minute, then he could live with that too.
Pictures- Lochaber shots by Sheena Lloyd: the rest from the in-house photography unit of “D” Enterprises Ltd. Apologies to Mary Ann for the photo used. Tina had a nice one up on a site at one time but it could not be found and permission could not be sought. The only other one to hand was when she was holding the MacTavish last year and that one was never going to get past the editor's digital scissors. To be fair to both of them, Alan's permanently-clutched plastic bag has been cut from his snap -in one of the other (unused) pics he was holding a brolly with Lovat printed on it referring, it was claimed ,to the Lovat Arms Hotel in Fort Augustus. What are they like these celebrities !!

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Thursday, June 05, 2014

Glen axe Lochaber twice in the cups……..just!

Glenurquhart 6 Lochaber 4 (Strathdearn)
      Lochaber 3 Glenurquhart 5 (Camanachd Cup)

OK so the Glen notched up two good results on the same Saturday but things were nearly very different.
Take the game at Drum for instance : Lochaber were two up before you could say Loch Ness Monster and then they  hit another one to make it 3-1 after Glen had got a goal back through Cairn Urquhart- and it took until extra time before the red and black lads made it securely through to the next round. What a cliff-hanger!
Of course it could all have been predicted before the match. Glen manager Iain Macleod had to go into the match with a number of players missing the most important of whom was keeper David MacFadyen who had to work. Back between the sticks came Gary Mackintosh after a three year lay-off and it took about 15 minutes or so before he got himself re-adjusted to the business of plying serious shinty again. By that time the Glen were two nil down, the first coming when Lochaber’s Danny Delaney picked up a rebound off the stand–in keeper in 5 minutes and the second when the goalie misjudged a shot from Stuart Matheson. It might have helped matters however if the Glen defenders had been tighter on their opponents and prevented the Lochabermen from playing good shinty which let them have the opportunity to shoot.
From this point the Glen centreline of Drew Maclennan, Iain Macleod and Liam Robertson took control in the middle of the park and began creating chances. Cairn Urquhart was first to profit scoring an excellent goal from a well worked corner which he fired into the net from just outside the D. Glen created a number of chances to level the game but wayward shooting and two good stops from Lochaber’s veteran keeper Harry Macdonald kept the home side at bay until disaster in the 34th minute when Delaney picked up another goal to restore Lochaber’s two goal lead.
All was not lost however because just before half time the excellent Drew Maclennan fired up a long ball to Glen full forward Callum Smith. He controlled the ball and on the turn smashed it home to put the Glen in to the half time dressing room only one goal behind.
The second half saw the Glen continue to play well and Ben Hosie drew the sides level in 48 minutes when from the right he made a lovely run into space and scored with a fine first time shot.
Unfortunately though Glen continued to have the bulk of the play, inaccurate finishing and good play from Lochaber keeper Macdonald kept the Glen out. Lochaber were awarded a penalty when Glen fullback Paul Mackintosh kicked the ball but keeper Gary Mackintosh saved from Delaney and the game ran on into extra time.
At the start of the extra period a Lochaber miss in front of goal was quickly punished at the other end in the second half of extra time when Callum Smith rocketed a shot into the roof of the net after receiving the ball from an indirect free hit. Ben Hosie then put the Glen further ahead with another rocket shot, this time from the right.
Glen continued to press and Lochaber’s Macdonald had a fine double save from first Raymond Robertson and then Ben Hosie. In the tenth minute of extra time  Ben Hosie completed his hat-trick when he finished well from a ball that came over from a corner and although Lochaber goat a fourth goal back from a penalty strike which this time they converted there was not enough time left for them to make further in-roads into the Glen lead.
In short this was a game which the Glen deserved to win but in order to do so they needed to keep their self-belief at points in a game when it would have been easy to give up. That they kept their collective nerve was particularly down to Drew Maclennan and Ewan Menzies who both put in excellent performances and led by example but those on the sidelines, especially Iain Macleod’s No 2 Chris Surtees who suffered greatly at various points in the game would perhaps have preferred a little less excitement on the day. However there will be no let up on that front since in the next game the lads face up to Lovat seconds who no doubt will have all their pensioners on hand for the match.

 The Camanachd Cup tie at Lochaber was equally thrilling - apparently. Perhaps the rather boring affair back in Drum the week before in the Premier League was not so dull after all. The Wing Centre asked Mr Reid what he thought of the game.
Mr R shook his head and simply stated “Lochaber have a lovely pitch. It was perfection. What an improvement there is on it from the time I used to play there when wee Tommy and big Donnie used to rule the roost.”
He refused to say more….
However, it did transpire that this week the Glen had to rejig the backline since Lewis Maclennan was unavailable due to suspension but the return of Mike Brady at least helped to restore some experience to the defence line. 

A much tougher game than the previous week was certainly expected and that was how it transpired.  Lochaber had clearly made a decision to be much more physical in this game and it paid off when the Glen, unusually made a poor start and lost a goal inside 10 minutes to a Stuart Callison strike as a result of slack marking at a free hit.  Shortly after this defender Stuart Reid received a knee injury and had to be replaced.  Glen gradually came more into the game and after a period of pressure David Smart scored the equaliser.  For the remainder of the half the Red and Blacks dominated the game and played some excellent open shinty, with further goals from Neale Reid , Fraser Heath and James “Frosty” Macpherson making the half time score 4-1.  Unfortunately both Euan Lloyd and James Hurwood received nasty injuries and had to be substituted with Stuart Reid coming back on and Billy Urquhart also taking the field for the second half. 

A super start to the second half was marked with a fine finish from “Frosty” Macpherson making it 5-1 but any  hope for a relaxing second half was quickly dashed when Lochaber scored an immediate second and then midway through the second half a third.  Glen then brought on Ross MacAulay for Stuart Reid and pulled both Fraser Heath and Andrew Corrigan back into defence.  Although this did tighten the game up Lochaber still had a penalty well saved by Stuart Mackintosh which if it had gone in would have meant an uncomfortable last five minutes. Still the important thing was the result and given that the draw for the next round favoured the Glen with a home draw it is now all down to the lads themselves as to how far they go in the Camanachd. Certainly with Newtonmore gone and Lovat , Kingussie and Kyles due to meet each other in the “draw of death” Glen have as good a chance as any of progressing to the semis. Provided they beat Inveraray of course which will be no easy task.

The photos all come from the game at Spean and come from the camera of Sheena Lloyd with the exception of the snap of “Frosty” which was taken by Neil Paterson.
 (www.neilgpaterson.com/ )

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