The waiting game is finally over - at least for the Glen.
In the end the Glen made it over the line to Premiership safety with a fine 3-1 home win over Kingussie, a hard fought 2-2 draw in the pouring rain down in Lochaber and a just about worth it 0-0 even stevens of a game at home against Kyles. It was a close run thing - but then it was a close run thing for every other team in the league apart from the top four. At all times during the last few nervous weeks despite the many siren voices saying “You’ll be all right now” this writer never really believed the Glen were totally safe until the Skyemen having beaten Kingussie 2-1 at home uncharacteristically shipped a pile of goals away to Kinlochshiel. It dented their goal difference but made it certain that the Glen who had at that stage a pretty poor goal differential themselves were no longer vulnerable.
So what’s to remember from these last few horrible weeks? For one thing Conor Golabeck put in a tremendous display against Kingussie to snatch two of the three goals that mattered.
His first half strike through a crowd of players put the Glen ahead but after Thomas Borthwick equalised before the break the game could have got away from the Glen at any point until Golabeck got a second 13 mins from time. Neale Reid banged in a final one just on the full time whistle and it has to be said that was a crucial game in which to pick up both points ,given the way both were chucked away in the earlier fixture at the Dell.
The Lochaber game was however the one which was most closely contested. On that particular Saturday, the Glen had been hit by the perfect storm. Stuart Mackintosh and David Smart injured and out for the season; James Hurwood injured; Lewis Maclennan on the Isle of Muck and John Barr somewhere between Texas and Norway - it was a wonder the Glen were able to field a worthwhile squad. However into the breach stepped Ross MacAulay, James “Frosty” Macpherson and Rory Maclean.
What happened? Neale Reid put the Glen ahead early in the match only for Kevin Ferguson to equalise with a fortunate goal which hit keeper Iain Macleod on the chest and flew up into the roof of the net. Then we were in a dog-fight of an old fashioned kind but the main ingredient in our success is that Andrew Corrigan having put in some training was just about able to match Shaun Nicholson for pace and that made a huge difference and the game reached half time at 1-1.
Lochaber started the stronger after the break and went in front after 53 minutes with a good finish from Stuart Callison, however our poor marking had allowed the opportunity. Glen responded in the right fashion with an excellent equaliser a minute later. A long ball down the wing was gathered by Corrigan at pace and he fired the ball into the middle to be met by Frosty Macpherson who cracked a great shot first time into the roof of the net. The boy can certainly finish.
There was no further scoring and the game finished 2-2. Glen certainly needed something from the game and in the end got a most valuable point and could perhaps have left with both although a draw was probably a fair result. The quality of shinty was patchy, but the game was played in torrential conditions at times so some allowance can be made. In terms of effort and commitment and bearing in mind the absence of key personnel it was one of the Glen’s better performances against a side that showed its quality earlier in the season by taking Newtonmore all the way in the MacTavish final.
The last game of the season and the first game of October was the Kyles game and the Glen were still not safe. The list of injured absentees remained the same as before, though this week at least John Barr returned to the fold.
On the down side however Mike Brady was working and unavailable while Andrew Corrigan was called off shore on the morning of the game and Euan Lloyd was still suffering with a leg injury from the Lochaber game and was only fit to be on the bench.
The managers had tried using Fraser Heath as a man marker on Roddy MacDonald down in Kyles earlier in the season but as Roddy scored four goals that day, it could reasonably be assumed to be an unsuccessful tactic. The decision was made therefore to use Connor Golabeck at half back in this game, albeit conscious of the fact that with Corrigan also being absent there was bound to be a lack of pace in the forward line. Fraser Heath was moved to wing centre to play against Robbie MacLeod, who had also caused us problems away from home while Ally Mackintosh dropped back to wing back and Billy Urquhart and Frosty Macpherson started up front.
This was a game short in highlights though Kyles had the better of the first half but the Glen defence played very well indeed. Kyles had negated the man marking tactic by neglecting to bring Roddy MacDonald with them, which may have been just as well although Golabeck certainly had a very effective game. However the Glen struggled to create many meaningful chances up front and replaced Billy Urquhart who had been struggling with the pace of the game, with Finlay Ralston after 25 minutes. The youngster did fine but didn’t get many opportunities against a strong defence with Donald Irvine at full back and Callum Miller at half back giving little away.
At half time it was 0-0
In the second half Finlay was replaced with Euan Lloyd coming on at wing centre and Fraser Heath moving to full forward to try and increase our goal threat. This did cause a reasonable amount of ball up front and all the forwards worked hard but it is doubtful if the Kyles keeper had a save of note. There were periods in the 2nd half when we were under pressure and both the centre line and our forwards were dropping too deep to try and win the ball. The defence played well throughout: keeper Iain Macleod was tidy and cleared his lines smartly. John Barr was his usual effective self, Ally Mackintosh and Conor Golabeck also played well while Lachie Smith had a great game, fearless in the tackle and capable of great hitting. The centre line, apart from dropping too deep, worked hard but truthfully the Glen were exposed by a lack of pace up front which definitely blunted any goal threat. The game finished 0-0.
Afterwards there was disappointment that two points had been passed up though the single gained could have been a vital requirement for continued Premier status. The Glen were however in no way completely safe from the threat of relegation especially since Skye had beaten Kingussie 2-1 on the same afternoon. In the end it worked out all right though when Sandy Mackenzie knocked the ball home for Kyles late in the second half it was just as well for the Glen that he had strayed off-side.
Nothing however will make up for the loss of the Strathdearn. How on earth did that happen? Having come through to the final after a difficult game with Kingussie - Cameron Maclennan had an excellent afternoon and Kevin Thain missed a late penalty - we should have been better on the day than we were.
The lads had a great deal of pressure in the first half having given away a silly opening goal and when Frosty Macpherson snatched an equaliser before the break that should have been our ticket back into the game.
A speculative shot from distance gave the Caranachs the lead and while the Glen were still in confusion two more goals followed. Bitter disappointment all round- and to rub salt in the wounds Lochcarron were unable to field a team for their last home match. They missed out on their final match too but that was due to Lochaber.
After that loss the Glen defaulted to a 7-0 defeat at Newtonmore - about five goals too many but then bounced back with a 4-0 home win over Beauly. There we got off to a lucky start when a ball which was going wide was deflected in by Beauly veteran Sandy Tulloch. It was cruel on Sandy who played well for the rest of the match- and if his side had taken their chances then they could have been in the frame for an away win. However that honour lay with the Glen largely thanks to some delicate stick play by Jed Stoddard. He bravely went into the danger zone and took the hit to nick home his first counter – and then with the most delicate of touches picked up a second. The fourth goal however was the best of the afternoon. A neat bit of interplay saw Calum Miller blast home the best –struck goal he has scored since the rasper he struck against ‘Shiel in our promotion winning season. There may have been others but that is the one the Wing Centre remembers. The other moment of note in the Beauly game was the appearance of Hazel Hunter on the right wing. She did what was required and showed good movement and the ability to move the ball quickly which is all that is needed in any player at any time.
Next up were Fort William- and they were defeated 1-0 thanks to a little error by their keeper “Ginge” Walker who allowed youngster Finlay Ralston to nick a first half goal.
That apart the game was very even with Mr Walker redeeming himself courtesy of several excellent saves while at the other end Cameron Maclennan pulled off an excellent stop from Victor Smith (jun).
The game also saw Zoe Smith put in a nice performance on the wing for Fort while Paul Bamber also made a return in the Gearasdan colours.
Best for the Glen by a mile however was buckshee back Lachie Smith whose timing and long hitting was second to none.
So both teams ended up mid-table with no cups to show for a hard season’s work. After what the Glen have become used to recently it has to go down as a disappointing season - but then again some youngsters have come into the squads - and some have shown the character to progress and there is always next season. Can hardly wait!!
For the pictures thanks go to Sheena Lloyd and for some of the Fort snaps, to Ian Cochrane. Particularly love the one of the “subs” bench and of the crowd.