The season got off to a disappointing start for Kinlochshiel, who went down 4-0 to a sharp-looking Glenurquhart side at Drumnadrochit on Saturday.
New Shiel manager Colin Fraser, who has stepped up from the reserves to take over first-team duties from Johnston Gill, was handicapped in his team selection with forwards Keith MacRae, Gordy MacDonald and Fraser MacVicar all sidelined for a variety of reasons.
Glen — who are also under new management, with Dave Menzies and Billy Urquhart returning to take over from Drew McNeil — handed a debut to former Glengarry defender Michael Brady.
The home side got off to a strong start and the first shot at goal came from full centre Eddie Tembo who ran forward to pick up a loose ball but drove it well wide of the target. Up at the other end strong play by Oliver “Ach” MacRae set up a half-chance for brother Duncan, whose shot was blocked by a defender.
The first corner of the match fell to Glenurquhart and was driven deep towards Neale Reid, but his run towards the back post was matched by Mark MacDonald who turned the ball behind for another set-piece.
The Glen were gradually pushing Shiel back, and when wing forward Lewis MacLennan fired in a snap shot from the left Shiel keeper Scott Kennedy dropped to his knee at the near post to divert the ball behind. A minute later the visitors suffered a blow when full back David Falconer had to leave the field with what was later confirmed as a broken collarbone. This forced the manager into a defensive shake-up, with Donald Nixon coming on and Mark MacDonald taking over at full back.
Still Glenurquhart continued to press forward and a strike by the impressive Neale Reid wasn’t far away, while another effort by the same player had keeper Kennedy scrambling across to shepherd the ball wide of his right-hand upright. Kinlochshiel’s first clear shot at goal came from Duncan “Ach” MacRae after 25 minutes but went narrowly wide, while a speculative effort from John MacRae a moment later was deflected behind for a corner.
With 37 minutes played Glen keeper Stuart McKintosh was finally called into action, blocking a Jordan Fraser shot with his midriff before sweeping the ball behind to safety.
Just when it looked as if the first half would end without a goal, Glenurquhart scored a beauty. At the heart of the move was Neale Reid who knocked the ball up for David Smart, and his flick to the side found James MacPherson with time and space on the left flank to drill the ball across Kennedy into the far corner of the net.
This prompted a flurry of attacking play by the visitors, but Glen got plenty of bodies in the way to preserve their narrow lead going into the break.
The first half didn’t finish happily for Glenurquhart, however, as defender Andrew Corrigan had to go off to hospital with a hand injury which appears likely to put him out of action for a lengthy spell.
Two Glenurquhart goals in a seven-minute spell just after the interval, in 53 and 60 minutes, left Shiel with a mountain to climb. On both occasions the initial strikes were blocked by keeper Kennedy, but on both occasions Glen forwards reacted quicker than their opponents — Lewis MacLennan netting the first and MacPherson adding his own second and his team’s third.
Ironically, this sparked what was probably Kinlochshiel’s best spell of the game as they grasped the urgency of the situation. A clever exchange between Jordan Fraser and Oliver MacRae looked promising, but Fraser Heath got back with MacRae to make the saving tackle.
The Shiel manager then replaced Jordan Fraser and Duncan “DA” MacRae with Davie Glass and Neil Fraser — the latter having re-signed following a spell with Lochbroom. But the main threat in attack came from the peerless Finlay MacRae, pushing forward from the full centre position. One shot by the Shiel veteran following good play by Oliver MacRae flew wide, and moments later the same player forced keeper MacKintosh to concede a corner.
With the visitors searching for a way back into the game, Glen struck with a sucker punch in the 74th minute. When the ball was crossed from the right Neale Reid picked it up 20 yards from goal and directed a powerful first-time drive beyond Kennedy to make the score 4-0.
The home side ended the match on a high, with Fraser Heath running half the length of the field with the ball before being brought to an abrupt halt by Paul MacRae. Adding to the woes of the new Shiel manager was the yellow card referee Deke Cameron showed to wing back John Don McKenzie for a late swing shortly before the final whistle.
There were a couple of personal duels of note across the 90 minutes, with the versatile Glen regular Fraser Heath largely containing the threat from teenager Oliver MacRae while the experienced Eddie Tembo and Finlay MacRae cancelled each other out in the centre.
Speaking afterwards, Shiel manager Colin Fraser admitted that the Glen were the better side on the day. And while he was disappointed by the result, he was even more disappointed by the injury to young Falconer who established himself firmly in the first team last season but now looks like being out of action for at least eight weeks.