RBS MACTAVISH CUP
Skye….0 Glenurquhart 1
(After extra time)
An extra-time goal from substitute James Macpherson eventually gave Glenurquhart victory, though there were plenty of positives for Skye to take from Saturday’s RBS MacTavish Cup tie in Portree.
Macpherson’s goal – which came at a cost to the Glen forward, who in the act of scoring aggravated a hamstring injury — came early in the added half-hour, to breach brave Skye resistance in a match which did little to suggest two divisions now separate the sides.
Skye were dealt a blow when work commitments ruled out Jordan Murchison and Neil MacVicar. But there was better news for manager John MacLeod as Will Cowie passed a fitness test and started in the forward line.
Glen were without the injured Andrew Corrigan, and the unavailable Euan Lloyd and David Smart, so managers Billy MacLean and David Menzies handed a debut to former Boleskine player Raymond Robertson at half forward.
A cagey but committed opening spell gave early evidence of the pattern the game would follow throughout. The Skye medical teams had a busy first half as Allan “Ginger” MacKinnon had to leave the field temporarily to receive treatment for a facial injury that would later require eight stitches. Full centre Iain Murray then had his afternoon cut short when he was caught, accidentally, in the eye by a raised stick.
The early stoppages meant an introduction in attack for Paul MacKinnon, with Cowie dropping into the centre line.
Glenurquhart enjoyed territorial advantage, but the premiership side were frustrated time and again by a Skye defence in miserly mood.
In a bid to shackle the Glen forwards Chris Rose was deployed at half back to mark Neale Reid, while Steven Morrison was tasked with handling Lewis MacLennan. These two Skye players were standouts — and ably backed up by “Shockie” MacLennan and Ally “Digg” MacDonald — the hosts, for the most part, restricted Glen to snap shots from distance.
Both MacLennan and Reid whistled efforts either side of Jamie Gannon’s posts, although the game was far from one-way traffic. At the other end Kenny Campbell set up Danny Morrison, who after a neat bit of keepy-uppy was thwarted by a smart clearance form Glen’s international keeper Stuart MacKintosh.
Lewis MacLennan did find the net with a spectacular volleyed effort which — unfortunately for the Glen forward — came after the whistle had already sounded for offside. Otherwise, defences remained on top, with the heavy pitch making it tough to produce free-flowing shinty.
Chances remained at a premium throughout the second half, with Glenurquhart forcing a stream of corners only to be repelled each time by a determined Skye defence. Gannon produced a couple of excellent saves, too — one of them a swift piece of improvisation after a long-range effort from Eddie Tembo had been deflected in mid-air.
Although on the back foot, Skye almost snatched a result at the death when a loose ball broke to Kenny MacLeod but his shot was off-target and the game went into an extra half-hour.
It was clear he wasn’t match-fit, yet it was MacPherson’s nose for goal — allied to a lovely piece of skill — which ultimately settled the cup tie after three minutes of extra time. Lewis MacLennan was the architect, providing the assist with a clever overhead flick which parted the Skye defence and allowed MacPherson in to stretch and prod the ball one-handed beyond the advancing Gannon.
After scoring MacPherson lay prostrate on the turf and had to be helped from the field, his manager Billy MacLean later admitting the substitution had been a late gamble to try to seal a place in the next round.
So it proved, although Skye —thanks to a couple of raking free hits from substitute David Grant — did force a couple of moments of panic in the Glen defence in the dying seconds.
Skye manager John MacLeod was full of praise for his team, despite the narrow defeat.
He said: “I thought it was a really good performance from start to finish and I’m delighted with the way we played. We set out with a plan, and stuck to it throughout. I can’t fault any of the players. The defence was fantastic — there was some great defending and some great goalkeeping from Jamie Gannon.
“We had limited options in attack and the early injuries threw us a bit, but the team, and the subs when they came, on all stepped up to the task. We had asked them to show character, and they responded. Glenurquhart are a very good side, and we’ve shown we can match them all the way.
“Hopefully Saturday’s performance will stand us in good stead for the rest of the season.”
Glenurquhart boss Billy MacLean was relieved finally to seal victory, after enjoying long spells of pressure. He said: “I thought we played reasonably well — we were tight at the back, good in the middle, and there was no lack of effort up front.
“We just couldn’t break down the Skye defence, but I think that was down to how well Skye defended as opposed to poor play from ourselves.
“I thought Skye were very solid at the back, they had a good game plan and they were effective at closing down all the spaces. They are in a false league position — there’s not two divisions between the teams.”
MacLean feared goalscorer Macpherson would be sidelined for several weeks. He said: “James will be out for six weeks at best now, but it was a risk we took to try to get that goal.
“We were getting nervous — even though we had most of the pressure, the more the game went on the more we were worried that Skye would go up and nick a goal. And we definitely didn’t want penalties.”
Glenurquhart will host Caberfeidh in the quarter-finals, but they return to league business when they welcome champions Newtonmore to Drumadrochit this weekend.
This Saturday Skye take on Strachur in the Balliemore Cup, with the islanders hoping to have Murchison and MacVicar back in action. Shockie MacLennan, however, looks doubtful following an ankle injury which forced him off towards the end of extra time.