Former captain comes back to haunt Lochcarron

MACTAVISH PLATE QUARTER FINAL

Lochcarron 2, Inverness 4
(H.T. 2-3)

A former team captain returned to haunt Lochcarron as they went down 4-2 to Inverness in a MacTavish Plate quarter-final tie at the Battery Park, but the Wester Ross side were far from disgraced and gave a good account of themselves against opposition two divisions above them.

Inverness are building a decent side, a mixture of youth and experience. Two of their more experienced forwards — former Lochcarron full back John “Butcher” MacLennan and former Skye and Ballachulish player Dougie Rankin — threatened from the start. An early strike from MacLennan went wide, while moments later it took a fine block from Lochcarron full back Alan MacKay to stop a goal-bound effort from Rankin.

However, it was no surprise when half forward MacLennan broke the deadlock with a well-taken goal after 14 minutes. Inverness continued to push forward, and when a loose ball flew into the air MacLennan took it first-time to send it arrowing down past Peter MacKenzie in the home goal.
Lochcarron had the experienced Gregor Cushnie at full forward, and he used his ability to hold the ball up and create openings for his fellow forwards. Cushnie did well to pick a long ball out of the air and played it wide to Matthew Young who screwed his shot narrowly wide of goal.

Peter MacKenzie was the busier of the two goalkeepers at this stage. After 20 minutes he made a fine double save, firstly parrying a drive from Rankin and then blocking the effort from full forward Martin Davidson on the rebound. Up the other end Gregor Cushnie had keeper Stuart MacRae scrambling across his line to watch the ball out for a bye-hit.

On 28 minutes Rankin went close to extending Inverness’s lead when he jinked one way and then the other to create space for a snap shot that drifted wide of the top corner. Seven minutes later MacKenzie in the Lochcarron goal pulled off another double save, denying wing centre Liam Girvan whose shot was going in low at the keeper’s right-hand post and then turning the ball behind to safety.

Eight minutes before half time the home fans finally had something to celebrate. Lochcarron won a free hit just inside the Inverness half of the field and from the spot hit Michael MacMillan dropped the ball right on the edge of the circle where a defender knocked it down and young Kenny Cushnie, son of Gregor, pounced to drive it home.

This seemed to give the home side a lift and six minutes later they went close to an equaliser. Gregor Cushnie played a one-two with David Bauermeister out near the right touchline and the youngster put a powerful strike on target — MacRae made the save look easy, but the pace on the ball could easily have caught him out.

The city side may have sensed the momentum drifting away from them, but with a minute remaining before the interval they restored their two-goal cushion after Davidson set up Rankin and from close range he gave the Lochcarron keeper no chance.

The home side came out of the blocks quickly at the start of the second half and had the visitors on the back foot. Cushnie Senior went close with a strike in the first minute, and shortly afterwards Matthew Young forced a save from MacRae who then had to react quickly to prevent Cushnie picking up the loose ball.

Six minutes into the second half Lochcarron suffered a blow when wing centre David Cameron had to go off with an injury, but Andrew Slaughter went on to prove an able replacement.

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Kenneth Cushnie was showing he has learned a thing or two from the old man, and in the 52nd minute saw a 20-yard strike drop just over the crossbar. A minute later he went one better, getting on the end of a ball from Slaughter to drive it over the line and narrow the gap to a single goal.

Lochcarron had the initiative now, and the Inverness management team decided to freshen things up. MacLennan looked to be tiring and he was withdrawn with substitute Scott Watson coming on a wing forward and Rankin taking over at half forward. Inverness full back Zander Grant — a former Kinlochshiel player — had to be quick to turn the ball out for a corner with Gregor Cushnie closing in.
Gradually Inverness settled, and a good shot on the run by Rankin flashed wide. Wing centre Craig Nicolson put a strike from distance on target, but none of the city forwards was in quickly enough to prevent the home defence clearing the danger.

With five minutes remaining Inverness scored the decisive goal. Following a long free hit, Rankin swivelled and drove the ball low and hard beyond MacKenzie in the Lochcarron goal. A half-chance fell to Gregor Cushnie in the dying moments but he pulled his shot wide, and Inverness held on to take their place in the semi-finals where they will meet Skye in Portree on 17th May.