Looking to put back-to-back cup defeats behind them, Glenorchy took on Oban Celtic at the Mart Park in conditions that were more Dubai than Dalmally last weekend. Expecting to be missing a number of first team regulars, the Glen were buoyed by the inclusion of Fulton Ronald as well as brothers Alex and Grant MacPherson in the squad due to the cancellation of an agricultural show, although the veteran siblings of Kenny and 'Doch' MacDougall both missed out through injury and it would prove to be an eventful afternoon for Glenorchy's other brothers Andrew and Duncan Smith. Other absentees from the squad included Ewan Murray, Scott Livingstone, Scott McKillop and John Sartain whilst Steven 'JT' Turner and Graham 'Grinch' Morrice returned.
The good weather was appreciated by the fans, who are more used to cowering under a brolly!
Throughout the season manager Allan MacKechnie's team talks have centred around starting a game quickly and grabbing an early goal, and although he may have felt like he was speaking to himself for most of the previous games, the scorching sun seamed to defrost the usually sluggish Glen as they grabbed the lead inside the first minute of this match. From the throw up, Findlay Ross reacted quickest as the ball dropped to the turf, knocking it forward to Kieran McKay who looked to start an early attack. The ball wall repelled by the Celtic defence, but only as far as wing centre Iain Livingstone who played a first time ball into the path of Duncan Smith who turned his man superbly and rifled an unstoppable shot into the top right hand corner. It was the ideal start for the home team and for Smith, who had been making more headlines for his simulation than his scoring in recent weeks!
While an early goal should help a side settle, it seemed to have the opposite effect upon the Glen as they then embarked on a sloppy 10-15 minutes which could easily have seen Oban Celtic not only get back into the match but finish it off as well. The sunbaked pitch was making it difficult for players to read the bounce of the ball and this was benefitting the Oban Celtic frontline as they peppered the glen backline with low hard passes. Keeper Andrew Smith was forced into action from a Kenny Wotherspoon shot, before a ball knocked in from a corner evaded Glenorchy Half Back Graham Morrice and found its way into the 'D', before only being half cleared to Celtic Frontman Gary MacKerracher, who fired a low drive into the bottom corner. Glenorchy were saved by the linesman however who signalled that Wotherspoon had clearly been offside as the shot was struck - a decision that vociferous keeper Smith clearly agreed with but one that outraged Oban Celtic and saw a harsh exchange of words between Wotherspoon and Linesman John Smith.
If this was a wakeup call, it was not heeded as once again the Glenorchy centre line let the ball through too easily, and this time when it was played into the Glen 'D' it bobbled between Glen fullbacks Fulton Ronald and Grant MacPherson and the Celtic full forwards Wotherspoon and Alan Duffy prompting referee Dunkie Kerr to whistle for a kick against Ronald and award a penalty for Oban Celtic. Gary McKerracher stepped up looking to level the scores, but Andrew Smith pulled off a great stop with his feet and then reacted quickest to clear the ball from the onrushing forwards. It was redemption for the man who had felt partly responsible for the late winner conceded against Beauly the previous week.
Finally, Glenorchy sprung into action, getting more and more ball up to the forward line although they were getting no change out of a tight Oban Celtic defence marshalled by the outstanding Daniel Madej. Celtic were forced to withdraw full Centre Neil Carmichael through injury, with Kieran Gallagher stepping in from the wing to take his place, whilst Glenorchy swapped Iain Livingstone for his brother James as the game began to slow from it's frenetic opening pace. Midway through the first half, Glenorchy were forced into another substitution as goalscorer Duncan Smith suffered a gashed shin following a heavy tackle from Gavin Stobbart, and his place was taken by the Lazarus of Glenorchy, Steven 'JT' Turner.
Just as the first half seemed to be drawing to a close with no further incident, Glenorchy doubled their lead through robust frontman Lorne Brown. A Sandy Leiper corner was only cleared as far as former Ballachulish man Brown, who held off his marker brilliantly before rocketing an excellent shot into the top left hand corner. Coming in the first and the last minutes of the half, Smith and Brown's goals were among the best Glen have scored all season and book ended a tumultuous first half in which they were fortunate to be 2-0 ahead.
Lorne Brown is congratulated by Steven 'JT' Turner after his goal.
Heading into the second half, Glenorchy knew they would have to up their game now that they were shooting into the wind, after giving away far too many chances in the first period. Oban Celtic didn’t let their heads drop after conceding that late first half goal, and continued from where they left off, pressuring the Glen goal. Ally MacKerracher shot narrowly wide, and Wotherspoon was twice denied by Smith in the Glen goal. Glenorchy though, managed to step it up again and started to win the ball further up the park, putting pressure on the Celtic backline, with James Livingstone and Kieran MacKay both finding the Celtic keeper on top form.
The next goal would prove crucial to the outcome of the game, with an Oban Celtic goal putting them right back into the game or a Glenorchy goal surely sealing the victory. Turner came close to netting Glenorchy’s 3rd goal, after being quick to react to the Celtic keeper taking a bit extra time to clear the ball but unluckily for the Glen forward the ball just ricocheted beyond the by-line for a goal hit, denying him his first goal since his return to shinty last year.
With quarter of an hour remaining, Glenorchy scored the third goal of the contest and it was another good goal, this time a quick counter attack. Sandy Leiper started the move going on a long dribble from inside his own half down the left wing beating his man, before slipping a pass down the line for Brown, who swiftly drove the ball to the back post, where Kieran MacKay took the ball well, setting it up perfectly to be struck, after two missed swings at the ball, the second also taking the ball past the last Celtic defender enabling him to coolly slot the ball home for a 3-0 lead.
With only 15 minutes left it was going to take a massive comeback for Celtic to get back into the game, and they started to have more possession, desperately looking for a goal. Celtic won a free hit just outside the box after an inexplicable handball by Graham ‘Grinch’ Morrice, who was lucky not to have received a yellow card, especially after he had caught Lee Askew across the back of the legs a moment earlier.
Scott MacIntyre was brought on in place of Lorne Brown and put himself about launching into numerous challenges and giving a good performance. Celtic continued to press going in to the last few minutes and Ally MacKerracher fired narrowly wide after Morrice, who had put in a great performance at half-back particularly his strong hitting and tackling, lost his footing giving MacKerracher the opportunity.
In the end it was a good, solid victory for Glenorchy overcoming a spirited Oban Celtic side, and the second half performance will have been particularly pleasing. Next up for Oban Celtic is a home tie against Celtic cup finalists Taynuilt at Mossfield. Glenorchy have a trip to title rivals Oban Camanachd, who have a 100% record in South Division 1, in a game which both sides will be desperate to take two points.
Glenorchy: Andrew Smith, Grant MacPherson, Alec MacPherson, Fulton Ronald, Graham Morrice, Iain Livingstone, Findlay Ross, Sandy Leiper, Duncan Smith, Kieran MacKay, John McNulty, Lorne Brown. Subs: Steven Turner, James Livingstone, Scott MacIntyre, Andy MacLean
Match report by Findlay Ross & Andrew Smith