Battling Arran end season with a tough fought draw

Judith Ross finds herself surrounded by three Strathclyde Uni players at the reverse fixture on Arran last November.

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West District Women’s Hockey League Division 3

Arran Ladies 3

Strathclyde Uni Ladies 2s 3

Arran Ladies travelled to Glasgow for their final, and much re-arranged, match of the hockey season on Sunday .

Thanks go to Ali Mckie as match secretary for all the work she has put in to organise this game with all the multiple changes it had incurred over the 12 weeks from when it was scheduled to be played, and the other 19 games on Arran’s fixture’s list for the 18/19 season.

Captain Lorraine Hewie led a less than full squad onto the pitch in Glasgow, with only seven fully fit players and two players sporting injuries – herself included with badly strained ligaments.  These nine ladies went up again 13 young women from Strathclyde University with the hope that they could keep the goal difference below five, to make it worth not conceding the game.

Lorraine was very clear with her team that most would be covering two positions and her mid-field players would have to play their socks off in order to get the ball up to the oppositions ‘D’, with two players missing on the pitch to help them.  Unable to run rings round the defenders, twist and turn as she usually does, Lorraine told her team mates she would only be able to move into the goal area and wait for the ball to get to her before trying for goal.

The Arran ladies took their positions with a determination to not let themselves or Lorraine down, as their captain in her last match.  Facing the full university team of 20-somethings, was a daunting task but from the first whistle Arran showed what they could do – against any odds.  The solid defensive line Lorraine had planned from the start came under attack immediately as the home side took the first pushback. However they only got as far as Helen Thomson, covering the right back and right mid positions as she blocked the first running challenge and sent one of her fabulous rocket-shots back up the pitch, to young Mia Walker on the right wing, giving her the opportunity for Arran’s first challenge on goal.

Time and again the young ladies on the home team tried to break through Arran’s back line for a chance on goal.  Ellie Wood, playing centre back and centre mid, linked so well with Hazel Malakoty, playing centre mid and centre forward, that it was hard for the opposition to work out who was covering which part of the pitch at any one time. Ellie stopped passes, stole the ball of the end of attacker’s sticks and smacked it away from Arran’s goal area with her usual excellent stick skills and calm and controlled attitude.

Any ball coming down the left hand side of the pitch was met with the formidable pairing of Jenny Stark as left-mid/forward and Elyse Aitken in left defence and left-mid.  Both girls were fast and efficient at obtaining the ball, with speed and strength from Jenny, who when she was on the ball rarely lost it in any challenge.  Elyse kept close watch over her area and anticipated many a forward pass from the home team’s mid-fielders, getting to the ball before it’s intended player.  Never losing control, even when two of three players were pressing towards her, Elyse found the spot she wanted the ball to get to and sent it there to be collected by her team mates further up the pitch.

With 18 minutes gone in the first half, Ellie cleared the defensive line, sending the ball past of wall of Strathclyde Uni girls to the top of Hazel’s stick. Hazel ran the ball into the defensive quarter and passed to Jenny who had moved into an attacking position in front of the opposition’s goal.   With a flick of her stick she sent the ball past the wrong-footed goalkeeper and put Arran in the lead in this most incredible game.  What a boost to the morale of the Arran Ladies, who realised that losing the match was not a foregone conclusion.  With a quick take from the reset whistle, the Strathclyde forwards pressed hard towards the Arran goal.  Any ball which did break through was soon repelled by goalkeeper Ali Mckie who was as efficient on the floor and she was on her feet in sending the ball back out of her ‘D’.

With 5 minutes to go, the home team were awarded a penalty short corner and although their first attempt was thwarted by Ali’s excellent saving skills, the returned ball came in repetitively from the numerous Strathclyde players positioned around the goal.  Their efforts were eventually rewarded, as with some slick switch passing managed to even the score to 1-1.

Lorraine’s half time team talk was full of congratulations to her team for all their efforts in the first half and to keep on doing the same in the next one.  Encouraging Ellie, Elyse and Helen to come further up the pitch to help out in mid-field was certainly appreciated by Jenny, Hazel and Mia.  She felt confident that between Ali in goals and Pauline Reid as sweeper – club umpire and former goalkeeper herself – covering the ‘D’ this would be a safe move.

It certainly helped the flow of the game and although the home team did score the first goal in the second half 10 minutes from the whistle, Arran came back with a strong press forward, getting the ball to Mia who was waiting on the right wing to send a cracking pass into the opposition’s ‘D’, past several defenders and straight to Lorraine’s stick, who was able to deflect the ball towards the goal and under the foot of the Strathclyde keeper.

Not happy with 2-2, Arran repeated their first goal play, with Ellie belting the ball up-field to Hazel and Hazel onto Jenny and Jenny swiping the ball past the goalie to take Arran back into the lead once more with 10 minutes to go.  It was such a good goal one of the Strathclyde team was heard to say ‘Arran deserved that goal’ as she asked her own team to step up their efforts.

The Arran Ladies fought for every ball, but with the two Strathclyde subs being able to give their team mates a break, allowing the home team to field rested and refreshed players to go against the tiring visitors, little errors began to creep in.  This in turn allowed the home forwards to press strongly towards the Arran goal in the last 5 minutes of the game and score the equaliser from an advantage play in the Arran goal.  The game ended 3-3 but the Arran Ladies felt jubilant in coming away with an additional point and another three goals to take them to 5th place in the Division 3 table.  It was a game they never expected to win with so few able-bodied players, but just goes to show how well they supported each other on the pitch on the day.

Hazel Malakoty was awarded dame of the game again for her outstanding efforts in mid-field by the Strathclyde team.  Pauline had been able to play as Santa was able to umpire for the team in her place (AKA David Mackie from Clydesdale Hockey Club – but we prefer Santa!)  It certainly was a gift of a game to play in she said as she thanked him for stepping in to help out.

The Arran Ladies are now resting from competitive games over the summer, but have a couple of friendlies lined up to play for fun, so training will still be going on throughout the summer months.  Anyone who would like to come along and join this positive friendly club, who train both male and female players, is very welcome on a Thursday night at the Ormidale Astroturf pitch from 7pm to 8.30pm.


Judith Ross finds herself surrounded by three Strathclyde Uni players in the reverse fixture last November. 01_B46hockey07