The Hunger game: MCC Western edge a close match, against long term rivals, Grove Menzieshill, in the best game of the day.
With both sides having to watch Edinburgh University winning National 1 with ease this season - forthcoming play-offs apart - yesterday was about having something concrete to grab on to and hold proudly aloft. The Old Firm of Scottish ladies hockey always produce exciting matches, and yesterday was no exception as both sides walked out hungry for silverware, in front of the largest crowd of the day.
And it was end to end stuff straight from the off with MCC Western having a little more of the possession - but, 13 minutes in and Grove took the lead through Ali Bell, after some great work in the build up by veteran Pauline Stott. Five minutes later and Western were right back at them with a great strike from Fiona Bruce at the short corner. Game on, most definitely. And sure enough, Grove M took the lead again three minutes later with a great piece of skill and finish from Sarah Jamieson. The match continued it's end to end excitement, and Western got their second equaliser of the day through Ali Howie - not long back from injury - who had been putting in a particularly good performance, with some good, penetrating runs into the heart of the Grove midfield and defence. And then the game took a real turn in the favour of the ladies from Titwood, when just before half-time Millie Brown scored one of her trademark opportunist's goals with a deflection off a Nicki Skrastin shot.
Western took themselves into the changing rooms with a 3-2 lead and within five minutes of restarting this tight, close match they eased the pressure on themselves with another goal, after some great build-up play, that produced Fiona Bruce's second of the match - 4-2.
Talking of opportunist goalscorers; the queen of them all, Grove and ex-Scotland captain Linda Clement, was on hand within a few short minutes to score one of her own, with a great finish past Western's keeper, Louise Duffy, after a Louise Carroll short corner strike rebounded back out.
It set up a great and tense end to the second half, from a match that had some really good performances streaming through, from players on both sides. The younger players in the two squads are fitting in well with their older more experienced mentors. And their mentors - and some of them are not that much older - were getting stuck in like their lives depended on it.
But, it was the last 35 seconds that summed up the whole essence of what was at stake in this cup final. A correct decision - and some would say brave decision, considering there was only seconds on the clock - saw a resolute Sarah Wilson blow for a penalty stroke, after Grove's Pauline Stott went down heavily in the D. Umpire Wilson didn't flinch as she blew, and Western's defence barely complained.
So, up steps one of the calmest, coolest heads in the history of the game - Grove Menzieshill stalwart, defender Louise Carroll. There's just over 30 seconds of the 70 minutes left. If she scores this it will give Grove M their equaliser and most likely - unless there's yet another goal - tickets for both squads to the penalty shoot-out lottery. As both sets of players looked on, nerves jangling, ex-Scotland internationalist, Carroll, didn't looked remotely phased as she stepped into her stroke. And it was a good one, but Western's keeper Louise Duffy's save was even better.
For the last few remaining seconds Grove - still 4-3 down - mounted one last attack, but as the final whistle blew the harsh reality of "cup fever" came to an end for the ladies from Dundee. The ladies in orange were understandably ecstatic - and after the usual sporting handshakes between these two sides, they went on to celebrate the lifting of the Scottish Cup yet again, after defeating their old foes who've won the trophy many times themselves. It was undoubtedly the best game of the day with great hockey from both clubs.
And the hunger will remain for both sides, as they face each other home and away next weekend, in those all-important play-off matches for Europe. Game-on again, x 2!
FINAL SCORE: MCC Western 4 Grove Menzieshill 3.
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