On 8.9.18 - The freshly promoted men’s 5th team began their first test of the new season against Greenock, the team they secured promotion against last season. Although missing Kelburne legend Dick Donaldson through injury, the 5s were proud to hand senior debuts to Andrew McGrane, Dylon Bradley and Nicholas Knox. The youthful Kelburne team recognised it would be unable to compete with the strong physical threat posed by the Greenock side and so instead knew they had to rely on their hockey ability to overcome this challenge. As expected Greenock began brightly and Kelburne struggled to match the physicality and intensity of a stronger Greenock side. After soaking up some early pressure the otherwise rock solid Kelburne back-line fell victim in the 9th minute to a loose ball at the top of the “D”. The ball was pounced upon by a Greenock forward who struck a powerful shot that took a wicked deflection off a Kelburne stick, wrong footing Fionn and sending an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net; 0-1. Crucially Kelburne did not panic and gradually worked their way back into the game as the first half progressed. The young Kelburne players noticeably began to grow in confidence and some fine play down the left flank by Jared Bolland following an early break from a Greenock short corner set up by stalwart, Ewan Crawford led to pressure on the Greenock defence. Some tenacious work by Charlie Feeney then won Kelburne a free hit just outside their opponent’s “D”. Don Tervit played the ball quickly forcing Greenock into conceding the 5s first short corner of the match. The routine was executed perfectly and Tervit drove the ball home for the equaliser after 21 minutes; 1-1. The move that led to the goal was particularly pleasing to the coaching staff having spoken about using the early break to create opportunities before the match. As the half wore on the Kelburne youngsters played some delightful hockey. Jack Nelson, Calum Jamieson, Charlie and Andrew were finding space behind the Greenock defence and neat passing play from the young midfielders (Tommy Austin, Rory Donaldson, Jared, Sam Hunt, Nicholas and Dylan) was putting the Greenock defence under pressure. Sam Hunt went close with a back stick drive from the edge of the “D” but the Greenock defence held strong through to half time. There was a new belief in the Kelburne side after the break and Kelburne followed on where they left off in the first, expertly marshalled by Don in the middle of the park. Kelburne won several short corners in the second half. The first was slipped left to Tommy whose reverse stick shot was unfortunately too high. Andrew won another corner. This time the slip was right but a slight misunderstanding between Don and Sam led to the chance passing by. The Kelburne flanks continued to press the Greenock defence and some excellent work down the left flank from Nicholas and the right by Rory helped keep the pressure on the Greenock “D”. Unfortunately however Kelburne could not find the breakthrough for the win that their play so richly deserved. Kelburne were ever wary of the pace and power of the Greenock team who looked to exploit Kelburne’s attacking style by hitting them on the break. This occasionally led to the need for some defensive work but the veteran defence of Willie, Ian, Ewan and Hamish held firm magnificently. Final score 1-1. With expectations high after last season's success, the step up in the standard of the higher league is always going to be a challenge however the team’s performance against Greenock demonstrates that this team has the ability and deserves to be playing at this level. If the 5s can match and improve on this performance, then the league should hold no fears for them for the rest of the season.
Next week the Kelburne 4s and 5s meet at Glasgow Green with a 12 o’clock push back in the first of this season's derbies.