Kelburne Men’s 1st XI completed the treble by defeating Menzieshill in the Playoff Grand Final to win the National Champions Trophy on Sunday. Following their recent 12th consecutive National League title and Scottish Cup wins, the club have now completed a clean sweep of all domestic silverware this season leaving the management committee at the Whitehaugh club scrambling for additional storage space in the burgeoning trophy cabinet.
The two leading sides in Scottish hockey this year had served up a series of tight encounters in recent months and this mouth-watering season finale attracted a large, expectant crowd at the Glasgow Green National Hockey Centre. The opening exchanges were evenly contested with both sides competing for dominance in the key midfield battle ground.
The deadlock was finally broken after 25 minutes with Ben Peterson juggling the ball in the circle and finishing with a deft lift over the advancing ‘keeper. Lifted by the goal, Kelburne took control of proceedings and set about implementing the game plan set out by coaches Chris Nelson, Iain Schofield and injured skipper Johnny Christie beforehand.
With Michael Christie pulling the strings in the middle of the pitch, the increasing Kelburne pressure paid off through a skilful run by the impressive Lee Morton who jinked into the circle past three defenders before dispatching a low shot that Jack Mackenzie was alert to and saw home. Who got the final touch was uncertain and will no doubt be referred to the dubious goals panel but what was certain was the display on the scoreboard going into half time. Kelburne 2 Menzieshill 0.
The second half began as a rather scrappy affair as the Dundee side tried to claw their way back into the match. Both sets of supporters attempted to rouse their team, creating a powder keg atmosphere at times. The umpires attempted to control proceedings with a flurry of cards which changed the dynamic of the game for a period as both sides displayed more turnovers than a French bakery.
Five minutes after the restart, Menzieshill finally got on the scoresheet with strong run from midfield ending with a low pass that was deflected home in a crowded circle. Galvanised by the strike, the Dundonians stepped forward and continued to threatened the Kelburne goal, gaining a series of penalty corners but none of these was able to find their way past a strong ‘burne rearguard superbly marshalled by goalkeeper Ben Rennie.
Kelburne continued to push for the killer third goal and came close following a slick defensive penalty corner breakaway involving Gary Maitles, Chris Traynor and the evergreen Ross McPherson. They were unable to dispatch ‘the ‘hill’ though and were made to pay with 9 minutes remaining when a clever through ball found Paul Martin in the shooting area and he clinically finished to give his team the equaliser.
Just as the game looked destined for extra time, some Lee Morton trickery won Kelburne a penalty corner opportunity with only 4 minutes left on the clock. With all eyes on the Paisley side’s set piece routine, flicker Josh Cairns appeared the coolest man in the stadium as he stepped up and sent a thunderous shot high into the top corner past the despairing Menzieshill ‘keeper.
The league champions used all of their experience to maintain possession and see out the final minutes to secure a special victory that sent their fabulous support into raptures as the final whistle came. The team can now move onto the European Trophy in May with the confidence of having reasserted their position as Scotland's number one team in next season's European competition. The treble is also a fitting way to mark a season in which the club sadly lost one of its greatest figures in Gerry Ralph. This victory is dedicated to him.