Western Wildcats 1 (McConnell)
Wildcats finished the first half of the outdoor season with a victory in this Glasgow dery and now head indoors until next February.
Despite a bright start the match very much reflected the grey conditions. Hillhead were last season’s surprise package, finishing fourth in the league before finally coming unstuck against an experienced Wildcats side in the end of season Euro-playoff. Much has changed in the intervening months and the new look Cats faced off against a side who were struggling for form and found themselves placed seventh in the league.
The match started at a blistering pace and with the final words of wisdom from coaches Dunlop and Moran ringing in their ears, the Cats set off with vigour and intent.
Within seconds some slick midfield passing found Clunie free in the inside right channel. The big man collected the ball and set off on a barnstorming run, charging past several defenders before finding McConnell in space at the back post with a smart pass. The young Wildcats no.7 made no mistake with the finish as he slammed the ball under Hillhead keeper Rory Kerr to put Western a goal up with not even a minute played.
A free-scoring, open game beckoned but sadly the expectant fans were left disappointed as remarkably both sides failed to register another goal in the ensuing 69 minutes of error-strewn hockey.
Western had a barrow load of chances, some ably dealt with by young Hillhead stopper Kerr, and others wasted with profligate finishing. Hillhead threatened on the break but were reduced to a handful of chances by a solid defensive display from the Cats and having scored just 11 league goals all season, never really looked like making the breakthrough.
A tense finish was ensured due to yellow cards for Smith and Goldie which reduced the Cats to 9 men for the final minutes, but the defence held firm and Western took the spoils.
The win puts Western back into 3rd place in the league and firmly in the running for the Euro playoffs. With the league now shutting down for the winter break, The Cats can reflect on a decent start to the league campaign which has kept this young side within striking distance of the top.