Kevin Anderson’s tenure in the Lochie dug-out has struck silver early on with their first trophy since 2016 after a well deserved 3-1 win over West Side at Goathill Park.
David Macmillan, an own-goal from Johnny Wallace and a late Jim O’Donnell strike tipped the scales in a fiery cup final encounter in their balance on a night where almost every player to cross the white painted line into battle ended up in ref Neil Macritchie’s pocket book.
The biggest surprise of the night was the wave of yellow cards didn’t result in a red for either side.
Over the piece Lochs were the better side and looking back I can’t recall keeper James Macleod getting any mud on his gloves with any kind of save in the entire first-half in which time his side had taken a 2-0 lead.
West Side did improve after the restart but they had to. I imagine gaffer Murchadh Macdonald had more than a few choice words of them at the break as they burst out of the dressing room with more intensity, desire and hunger than they had shown in the opening half.
But the best chances continued to fall for Lochs and had Jim O’Donnell and Peter ‘Robbie’ Mackenzie taken half the chances which fell their way they would have been out of sight.
O’Donnell could have comfortably had a hat-trick himself on the night before he turned in the late goal which finally quashed any lingering Siarach hopes.
The sponsors gave the man of the match to Ross Allison who was a buzzbomb of energy, drive and activity for Lochs on the left of their attack.
The man of the match had to come from the Maroon half of the park but for me there was one man head, shoulders and heart above the rest – midfield warrior John ‘Uig’ Morrison.
Throughout the 90-minutes Morrison wasn’t caught in possession once, although he revelled in picking the pockets of his rivals.
He controlled the turnover of the ball constantly, won almost every 50/50 challenge he threw himself into, he turned, swivelled back one way before knocking the ball off to others and was a ferocious heartbeat for Lochs at the heart of their midfield.
Morrison is the kind of player who doesn’t get the headlines others who might score the goals or dazzle with a lollipop stepover but he is utterly irreplaceable in what he does for Lochs.
A key factor in Lochs control of the match was their practice of storming or Gegenpressing as the Germans call it.
In the vein of the current Liverpool tactic of trying to win the ball back immediately if possession is lost – storming down on the opposition defence in order to win the ball back as close to the opposition goal as possible.
This tactic meant West Side had not time on the ball, no chance for respite and if Lochs won the ball back high up the park, which they did often, they were able to feed their forwards in dangerous areas.
Having gone down 2-1 to West Side in a league defeat just a few short weeks ago, Lochs could have been forgiven for being slow or cagey out of the traps here.
But instead with the ABC Cup sitting in the stand and looking for a new home for the next 12-months Lochs flew out.
David Macmillan had a free kick spilled by West keeper David ‘Lurch’ Murray before the follow-up from Lewis Mackenzie was booted off the keeper’s chest.
Allison then slipped Peter ‘Robbie’ Mackenzie into acres of open green to gallop into and clean through on goal. Murray narrowed the angle as best as he could racing off his line and he made an important save to keep Lochs at bay.
O’Donnell was next to have a go for the Maroons as he rose to meet a Macmillan corner but his header was blocked on the line by Martainn Shields.
The opener was coming and it arrived from Macmillan who peeled off at the back post to cushion John ‘Uig’ Morrison’s free kick across goal with a controlled volley.
It was all one-way traffic and Lochs continued to knock on the door.
Lochs high-press kicked in again as Morrison won the ball on the edge of the West Side penalty area, halting any West counter attack. The ball was shunted left to the arriving Allison on the edge of the box but he was leaning back as he connected with the ball which rose harmlessly over the bar.
Lewis Mackenzie was next to have a go for Lochs as he let fly from 20-yards with his strike veering left and wide of the post.
Perhaps frustrated with Lochs’ control, West Side began to unravel. A trio of West Side players were shown yellow in quick succession before Lochs doubled their advantage.
A long ball booted up the middle of the park was allowed to bounce before looping over the retreating West Side back line.
O’Donnell gave chase with Johnny Wallace matching his stride to stride before his attempt to boot the ball clear only served to send the ball arcing high into the Stornoway sky before dropping over Murray and bouncing into the net for an own-goal.
Duncan Maclean flashed a late chance wide for West Side who failed to register a single shot on target in the first-half.
West Side were the better side in the early part of the second-half and Murchadh’s words must have been ringing in their ears as they stomped through the gears after the restart.
Innes Iain Morrison had an early shot parried away by James Macleod before West Side halved the deficit within five minutes of the second-half kicking off.
A long ball into the Lochs box saw a number of players, from both sides, challenge in the air. The loose ball broke to Maclean who volleyed into the net.
But ref Macritchie had already pointed to the spot for a push in the back of a West man from a Lochs defender long before the ball hit the net.
It was difficult to see what foul the officials had spotted in real time but Martainn Shields slotted home the penalty with minimum fuss for 2-1.
O’Donnell fired wide at one end before West were denied a second penalty at the other end.
A header from Innes Iain Morrison hit Lochs’ right-back David Skeen on the arm from close range.
There was definitely contact on his arm but the header came at pace and from with two yards and the officials waved play on.
As time ebbed by the Maroon shirts refused to rest on their slender lead and they continued to swarm forward and press as high up the park as possible.
A swift counter attack saw Allison with the ball two yards inside the West Side box before he unselfishly squared to O’Donnell who turned the ball goalwards.
Although his strike wasn’t clean it bounced into the soaked turf and looped inside the post for 3-1 with just five minutes left to play.
The final moments saw Lochs create, and spurn, two other golden opportunities with O’Donnell lobbing over the top and Peter ‘Robbie’ Mackenzie dragging wide when clean through on goal.
There was to be no late twist to the script as Lochs saw the game out and took 2018’s first trophy to the Creagan Dubh.
Lochs: James Macleod, David Skeen, Peter Mackenzie, Andrew Dunn, Daniel Mackenzie, Lewis Mackenzie, David Macmillan, John Morrison, Peter ‘Robbie’ Mackenzie, Ross Allison, Jim O’Donnell.
Subs: Gordon Macdonald, Andy Murray, Darren Wilson, Joe Murray, Calum Campbell.
West Side: David Murray, Euan Shirkie, Donnie Smith, Johnny Wallace, Duncan Maclean, Rob Shirkie, Innes Morrison, Scott Graham, Dan Macphail, Martainn Shields, Luke Mackay.
Subs: Alex John Morrson, Ally Williamson, Iain Gillies, Dylan Forster, Sam Mackay.