Scottish Thistles Over 70 Win "Celtic Cup"

With no opportunity to inaugurate an Over 70 Celtic Cup alongside the Over 60 and Over 65 tournaments in Lille earlier in the month, Scotland and Wales competed in a double header in Wrexham on 20 and 21 September 2016 as Scottish Thistles and Welsh Dragons because both sides had to use underage players. In the event, call offs left the Scots side short and they had to call in Bob McCombe and Tony Walker, both lacking a nationality qualification.

Scottish Thistles came away clear winners with a 3-0 victory in the second match after the first had ended in a 0-0 stalemate, all three goals coming from guest player Bob McCombe, who had scored for England earlier in the year against Scotland Over 70s in the Home Internationals.

In the first match on Tuesday 20 September, Scottish Thistles played a lot of good, controlled hockey but lacked the ability to put in telling passes to their forwards. The Scottish defence under captain Alan Auld, recovering from broken ribs and a torn shoulder muscle, were rarely troubled until the last quarter, when the game became more open and Scotland reverted to hopeful crash balls which were mopped up by the Welsh defence. Finally the Welsh managed to mount a series of attacks but Scottish keeper Dick Pearce was on hand to make sure that his goal remained intact, and the match finished level at 0-0.

In the second match the following morning, it appeared that the Scots had not wakened up, and for the first ten minutes it was all Wales. Most of the play was concentrated in a small area outside the circle on the left hand side of the Scottish defence, but the Welsh were unable to create any meaningful chances in the Scottish circle, while their opponents seemed incapable of moving the ball out of their 23. Gradually the Scots wakened up and started to pass more firmly and accurately, and they started to resume the passing game which had served them well in the first match. The first quarter was scoreless but things were soon to change. Scottish Thistles worked the ball down the right to Donald Dunbar whose fine cross from the right wing was bundled past the Welsh keeper from close range by Bob McCombe to put the visitors one up. Scottish Thistles proceeded to boss the midfield, keeping control of the ball and commendably looking backward as well as forward when there was no obvious pass on. John Donnelly and Roger Willis for the Welsh were always potential threats but were more and more resorting to long balls which the Welsh forwards were unable to latch on to, and the Scottish defence was largely untroubled. The second goal really underlined the progress that Coach Murray Paton has made with changing the way in which the Scots play hockey. Andy Ferrol picked up the ball near the centre spot with two Welsh players closing him down. He laid it off to Ian Downie who took the ball forward and passed to Doug Turner on the left, and Doug ran the ball down to the edge of the circle. He sensibly cut out the Welsh keeper and pushed the ball across the circle to David Margerison. David kept his head, and with the keeper advancing on him to cut out the direct shot, he slipped the ball to Bob McCombe who had the easiest of tasks to put the ball into the empty net. Two minutes to the interval and Scottish Thistles were now firmly on top.

Thistles continued to play controlled, passing hockey in the second half but a lot of the pace had gone out of the game as both sides began to tire. Both sides had a number of short corners but none was converted, the best chance falling to Alan Auld who just failed to turn the ball into the net at the right hand Welsh post from a few inches. From Scottish Thistles' last short corner of the match, Bob McCombe secured his hat trick and certain victory for the Scots. Alan Auld's injection was missed by stopper Andy Ferrol and went all the way to Doug Turner backing up. Doug passed the ball into the circle for Ian Downie, whose inside pass was cleverly dummied by Andy Ferrol, taking out the Welsh number 1 and 2 runners, the ball reaching the unmarked Bob McCombe who thundered the ball into the net to make the score 3-0. Welsh Dragons summoned up all their remaining energy in an attempt to take something from the match but the Scots stood firm and the match ended 3-0 to Scottish Thistles.

The Scottish Thistles squad was: Alan Auld (Captain), Ian Downie, Donald Dunbar, Andy Ferrol, Bob McCombe, David Margerison, Dick Pearce, Robbie Robertson, Alan Strachan, Doug Turner, Tony/ Walker*, Sandy Weir. *Tuesday only. Brian Moore was to be our umpire but suffered a car breakdown on the way and was unable to attend.