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Scottish Thistles win Silver in Athens

Mentors Tournament, Athens 2-5 June 2011

Scottish Thistles were in the Over 65 group along with Alliance and England LX. LX beat Alliance 6-0 in the first game in the group while Thistles drew with England LX Over 70s in a friendly fixture. On the second day, the result between Thistles and LX was a 1-1 draw, leaving LX with 7 points, with Thistles on 2 and Alliance with no points. To win the group on Sunday, Scottish Thistles needed to beat Alliance by at least 6 goals. In the event, they cruised to a 3-0 victory over Alliance and had to settle for silver behind the English on goal difference.

Thursday 2 June 17:00 England LX SGM 0 Scottish Thistles 0

A good team performance saw Scottish Thistles gradually impose themselves on the game after a fairly even first half, the highlight of which was keeper Kalman's nonchalent nod which deflected a looping England LX shot over the bar. The Scots, aided by a couple of Welshmen in Johnson and Ferguson, went on to dominate the second half, winning a succession of short corners, the best effort being cleared off the line superbly by White. Thistles should have taken the lead when a soft penalty was awarded but Downie's weak effort was easily saved by the English keeper and the score stayed blank to the end.

Friday 3 June 11:30 Scottish Thistles 1 England LX GGM 1

The match was played in searing midday heat but both teams coped well with the conditions, given that the pitch started to show dry patches almost immediately the sprinklers stopped. It was a strange first half, both sides being very conservative and cautious about the opposition. The English side had more of the midfield possession but rarely threatened the Scottish goal. However they put enough pressure on the Scottish Thistles to force an error which led to the first goal from a penalty corner. The Scots reorganised in the second half, moving Nawn forward from his defensive position, but LX held them at bay until, in the final quarter, Scottish Thistles upped their effort and won a penalty corner when Downie's crossfield pass into the circle was met by Smith, overlapping from the right back position. A stick tackle gave Thistles a short corner and almost a goal when a loose ball off the keeper was picked up by Downie, who was unable to force it past the English keeper. The ball was not cleared and another penalty corner was awarded to the Scots. This time Downie elected to inject immediately on placing the ball,catching the English defence by surprise. Chisholm was closed down by the LX runner but the ball broke to Smith, who shot past the out of position English keeper. The LX post man could do no more than deflect the ball straight to Downie, who had an easy task to despatch the ball past the hapless English defender on the line to equalise. LX increased their efforts but their trademark diagonal pass from the right failed to find a forward on the far post and the game finished in a draw.

Saturday 4 June All Day Festival - 25 minute matches, one way, Pool Alpha
10:00 England LX SGM/GM1 Blue One 1 Scottish Thistles 1 (Johnson)
11:30 England LX SGM/GM1 Red One 0 Scottish Thistles 0
14:30 Anavryta 49 3 Scottish Thistles 0

Scottish Thistles faced England LX sides for the third and fourth times in a row and emerged with honours even. Playing against mixed age sides containing a number of current England Over 60s internationals, Thistles once more performed as a team. In the first match, LX stole a goal at a disputed penalty corner but Johnson equalised after Paterson intercepted a stray pass, bore down on the sweeper and slipped the ball to Johnson. The guest Welshman from Aberdeen rounded the keeper and trundled the ball into the empty net with two despairing English defenders unable to reach it before it crossed the line. The second game, against a rather stronger LX side, was a backs to the wall affair in which all the huffing and puffing of the English attack could not manufacture a goal thanks to the keeper Kalman and the resolute defence behind him.

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there's an Englishman in there somewhere...

The final game in the 'fun' Saturday competition against the hosts, Anaryta 49, was a different story. The Greeks fielded a number of fast and skilful underage players and unlike the English they missed out the midfield entirely, using long balls to pick up runners behind the Thistles defence. For the first time, the defence looked overwhelmed and Anaryta picked up three goals; they could have had more but for the heroics of Kalman in the Scottish goal. At the other end, the Scots made a chance or two thanks to the forceful work of Nawn in midfield but the nearest they came to scoring was when Margerison's shot after a lung bursting run down the right wing was saved at the near post by the Anaryta keeper.

Sunday 5 June 11:00 Alliance International 0 Scottish Thistles 3 (Johnson, Nawn, Downie)

For the first time, Scottish Thistles fielded an attacking 4-3-3 formation against Alliance, using the two wide forwards as wingers to avoid the central area where their opponents were strongest. Almost immediately this put the Alliance defence under severe pressure and Thistles took the lead when Johnson carried the ball along the line from his wide left striking position and, with Downie free on the penalty spot as a distraction, beat the keeper at the near post. A second followed soon after when Nawn's shot at a penalty corner was parried back to him by the keeper, a gift gratefully accepted by the centre midfielder who despatched a fine shot into the net to put the Scots two up.

The quarter break, necessary because of the high temperature, saw Thistles on target for the number of goals needed to win the group, but also gave their opponents the opportunity to reorganise to cope with the Scottish tactical formation. It was almost half time before the third goal arrived, and it was one worth waiting for. Nawn and Johnson interpassed down the left until Johnson found himself in a similar position to where he scored the first goal. This time, he chose to pass to Downie who eluded the goalkeeper to slip the ball into the net.

The second half was disappointing as Scottish Thistles began to run out of steam, though they were still less tired than their opponents. Still, the tiredeness led to mistakes, though they were robbed of two goals when first Downie was unfairly penalised for back sticks as he rounded the goalkeeper with the goal empty and then Nawn's looping shot from a penalty corner was ruled out for being too high, even though it hit the backboard half way up and was certainly not over the height of the backboard when it crossed the line. The biggest blow was the loss of skipper Chisholm with a hamstring injury. Nawn was forced back into defence and the midfield lost its driving force, the game petering out with no further scoring.

Squad

Chisholm (Captain), di Rollo, Downie, Ferguson, Kalman (GK), Johnson, Lloyd, Margerison, Nawn, Paterson, R. Robertson, Smith, Weir

Umpire

Brian Moore

Pools

Over 60s Pool 1: England LX 1, Gens Italica, Zestigplussers

Over 60s Pool 2: Anavryta 49, England LX 2, Egypt

Over 65s: Alliance International, England LX, Scottish Thistles

Over 70s: England LX, Germany, Zestigplussers