Scotland women’s hockey coach Gordon Shepherd expects a ticket scramble for his team’s must-win showdown with England tomorrow – even with a 9am start!
Watched by a four-strong deputation from the royal family the Scots posted a 2-0 win over Wales which means that, if they defeat the Auld Enemy at the National Centre on Glasgow Green, they will go through to the semi-finals at the expense of their rivals. If the Scots fail to win, England will progress behind group winners Australia.
“There is lots of camaraderie in the village and I imagine our athletes will be clamouring for tickets,” said Shepherd, whose hopes are high. “It might be a dream to some that we could medal but that is something we set out to do from the start.
“The target from sportscotland to give us extra funding was to achieve something we have never achieved before. We just have to take that extra step and I absolutely believe in this team There will be a capacity (5,500) crowd even at nine in the morning. It’s Scotland v England on our own pitch, playing for something we’ve never achieved before. There’ll be no problem getting ourselves up and the start time won’t be a problem.
“In years gone by we’ve had early starts and also in the recent Champions Challenge tournament here. It’s no problem. We’ve done it before.” Shepherd even hinted with a wry smile that the pressure on himself might ease slightly.
Aware that Princes William, Harry and Edward were in the stand, along with the Duchess of Cambridge, the Scots coach joked: “I caught a glimpse of the royal party as I was shouting instructions on to the pitch. I had to be careful not to swear!”
In truth, apart from a few wayward shots, there was little for Shepherd to get uptight about as Scotland controlled the game helped by first-half goals from Alison Bell and Linda Clement.
A total of 1717 caps in the Scotland team compared favourably to 740 among the opposition, and that experience was made to tell as under-pressure Wales picked up a succession of cards varying between two and five minutes in the sin-bin.
Adding to the performance was the fact the Scots were coming off the back of a 9-0 defeat by Australia.
“It wasn’t hard to lift the team,” said Shepherd. “We all knew we hadn’t done our job and the great thing was to get straight out a day later with the chance to take a step forward.
“Nobody likes disappointment and we said we would have a couple of hours’ hurt then get ourselves up. The team ran and ran for the full 70 minutes and if we didn’t click in the second half, we did what we came to do by getting the win.”
In a game also watched by members of the Scotland rugby sevens squad, Scotland’s success was built on a rock-solid defence, at the heart of which was Leigh Fawcett, a physio at St John’s Hospital in Livingston.
“It was very important to get that clean sheet and we knew we were going to put Wales under pressure,” said Fawcett.
“We also knew they would be quite quick on the counter attack and that was going to be their main tactic.
“Having played Wales quite recently, we expected long balls through to a sneaky forward and had to stay switched on from the start. We had lots of shots on goal and the more we did, the more confident their ’keeper became when keeping them in the game.
“We had to be patient against what we always knew would be stuffy opposition. We said from the beginning it would be one game at a time and hopefully come down to a winner-takes-all for the semi-final place.”
Fawcett was one of two players to receive assistance from a Foundation set up by former Open golf champion, Paul Lawrie.
“I’m originally from Aberdeen and came down to live in Edinburgh three years ago,” she said.
“A lot of travelling has been involved and I’m grateful for the help received by the Lawrie Foundation to cover that.”
Continuing the multi-sports theme, Scotland’s win was achieved against opposition that included Xenna Hughes, the daughter of football legend, Mark. It also completed a Scottish double over the Welsh as, earlier in the day, the men had won 4-3.
However, their qualification hopes have evaporated and the focus will instead be on achieving a top-ten place.