Scots finish on a high in Pisa and Cardiff
There will undoubtedly be disappointment in the Scotland ranks that neither the women nor the men managed to qualify for their respective World Cups, but there are positives in the air.
Firstly, both Scotland squads remained unbeaten in normal time – only the lottery of the running shoot-out scenario proved their undoing.
And secondly, both sides finished according to their ranking, the women in third spot and the men in fifth – so nothing lost there.
Finally, both squads did remarkably well considering the problems faced with COVID restrictions, many of their players playing outside Scotland, and the lack of competitive build-up matches.
Scotland`s women got off to the best of starts with a goal in only four minutes, Sarah Jamieson created the opening down the right, her cross found Fiona Burnet who calmly stroked the ball past the keeper.
But Belarus replied quickly after with a spectacular shot from Natallia Shtsin which flew past Amy Gibson into the roof of the net. Jen Eadie and Becky Ward both had penalty corner opportunities but shot wide.
The second quarter created few clear-cut chances as most of the action centred in the midfield. But four minutes from the interval Burnet was put through into the circle, she collided with the Belarus keeper and lay there watching the ball trickle slowly into the empty net for 2-1.
The Scots had their chances in the second half: at penalty corners, Emily Dark and Jen Eadie both had their efforts blocked. However, it was Belarus who had five penalty corner chances but failed to equalise through saves from Amy Gibson and a fine goal line stop by Emily Dark.
Towards the end the Scots might have added to their tally, both chances fell to Sarah Robertson, one was saved by the keeper, the other flew just wide of the far post.
However, the Scots held on in the closing minutes for a hard fought 2-1 win.
Coach Chris Duncan said: “” We were all deflated after losing out on a place in the World Cup, it took a big emotional toll on the players, but they bounced back magnificently to beat Belarus in our final match. They are a very unorthodox team and hard to play against, but we stuck to our task well and came away with a hard-fought win.
“I would certainly like to thank the seven staff and all the players for a magnificent effort in Pisa – they all did a brilliant job.”
Scotland`s men also did all the running in the early action in their encounter with Russia: Cameron Golden, Hamish Imrie and Andy Bull at a penalty corner all had chances to open the scoring. At the other end Tommy Alexander was called into action on two or three occasions.
Six minutes from half time the Scots converted their pressure into a goal. Lee Morton did all the running; he passed the ball on to Golden whose reverse stick slap flew into the roof of the net.
The Scots were not so good in the third quarter but certainly came to life in a goal-strewn final 15 minutes. It started with another Golden goal after good build-up play by Michael Bremner to double Scotland`s tally. Seconds later Laroslav Loginov pulled one back for Russia at a penalty corner.
Scotland`s two goal margin was restored with a spot conversion by Lee Morton after an illegal stop on the line by a Russian defender – Morton sent the keeper the wrong way.
Before the Russians could catch breath, Ed Greaves added a fourth at a second phase penalty corner scenario. Nikolay Yankun scored Russia`s second in the closing minutes, but it was little more than a consolation.
Coach Derek Forsyth said: “We started well and could well have been two or three goals up, but then the Russians came back into the game. The third quarter was scrappy, and we had to juggle about with our formation following an injury to Andy Bull. We came back to life in the final quarter, scored three goals and saw out the rest of the game. Overall, the lack of warm-up games undoubtedly put us on the back foot for the tournament.”
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