Playing to the crowd

Alison Bell
Alison Bell

Scotland’s women served up a 2-2 draw against South Africa in the first of five pre-Olympic hockey test matches at Titwood on Sunday, in front of a crowd of around 500.

The event was also the official opening of the Clydesdale club’s upgraded international hockey pitch, and the associated practice and warm-up facilities, and was rewarded with brilliant and undiluted sunshine.

It was certainly a day to remember in the distinguished history of this southside club as councillor Archie Graham — who was later revealed as the new chairman of the city’s culture and sports organisation, Glasgow Life — made the keynote speech.

As chairman of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games committee, he complimented Clydesdale on being the first Scottish club to have its own hockey pitch of this standard, and hinted that warm-up matches prior to the Games hockey tournament were likely to be played at this new facility.

In a pre-match interview with BBC sports commentator Alison Walker, Scotland captain Catriona Ralph said she had been a member of the club since the age of seven.

She felt a great pride at leading the national team for the first international match to be played on the new pitch.

With several other members of the Clydesdale Western squad based at Titwood also in the international line-up, the Scots went one-down in the first half.

But, inspired by Scotland’s women’s coach Gordon Shepherd — who is also coach to the Clydesdale men — the Scots came back strongly in the second half.

A goal by Ali Bell levelled the scores soon after the interval, before South Africa again went ahead.

In a dramatic climax, Scotland won a last-minute short corner and a superb move involving Ralph, Nikki Kidd and a final touch by Nikki Lloyd secured the well-deserved draw.

The entire five-match series reaches its conclusion this weekend, with games at 7.30pm on Friday (June 1) and at 2.30pm on Saturday (June 2).

Entry is free for spectators, but the series is being streamed online, live and free-to-air, by Glasgow-based QuipuTV, with Video-on-Demand replays of each game available for $0.99.