INVERLEITH set-piece expert Adam Mackenzie could be the catalyst that brings the Scottish Cup to the club for the first time since 1975, but standing in the way are local rivals Grange in an all-Edinburgh final at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre today.
Mackenzie lets his stick do the talking. The Inverleith defender has scored 39 goals so far this season in league and cup business, and all from penalty corners apart from two from the spot. “My aim has always been to be consistent, the worst conversion ratio I’ve had in games this season has been 50 per cent, although in some games I’ve scored 100 per cent as in three out of three in the 3-2 defeat of Hillhead in the league,” he said.
Mackenzie also made a direct contribution to Inverleith’s cup run. He scored twice from penalty corners, the second in overtime, to level at 2-2 against holders Grove Menzieshill – the Edinburgh side went through in a penalty shoot-out – then repeated the dose in the 3-2 win over Hillhead in last weekend’s semi-final.
Mackenzie’s match-winning potential has not been lost on Colin Clarke, the Grange coach. “Inverleith have had a strong finish to the season so we expect a tough game, they are direct and Adam Mackenzie is their key playmaker,” said Clarke.
His lethal expertise at penalty corners can win matches at the top level, but Mackenzie is the first to admit that the set-pieces have to be earned in the first place, and that is where the rest of the side comes in. “I’ve been performing well recently because of the confidence of the team,” he added. “It’s my job to execute the flicks and the routine I have at the moment seems to be working well.”
Inverleith made a rather indifferent start to the season and failed to make the top four play-offs, but they finished sixth and have made the cup final for the first time since 2009. Mackenzie, who has played 51 times for Scotland and scored ten goals, believes that Inverleith’s recent success has been due to the contribution of experienced players like Derek Salmond, Andrew Dane, Phil Hall, Lewis Gibson and goalkeeper Neil Durno. He has also noted the contribution of youngsters Andrew Malcolm and 16-year-old Patrick Christie.
“Grange are on a high and building for Europe, but we are also hitting a peak, so Saturday will make an exciting final,” he said. “I’m confident if we can execute what we do well, there is a strong chance we can get a result.”
Perhaps the omens are not so good. In the league Grange did the double, winning 5-1 and 2-1, and the last time the two city rivals met in the cup final of 2009 Inverleith were on the wrong end of a 4-0 thumping.
But these statistics will probably count for nothing when the teams take the field today at Glasgow Green, a view shared by Clarke. “The league games were before Christmas and don’t have a bearing on the cup final,” he said. “Our performances in the second part of the season have been consistent and the guys continue to push themselves to get better.”
Edinburgh University coach Sam Judge is determined not to repeat the 5-4 defeat by Milne Craig Clydesdale Western in last year’s final of the women’s cup when the two sides meet today.
“Losing last year was really hard to take, but the girls will have learnt from that. I think we’ve come along a lot from last year and have been playing better, especially latterly in the season. Hopefully we can continue this for one more game,” said Judge.
Last year both Edinburgh and Western played with full squads, but today all the Scotland players are missing and consequently both sides have to dig deep into their resources of fringe players and talented youngsters.
Judge, however, is confident. “It would mean a lot to the club winning the cup. We’ve improved so much in the past three years and it would be great to see all the hard work pay off by winning some silverware.”