LOVAT eventually made it past Kingussie after extra time and a penalty shoot-out in Saturday’s Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup semi-final at Inverness’s Bught Park. They now face holders Newtonmore for the silverware at Oban’s Mossfield Park next month.

That Lovat eventually won out against a younger, livelier Kingussie side that ran them close throughout the contest was entirely due to top-class performances from two of their big players: front man Greg Matheson and goalkeeper Stuart MacDonald.

The 3-3 extra-time draw saw Matheson hit all three of his side’s goals while at the other end Lovat’s MacDonald was outstanding. Not only did he pull off a series of big stops including a superb penalty save in normal time, he also broke Kingussie hearts in the shoot-out saving four of their five efforts, not one of which was poorly struck. Afterwards, a relieved Lovat manager Fraser Gallacher was realistic in his assessment. “We always know we have a chance with Stuart in our team when it comes to penalties,” he said.

“However, the way Kingussie played lets me know that we need more depth to our squad. Today we were without defender Danny Kelly and when we lost centre-back Callum Cruden after 20 minutes we began to be tested.”

Gallacher is certainly right to be concerned by the ease with which Kingussie scored their opening goal when youngster James Falconer pounced on a half-hit clearance by defender Craig Mainland in the second minute to fire a low strike past MacDonald.

Lovat then passed up chances to get back on terms and were very fortunate not to go further behind in 12 minutes when Falconer’s attempt was blocked by their international keeper at point-blank range.

Matheson then came into his own in the Lovat attack and though denied a penalty when brought dow, he showed excellent stickwork when he cushioned a Graham Macmillan pass one handed past his marker in 22 minutes before sliding the ball past Kingussie keeper Craig Dawson for the equaliser.

Lovat continued to edge the first half though the pace of the young Kingussie forwards continually caused them problems.

Unfortunately for the Badenoch side, Alexander Michie’s well-struck attempt was kept out by MacDonald. It was an omen of what was to come.

A high-tempo Kingussie start to the second half saw them take the lead once again thanks to a well-worked move which ended with Fraser Munro finishing neatly from close range. However, Badenoch side failed to press home their advantage and Lovat drew level when Matheson pounced in 66 minutes to knock home the loose ball after Dawson had blocked a strike from Lovat’s Marc MacLachlan.

Extra time saw Lovat take the lead for the first time with Matheson again manufacturing a virtuoso aerial finish after another MacLachlan strike had caused confusion in the Kingussie defence. This time the Kiltarlity side must have thought they would be able to safely see the game out and pulled Matheson back into their defence. However they conceded a late foul and following an almighty scramble in the goalmouth after an Anderson shot had hit the bar, Kingussie full-back Robert Mabon fired home the goal that gave his side a chance of Camanachd glory via the penalty shoot-out.

Unfortunately for Mabon and his team-mates, MacDonald had other ideas.