LOVAT brought in the New Year in style with a commanding 4-1 win over arch-rivals Beauly to reclaim the Lovat Cup.
Scotland under-21 captain Greg Matheson was Beauly’s tormentor in chief with two smartly taken goals as Lovat came from behind to underline their Premiership status against a plucky Beauly side who will be taking their place in the newly-formed National Division One next season.
Despite days of torrential rainfall, Lovat’s Balgate pitch stood up well to 90 minutes of non-stop action, while overhead the storms abated to provide a perfect afternoon for the match with the attendance on a par with recent years and estimated to have been in the region of 1500 spectators.
Beauly came into the match missing key defenders Dougie Blain and Scott MacLeod — a situation that forced them to play centre half back Conor Cormack in the unaccustomed position of full back. Former Inverness striker James Cameron took his place at full forward backed by the powerful Marc MacLaclan.
Lovat were at full strength with Matheson and Scotland senior star Kevin Bartlett providing the main goalscoring threat.
But it was Beauly who threatened first and Lovat found themselves on the back foot as the Green and Whites surged forward. With the crowd barely settled, teenage forward Calum Morrison fired the visitors ahead when his scuffed shot bamboozled Lovat goalkeeper Stuart MacDonald with just two minutes on the clock.
It was a dream start for the holders who really needed only a draw to retain the trophy, but Lovat’s response was almost immediate when in the fourth minute Matheson applied the finish to a sweeping move.
Beauly reacted well to that setback and continued to threaten the Lovat goal, although the home side were beginning to find gaps in the visitors makeshift defence and in the 15th minute the balance of the match changed dramatically when Ryan Ferguson put Lovat ahead only to limp off through injury a few minutes later.
Lovat reshuffled their defence with Drew Howie moving to wing back and Calum Cruden slotting into the full centre role to give the side a more attacking focus.
The pace was unrelenting and Beauly belied their lower league status to give the Premiership runners up a very uncomfortable opening 45 minutes.
But with the second half scarcely started, Matheson took advantage of hesitancy in the Beauly defence to put his side 3-1 in front.
It was now a long way back for underdogs and Lovat looked to be in control as Beauly’s effort waned.
Beauly goalkeeper MacKay Murray pulled off a couple of smart saves, but he was helpless when Bartlett made it four in the 65th minute to set off wild celebrations among the massed ranks of the Lovat supporters.
It was the second Lovat Cup triumph in three attempts for Lovat manager Alan MacRae and provides the prefect boost ahead of the new season starting on Saturday 1st March.