Highland head coach Dave Carson unhappy after call-offs hamper second team's Stornoway trip

The hardy 14 players that made the journey to Stornoway with Highland's second team. Picture: Highland RFC.

The hardy 14 players that made the journey to Stornoway with Highland's second team. Picture: Highland RFC.

AN unhappy Dave Carson will speak to a number of players this week after Highland’s second team travelled to Stornoway with just 14 players.

Numerous players called off on Friday and even on Saturday morning, leaving coach James Hay with an under-strength squad to make the journey.

With all the club’s other fixtures postponed, the seconds’ game defied the weather and despite an icy pitch, they only went down 12-10 to their island counterparts.

The game meant little in the context of the league – Highland have already secured a top-three berth in Caledonia Two North West – but Carson is more concerned about the message it sends out.

The previous week they had recorded an impressive 38-15 victory over RAF Lossiemouth, which makes the player shortage even more disappointing to Carson.

“There was a lot of availability issues which I need to sort out,” he said. “It’s just another away game – it shouldn’t matter about taking a ferry or plane to get there. It’s not fair on James (Hay).

“He got some late call-offs on Friday tea-time and even on Saturday morning. Some said they were working and others just said they were unavailable.

“I’m not one for loading the seconds with first-team players, just because we don’t have a game. It’s not fair on the opposition and you risk one of the boys getting injured.

“There was something like 14 players unavailable to travel and it’s not good enough, especially after such a good result the week before. I need to get to the bottom of it this week because it can’t happen again.

“They played the whole game with 14 men and only lost with an interception try at the end. The boys that travelled are the ones that have been let down, not me. They’ll certainly be first-choice for the next home game.”

Highland’s scores came from a Calum McIntosh try converted by Rory Carson, who also slotted a penalty. Highland now only have their last fixture away to Lochaber next Saturday to complete their programme and then wait for the league split fixtures to be announced.

The first XV’s match with Lasswade was called-off on Friday morning after heavy snow and will have been very frustrating for Carson, after a week of preparation for this tough match.

However if you discount the fact the rearranged fixture extends the playing season, it does mean there is a good chance that Highland will have an even stronger side available then.

Stuart MacDonald, Paddy Bryden, Kevin Brown and Andrew Findlater, who all would have missed Saturday’s game, should be available for any rearranged fixture.

There was never any realistic chance of the Lasswade game going ahead, according to Carson, even if last week’s snowy conditions had thawed in time.

“We had a good look at the pitch and even if the snow had gone, it would have been sodden underneath,” said Carson. “It just wasn’t worth the hassle of trying to clear the snow off the pitch.

“With them having to travel too, their bus company would probably have still charged them if it was called off on Saturday morning.”

Attention now turns to this week’s game with Royal High Corstorphine, Highland’s last game before a three-week break from National Three action due to the start of the Six Nations.

“We said we wanted three good wins but now the Lasswade game has gone, we can certainly look to this one as a winnable game,” added Carson.

“They’re sitting around mid-table but they’ll definitely be a tougher proposition than they were up here. There’s no reason, if we repeat our Perthshire performance, that we can’t go there and win.”

All of the junior matches, cup and friendlies, through at Deeside were also cancelled due to the snow.

In BT Caledonia League Division Three North all of the fixtures were cancelled, giving Inverness Craig Dunain no chance to re-launch their title challenge against Aberdeen University Medics.

The last event to be held at Highland’s current clubhouse will be held on Saturday March 4.

A quiz and bingo night is being held at 7pm and any teams wishing to enter should contact Graham Findlater via email at finosenior@gmail.com. Entry is £30 per team and closing date for entries is February 28.

Highland will move to a new clubhouse for the start of the 2017-18 season.