Kelburne`s mercurial midfielder Niall Stott and En-Croute Western goalkeeper Abi Walker are the recipients of this season’s Gilmour Sports Players of the Year awards, but their trades are very different.
Stott, a member of the Great Britain team at the Athens Olympics, is one of the most exciting players ever produced by Scotland, and his unorthodox style is his trademark. On his day, Stott has been a match winner, his pace, stick skills and low centre of gravity make it very difficult for opponents to steal the ball. There is a buzz of anticipation when the Olympian is on the ball, and panic sets in immediately in the minds of the opposition.
Although not a prolific goal scorer in the Jonny Christie mould, Stott is a regular contributor to the Buddies` score sheet. In the league Stott notched up 13 goals, including a hat-trick in the 8-0 demolition of Menzieshill, and the former Dundee Wanderer claimed another three in the European play-offs. Perhaps his most telling contribution came in the Shepherd & Wedderburn Cup final against Grange.With the Paisley outfit struggling a little to dominate proceedings, and leading by a single goal at the interval, up stepped Stott with two crucial penalty corner conversions to kill off any further Edinburgh resistance.
Kelburne`s season has been little short of perfection, the league, cup and European play-offs all successfully negotiated without even the smell of dropped points, and Stott has made a very positive contribution to that record achievement.
At the other end of the pitch, Abi Walker has done her bit between the posts to drive the revival of En-Croute Western this season. Although the Titwood outfit just failed to grasp the league championship on goal difference from rivals Bonagrass Grove, Western took the Scottish Cup, won the European play-offs and successfully held their place among the elite in the European Cup Winners Cup. And manager Elaine Macara has her own thoughts, 'Certainly one of the reasons we did so well this season was the contribution of Abi Walker in goal, she gave the entire team a sense of confidence.'
The European play-offs at Peffermill was a zenith in Walker’s season, she kept a clean sheet in all three games against Kelburne, Giffnock and Grove.And it was her brilliant double stop at the top of the circle in the ultimate game against the Taysiders that turned the match, Western going on to cruise to a 4-0 victory at the end.
Walker’s stinginess in her own circle was again evident in Western’s very successful cup run, again no goals conceded in any of the rounds, culminating in a 1-0 victory over Giffnock in the final.
Both Stott and Walker have Beijing aspirations, and if this sort of form can be sustained, then the Olympic dream may quickly become a reality.
Source: Scotland Hockey
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