Milne Craig Western defender Catriona Forrest is included in the squad of seventeen announced today by Scotland coach Gordon Shepherd for the World Cup Qualifier to be held in Santiago (Chile), starting on April 24. Forrest, who has been sidelined with a hip injury for several months, has proved her fitness and is the only addition to the team which won the Celtic Cup in Nice at the beginning of this month.
Unfortunately that means there is no place for Grove`s Becky Merchant and CALA Edinburgh`s Amy Brodie, or indeed for Grove striker Nikki Kidd who has also been troubled with injury over the recent months.
“It was a very difficult task to make the final selection and it`s hard to leave players out, but I`ve picked a squad of players who have showed well in training and I believe can perform successfully as a unit in the World Cup Qualifier,” Shepherd said. “There`s good experience in the squad and the confidence level is high, it`ll be a tough ask to get a medal but one I know the players can achieve.”
In fact all but three of the squad have over thirty caps for Scotland while Vikki Bunce, Sam Judge and captain Linda Clement are all centurions.
Shepherd also said: “There`s a lot of pace in the team as the fitness level is good, but a real strength of the squad is the amount of players capable of scoring goals.” By that Shepherd means the likes of Western strikers Sam Judge and Holly Cram, the Grove trio of Aimee Clark, Ailsa Robertson and Ali Bell as well as Linda Clement and Vikki Bunce from the midfield.
Shepherd is also happy with the match schedule just announced by the International Hockey Federation (FIH). The Scots open against Ireland on April 24, a tough local derby, but Shepherd`s charges came out on top 2-1 in the recent Celtic Cup, the goals coming from Ali Bell and Sam Judge from a late set piece. Australia, favourites for the single qualifying place, are next up followed by Malaysia, hosts Chile and originally Ukraine.
But Ukraine, a replacement for Trinidad & Tobago, have themselves withdrawn from the tournament and the FIH are in the process of contacting the three reserve countries, Netherlands Antilles, Lithuania and Ghana, to fill the vacant slot.
Shepherd said: “The match schedule is fine and if no other country replaces Ukraine the programme stays the same so we will get an extra day`s rest before the final matches on May 2.”
To return with a medal is Shepherd`s target, but it would be a real feather in his cap if his charges were to face Australia again, this time in the final.
photos Janos Schmidt