Scotland Men are back in the top tier of European hockey for the first time since 2005 after beating Russia 4-3 in a thrilling EuroHockey Championships II semi-final in Glasgow on Friday.
Scotland seemed to have sewn up their place in the top flight having built up a 4-0 lead with eleven minutes left, but Russia, who came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Wales, scored three late goals to give the hosts a few anxious moments.
Both sides battled in the first half, but the breakthrough came one minute before half time, Kenny Bain giving Scotland the lead from a penalty corner.
In the 36th minute, Ben Cosgrove doubled Scotland’s lead running to the centre of the circle before finishing from short range shadowed by Russian defenders.
Just before the end of the third quarter, Cameron Fraser pounced on a penalty corner rebound from Surbiton’s Alan Forsyth to bring the ball down with an overhead stick and force the ball over the goalline.
In the 49th minute, Surbiton’s Chris Grassick found Forsyth beyond the right post, Forsyth scoring Scotland’s fourth goal with an angled shot into the goal.
Russia appeared dead and buried, but just as against Wales, they mounted a comeback which this time just fell short.
A minute after Scotland led 4-0, Semen Matkovskiy’s penalty corner shot began the comeback, the Russians wanting to hurry Scotland up in returning the ball to the centre line in spite of the clock having stopped as per international hockey rules.
With five minutes remaining, there was a mix-up in the Scottish defence which allowed Pavel Plesetskii enough space to score a stunning goal to reduce Scotland’s lead to 4-2.
In the penultimate minute, with Russia fielding a kicking back, Nikolay Komarov got the final touch at another penalty corner to leave Scotland defending a 4-3 with just under two full minutes to play.
Scotland held on, carrying the ball down the right touchline and using up precious seconds, Russia gaining possession just before the final hooter.
All four of Surbiton’s internationals, Grassick, who captained his country; Forsyth; Nick Parkes and Willie Marshall were in Scotland’s starting lineup.
After the match Forsyth said, “I’m speechless! It’s an amazing feeling. We’ve worked so hard and played so well and the support we’ve had has been tremendous. It’s been a long time coming but I’m so happy we’ve qualified. Hopefully we can carry on into the game tomorrow and win the final as well.”
Scotland will join Wales in the top flight for the first time in 2019 and meet in a Battle of Britain at 4.30 pm on Saturday (12 August) to decide which country will be second division champions.
More information about the tournament can be found in the Match Centre section of the FIH website here
The Scottish Hockey match report can be found here