by Gary Kirkpatrick
Livingston Handball Club’s Ross Strachan has revealed the joy in experiencing a testing European tie with British rivals London GD, despite a narrow aggregate defeat across two legs.
The West Lothian team locked horns with the capital side in Kent earlier this month in the first meeting between an English and Scottish club in an official European Handball competition.
Both sides were competing for a place in the third round of the European Challenge Cup, the third tier of continental competition in amateur handball.
Despite a valiant effort, the Scottish outfit ended the tie on the wrong end of an agonisingly tight 46-42 scoreline.
The experience could be described as a baptism of fire for many of the youthful Livingston squad, as they competed in their first ever cross-border tournament, including Strachan, who explained how the team reached the European spotlight.
He said: “We finished second in the (domestic) league last season and went onto play in the British Cup, which is the top two teams in Scotland and the top two teams in England.
“We came runners up in that event, getting beat by Glasgow in the final. So because we came second in the British cup, we got drawn into the EHF Challenge Cup.”
The star, who played a vital role in the team’s journey to European competition and scored 8 of his side’s 19 goals during the first leg, spoke of the two matches with delight and honour.
The 21 year-old from Livingston said: “It was a great experience. The lead up was good and we had a very good pre-season in preparation for the European tie on and off the court.
“The media coverage was good. The game got streamed live on BBC Sport and there was lots of promotion during the upcoming weeks about the tie, as it was deemed as the ‘Battle of Britain’.”
With the added bonus of BBC Sport’s live streaming coverage during the first leg of the encounter, Strachan hopes handball can reach a more mainstream audience and participation at a grassroots level increases.
He said: “Definitely. Hopefully many people back home (in Scotland) watched the game and have been inspired to take part in the sport we play in as there are many opportunities within handball.”
Strachan, who lives in Kilmarnock and currently studies sports development at the University of the West of Scotland, was pleased with his personal performance across the first leg but felt he could have imposed more of an influence in the crucial deciding match.
He continued, saying: “I loved the experience. I felt like I performed at my best on the Saturday by scoring 8 goals. Then on the Sunday, I felt like I didn’t have as good a game as the day before but was still happy to score three goals and help the team to the end to get a draw.”
You can revisit the whole duration of the first leg on the BBC Sport website. Click the link below to watch the match.