Scenery, Pints and an Ice Cream Scoop – Lanark United – 24/07/2021

Moor Park in the sunshine

Background

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I made the trip down to the ancient market town of Lanark to take in some local football. Lanark United were taking on Wishaw in the West of Scotland Football League Conference ‘A’ and I was interested. According to my ‘research’ on Wikipedia the town has produced several Scottish footballing talents that includes Walter Smith, Rab Douglas, Stephen McManus, Henry Smith and Stephen Pearson. Not a bad five-a-side team to be fair. Funnily enough, I learned that Hamilton Accies icon Dougie Imrie started his career with Lanark United and his grandfather Hamish is still involved with the club. Potentially good pub quiz knowledge.  The Yowes may feel like they could do with a few of these players with Wishaw coming to town. Wishy had banged in five unanswered goals in their first outing of the season and came to Moor Park on a high.

The Journey

I set off at around 12:50 to drive the forty or so minutes to Lanark. The drive was lovely. South Lanarkshire’s countryside is a thing of beauty. Constantly rolling hill peaks, endless seas of green and the odd village dotted about here and there gives a very relaxed feel. I drove through the town of Lanark’s opponents as well as Carluke. Both looked equally nice in the basking sunshine. I passed the shores of the gleaming Lanark Loch before parking my car just outside the gates of Moor Park. I understand not all my travels will be in such fortunate weather as we enter autumn and eventually winter but for now, it is hard not to enjoy my surroundings. I was in high spirts.

Facilities

Moor Park is a lovely wee ground. It has everything you need and a bit extra for a club of this size. As soon as you enter you are greeted with a newly painted, unique looking refreshments stand. Although I didn’t delve in any this time around, the guy in the small compartment he called a hatch seemed to be having a great time. Straight ahead was the rear end of the two main stands. One long silvery, metallic looking structure was sat next to a much smaller, bright blue enclosure. They both looked appealing, especially in the melting sunshine. Everything was blue, white and recently painted. A clean and clear brand was obvious and a  nice touch by the club. A small beer garden was set up just to the left-hand side of the gates. I thought this was excellent as not only does it offer a more adult alternative to the food and drink options, but it also gives off a very relaxed and community feel to the ground. Punters can sit down, debate and drink in the very same arena where they’ll be viewing their local team. A pint or five would have gone down a treat in this weather, but my drive back home suggested otherwise. The scenery surrounding the ground is spectacular. Up upon the small embankments located around the stadium it is clear to see the rolling hills spread neatly across the horizon. For the level of football the ground hosts, Moor Park is impressive. It scores 3.5/5.

The Match

A cool breeze rolled through the ground as Lanark United kicked us off. From the get-go, The Yowes looked nervy at the back with Wishaw playing a high pressing game. It seemed to be working too, as Wishy controlled the possession in the opening exchanges. A few pot shots at goal were all they could muster up though and were gathered easily by the goalkeeper. Lanark had a few digs of their own, but their time on the ball was limited. They were forced to hit long balls for much of the half which were easily dealt with by Wishaw’s towering centre-halves. However, The Yowes had the two best chances of the game in quick succession. A misplaced pass by Wishy’s no.5 set Lanark on their way. Some good running down the left-hand side led to a strike being dealt with by the Wishaw ‘keeper. As his striking partner was free in the box, a simple lay-off could have seen United go a goal up. Wishaw continued to dominate possession, but it was Lanark who should have gone ahead (again). This time the ball was squared after another excellent drive down the left. No.10 somehow managed to scoop the ball over the bar when it seemed much easier to score. A real sitter. This was a major let off for Wishaw who had ridden their luck with these chances. Despite the away side’s further control of the game, the first half ended goalless.

Wishaw flew out the traps in the second half. A through ball was played with Wishy’s no.11 chasing. His pace was good enough to get to the ball before the onrushing goalkeeper to slot the ball away. Lanark responded quickly. The Yowe’s no.9 made a decent run into the box and floated a delicate cross into the box. However, Wishy’s goalkeeper got an important touch to divert the ball away for a corner. Wishaw’s no.11 was having a stormer of a half. He made an excellent, jinking run into Lanark’s box with his shot hitting the side netting. Subsequently, United’s goalkeeper went off injured for reasons I have not learned of yet. Nevertheless, The Yowe’s replacement was a young, slight goalkeeper who was perhaps waiting on the results of his Higher English exams. He had a good opportunity to impress. Lanark were becoming more comfortable with the pace of the half and created a few half-chances. However, their final ball never seemed to be good enough and composure never seemed to be acquired. The home crowd were up when a superb strike was bravely blocked for a corner. A resounding excited groan was vocalised – a sound that has been desperately missed in grounds up and down the country. Hilariously though, and in true Scottish football style, the crowd was punished for this crime of enthusiasm. From the resulting corner the ball was gathered well by the Wishaw goalkeeper. His early throw set his team off for an expert counterattack. Superb link up between Wishy’s no.7 and no.9 resulted in the latter slotting the ball off the far-post and into the back of the net. A tremendous finish which granted the visitors a two-goal buffer. That’ll show the Moor Park crowd for getting excited. The game looked dead and buried afterwards. Wishaw controlled the ball well and looked incredibly comfortable. Lanark pushed to reduce the deficit but were unable to properly test their opposition. Wishy held on and the points headed up the road.

Lanark will feel this was a missed opportunity. Had they taken their chances, the match could have been a very different outcome. They were unable to keep up with Wishaw’s high press and were forced to lump long balls towards two significantly smaller strikers in comparison to Wishy’s centre backs. No.9 had flashes of pace but was unable to deliver a good final ball. The story of the day for The Yowe’s forward line. They appeared very passive and appeared to let their opponents control the ball. The baking sun would not have helped their constant running when Wishy knocked the ball side to side. If they are to challenge in Conference ‘C’ improvements must be made.

Wishaw on the other hand were impressive in most areas of the pitch. Their sitting midfielders controlled the tempo and allowed their more create forward line to drive forward and create problems for the Lanark back line. No.11 was noticeably outstanding in the second half. For a smaller player he shrugged off challenges and caused The Yowes significant problems with his agility and quick feet. A performance to be proud of. Wishaw’s back line in general were fantastic. They dealt with every aerial threat with ease and looked very comfortable on the ball. Their no.5 is a very tall and powerful figure who would send shudders down the spines of any incoming striker.

Overall, despite a lot of this game being possession based there were some very exciting moments to ponder over. A clearly dominant team, two excellently worked goals and an ice cream scoop of a sitter made my trip to Lanark worthwhile. A good game for a neutral to watch. 3/5.

Atmosphere

I appreciated the feel-good, casual feel of Moor Park. The up-beat music playing over the background, the relaxed environment of the beer garden and the positive mood of the supporters brought this out well. It was easy to tell that Lanark United has a positive influence on the town. On a sweltering, sunny day like this the public came out in a decent crowd to support their local team. I have a feeling I’ll be seeing this semi-regularly on my travels and I’m staunchly in favour of it. There wasn’t much of an atmosphere during the game though. I felt the ‘day-out’ feel contributed to this as the supporters didn’t seem to be truly invested in what was happening on the park. Plenty pints were shared and hearty laughs had, but no real care for the team’s performance. 2.5/5 seems fair.

Pricing

Again, I was treated to a decent game of football and wonderful scenery for the bargain price of £6. I feel as though this level of pricing will become a common theme for divisions below the Lowland League/Highland League. It brings no complaints from me. Although I didn’t partake in any refreshments buying, they looked fairly priced and around average for a club at this level. 5/5

Final Score

Lanark United finish with a very respectable 14/20 and slot right into second place in The Scottish Football Adventures League Table. It’ll be interesting where clubs like Lanark and Bellshill end up when I eventually travel to clubs higher up in the SPFL pyramid. For now, The Yowes make do with the proverbial silver medal. I hope my next journey also features some Olympics-style entertainment.

– Connor

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