Pollok FC are undoubtedly one the biggest names in the Scottish lower league game. The Glasgow Southsiders have a humungous reputation surrounding them and regularly attain attendances of 700+ at Newlandsfield. Naturally, a large following provides major pull for players and Pollok have been naturally successful as a result. With three Scottish Junior Cups to their name and a host of other silverware, ‘The Lok’ can flex these achievements wherever they go. Former junior sides are becoming more mainstream as days go by. A wonderful short film from BBC Scotland’s A View from the Terrace showcased Pollok to a national audience and captured the community essence of the Southside club.
A mass of notable players have worn the instantly recognisable black and white stripes, with international names and Scottish Premiership winners a plenty. Robert Prytz, Bobby Collins, Andy McLaren, Fraser Wishart, and the legendary journeyman Chic Carnley to name just a few. I’ve seen worse 5-a-side teams down Glasgow Green.
Currently, Pollok play in the West of Scotland Premier Division and sit high and mighty in second place behind today’s visitors Auchinleck Talbot. With there only being a couple points between these two lower league heavyweights, an absolute cracker of a game was surely on the horizon. Talbot are a massive name themselves, but I’ll save their history for when I travel down Ayrshire way.
With work taking me to Glasgow city centre for the morning, my journey was a bit shorter than it usually would be. After taking the motor from Kings Street’s ridiculously pot-holed ridden carpark, the venture southside began. It was absolutely heaving with rain, making the already busy roads an absolute slog to get through.
Eventually I managed to park in one of the many side streets beside Newlandsfield and walk the casual five minutes to the ground. The rain was torrential, heavy and miserable but I was here and buzzing for the experience.
Newlandsfield is astonishing. The mesmerising grandstand is in clear view as you walk through the turnstiles and looked fantastic even in the pouring rain. The programme stand and merchandise hut greet you as you enter the ground, with a cheery gentleman gladly taking my £1.50 for today’s programme.
As I walked around back of the goals to get to the sheltered stand, I couldn’t help but turn and just admire where I was. This was a ground with mountainous history and a loyal support who turned out in their droves every single week. It really is a superb setting for football. I walked around and got my fill from the Pie Hut as I passed. Again, terrific service from those inside the shop. Opposite the stand stood a small embankment that I can only assume is mostly reserved for away fans. On a warm summer’s day, I can imagine this being a fantastic viewpoint. On today’s miserable occasion, probably not. Umbrellas a plenty were on show. The pitch also stood out. Unbelievable effort from the grounds staff.
In my opinion, there are only a couple of things I’m not a fan of in Newlandsfield. The stand itself is a bit spider-webby and was showing its age. I’m sure a quick power wash and paint job would allow this magnificent structure to glow as it rightly should. I’m also not particularly keen on the makeshift outdoor toilets behind the stand. Literally pissing in the wind in the pouring rain is not an experience I’d choose to take up again. I’ll let them off through. Newlandsfield has more than enough to stop me complaining about petty things like this. I love it. It gets a score of 4/5.
The biggest crowd of my travels so far were in loud voice. With Pollok’s huge fanbase and Talbot’s droves of away supporters, the atmosphere within the ground was fantastic. I enjoyed the tunes playing from the stand’s speakers and the pumped up feel for the contest they provided.
Naturally, as events perspired during the game the atmosphere matched the mood on the pitch and with such a large crowd, the noise level only rose. As we’ll find out soon enough, the Pollok support had plenty to be acrimonious about as the game went on. It felt like a game of football that you’d see in the higher reaches of the SPFL. It sounds daft, but I find that the way crowds react to their team winning corners to be a big part of this feeling. Pollok’s fans certainly roared when they received those opportunities.
One aspect I will always love about lower league grounds is the freedom they give the bairns. As soon as half-time hit, they stormed the pitch to fire strikes into the home team’s net. Imagine being 10 years old and firing a rocket of a free kick into the top corner in front of 1000+. What a feeling. Plenty of kids splashed about in puddles and really gave the community feel to the stadium. This really raises the positivity within the club. Again, 4/5 sounds fair.
Quality of the Match
We’ve finally reached the juicy part, and what I assume you’re reading this for. Strap yourselves in troops, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Talbot started strong and had a chance from the offset. A chipped ball onto the chest of Bryan Boylan gave him time and space to execute a cracking half-volley. Jordan Longmuir in the Pollok goal appeared to have it covered as it flew past his near post. It was Pollok however, who scored the first goal of this topsy-turvy encounter. A cross swung in from ‘Lok’s left was directed to the back post. Andy Leishman in the Talbot goal came for it but instead of catching the ball, he attempted a one-fisted punch away. It had me reminiscing of the time Rangers goalkeeper Cammy Bell attempted that goal-line punch against Motherwell in the Championship play-off at Fir Park. The result was much the same. Leishman got It all wrong and the ball fell to Adam Forde. He comfortably swept the ball into the net to give Pollok the advantage.
Pollok could have had a second swiftly after. A huge stramash in the box resulted in Leishman saving two close range efforts and the Talbot defence blocking a further three. I have no idea how the ball didn’t nestle in the net. However, after a poor Pollok free-kick it was Talbot ruing a missed opportunity. A belting counterattack saw a superb cross field pass from Boylan into the feet of fellow striker Jamie Glasgow. His shot produced a cracking save from Longmuir once again.
As the weather eased up, the game was only getting started. Pollok received a penalty after a presumed push in the box from someone in the Auchinleck defence. Ryan McGregor stepped up but initially saw his penalty superbly saved by Leishman, who tipped the strike onto the post. Unfortunately for the Talbot ‘keeper, McGregor comfortably side-footed the rebound into the net. Two-nil Pollok.
Now, this is where the game begins to get a bit messy. After a soft second booking for a foul in the middle of the park, Pollok’s Evan Horne was sent off. Harsh for me. Talbot took advantage straight away and received aa penalty of their own. I genuinely don’t know why the penalty was given as I couldn’t see over the number of heads I had to peer over in the grandstand. Regardless, Jamie Glasgow stepped up and halved Pollok’s lead in the process. Literally two minutes later, Glasgow had a second. He took the ball for a run on the left, cut inside on the edge of the box and fired a superb strike into Longmuir’s bottom corner. A lovely goal to bring Talbot into the driving seat. They could have had a third shortly after. A long pass forward was controlled expertly by Boylan who put the ball on a plate for Willie Boyd. His low shot was saved by the extended legs of Longmuir and fired over the bar to end the action to a truly amazing first half.
Half time: Pollok 2-2 Auchinleck Talbot
Despite having a man less, Pollok started the second-half the better team. Their pressure and bravery going forward was rewarded with another penalty. That’s three penalties overall in the game for those of you not keeping count. McGregor stepped up again and dispatched the spot-kick into the top corner. A tremendous strike to give the score line advantage to Pollok once more.
Now, this is where the game gets REALLY messy. A cross in from Talbot’s left was ushered out at the back post by Pollok’s David Brownlie who received a sore one to the ankle in the process. Amid the process of the defender receiving treatment, he was subject to a few shouts from the naturally impatient Talbot fans behind the goal. Brownlie’s reply to one particular fan’s shout of “hurry up there’s nothing wrong with you” got him into a bit of bother. Apparently, saying the words “fuck off, you prick” to a supporter can get you a red card. I didn’t know this, and neither did the rest of the Pollok players, staff, and supporters. I’ve never seen anything like it and was genuinely confused by the ordeal. Brownlie received his marching orders and Pollok were now down to nine. A shocker of a decision if you ask me.
The man in the middle further put himself in the spotlight five minutes later. If Pollok’s job wasn’t hard enough already, it was about to get increasingly more difficult. For what I presume to be a raised arm in an aerial challenge, goal scorer Adam Forde was given a red card. I’ve never seen a team with eight men before during a live match, but I was about to. I don’t know if the referee was aided at all by his linesmen throughout the game, but you’d think they’d want to save him from any further embarrassment.
Pollok were incredibly admirable for the remaining fifteen or so minutes. They defended superbly as a unit to force Talbot into continuous cross balls. Only one of these crosses reached the back post, where a header was amazingly saved by Jordan Longmuir. Talbot piled on the pressure, and it eventually told. A low ball in from the left was flicked goalward by substitute Graham Wilson and provided Talbot an equaliser with five minutes to go. With fingernails being bitten all around Newlandsfield, Longmuir produced an outstanding couple of saves to ensure Pollok walked away with a point. He scooped an effort off the line before flying through the air to push a longer-range effort over the bar.
Full time: Pollok 3-3 Auchinleck Talbot
Well, where do I start with this? Pollok will have gone to bed last night with a whirlwind of thoughts. They were outstanding throughout the game and will feel furious with today’s referee, who denied the Southsiders the three points. Nevertheless, Pollok battled admirably and will rightly be proud about taking a point from the league leaders. I’d expect ‘Lok to push Talbot all the way for this years Premier Division.
In fairness to Talbot, they are not in control of the officials. They were on the end of some shoddy decisions themselves, which included two penalties. In addition, they can only play and score against what is in front of them. They’ll feel disappointed to have only scored once against eight men but relieved to at least come away with a point. Auchinleck looked incredibly dangerous going forward and I fully expect them to maintain their position at the top of the table.
I can give nothing but a 5/5 for today’s game. It had literally everything you could possibly want as a neutral. What a day to be alive.
I paid £7 entry, £1.50 for a programme and £2.50 for food and drink. £11 for six goals, three red cards, three penalties and a heap of controversy. There truly is no better value in Scottish football than the lower leagues. 5/5.
They may not lead the WOSFL Premier Division at the moment, but the Southsiders fire straight to the summit of the Scottish Football Adventures League Table with an amazing score of 18/20. An unbelievable experience that I will never forget. I’ll be back to take in another game at Newlandsfield in the future and cannot wait for it. I wish Pollok nothing but the best and pledge to see a game in Auchinleck at some point this season. A special mention must also go towards the food bank organised by the club. It is tremendously uplifting to see clubs performing such gracious acts during the continued state of need the world is in right now.