‘The Kilby Boys Making All The Noise’ – East Kilbride FC – 23/10/2021

Background

The town of East Kilbride is one of the biggest on the Scottish landscape. With a wealth of history, culture and personalities, it is surprising that the town has never had a hugely successful football club. As with most of the west coast, loyalties lie within the clutches of Glasgow’s big two, with little competition in South Lanarkshire to challenge this norm. However, with a little help from Old Firm alumni, EK gained a club to represent the town at national senior level.

East Kilbride FC are a club barely old enough to attend high school but are one with hearty ambitions. With the club formed in 2010, they are a merger of Jackton Boys Club, Stewartfield FC, EK Diamonds and EK Wanderers. Celtic hero John Hartson and Rangers icon John Brown launched the club initially as an amateur side before being inducted into the Lowland League for its inaugural season in 2013.

In their short history, Kilby have amassed tremendous success. In the eight seasons since the Lowland League’s birth, EK have either won the thing or finished runners up in five of them. Add a few Lowland League Cups, Challenge Cups and Qualifying Cups and you’ve got yourself a decoration of silverware. So much so, that only a penalty shoot-out loss to Cowdenbeath in 2017 stopped the club from SPFL football.  

After finishing runners up in last season’s league campaign, Kilby find themselves in themselves in 6th place in the current standings. It was Scottish Cup duty today though as the hosts took on fellow league side University of Stirling for a 3rd round berth. Cup fever is back, and I was delighted to be a part of it.

The Journey

Work duties of my own took me into Glasgow’s city centre for the morning. I’ve always enjoyed parking my car on the banks of the Clyde near Richmond Park and taking a stroll through Glasgow Green to get to the city’s inner core. The weather held up nicely there and back, with a build-up of multi-coloured leaves greeting my steps.

The drive to EK is roughly half an hour from the city. I passed Rutherglen and Cathkin before heading down the nature filled A749 and through East Kilbride’s belly. K-Park is located on the southside of the town next to the much-loved Calderglen Park. Since Google Maps took me totally in the wrong direction, I had to navigate the monstrous roadworks outside the park twice. Eventually, my bearings were caught, and I was parked for the game ahead. On another day I’d be visiting the wee zoo and the lovely trails Calderglen has to offer, but today my only goal was to see some Scottish Cup action.

Facilities

K-Park Training Facility opened its doors in 2011, a year after the formation of the club. While EK develop plans for relocation to a permanent home, they share K Park with Celtic Women.

Firstly, it’s a lovely place. It’s modern, accessible and has everything you need to enjoy the football experience. The main stand runs across the touchline with a small, layered seating area stretching the length of it. For those spectators quick on the mark, priority seating lay at the top row. With no backrest for any of the seats, these lucky punters got the benefit of stretching their back out against the structure. For those who were not so lucky, this was a day to practise keeping proper posture.

As soon as you enter, the food kiosk greets you directly to the right where I grabbed my pre-match roll and coffee. One of the best things about lower league football in this country is the friendliness of the club staff. It’s personable, caring and adds a nice patter to the day out. I can’t for the life of me remember the woman’s name who I spoke to in the kiosk (sorry!), but credit to her.

I really like K-Park for what is it. It provides a suitable home for EK in the meantime and suits the Lowland League standard well. I wonder if the club’s relocation plans would have been forced to speed up if they had won that penalty shoot out in 2017. It scores a 3/5.

Atmosphere

I love a drum at the football. It adds to an exciting atmosphere and distils any white noise coming from the stands. This is exactly what ‘The Kilby Boys’ brought to K-Park. Placed at the far end of the main structure, the young team brought banners, scarves, noise, and enthusiasm. These boys looked about as old as the club itself but are fully aware of their importance to the ground. They beat their drum and sang their songs for the entire duration of the game and were thoroughly superb. They even provided a few laughs with their charismatic and improvised chants. It is rare to see such young supporters investing their time and effort into the local club. EK themselves expressed their gratitude by providing them with the unsold pies and thanking them over the PR system. Long may it continue.

Other than the young team, there seemed to be a decent wee support down from Stirling providing the atmosphere. They were relatively vocal but had little to shout about throughout. I’d imagine they’d have been in better fettle had their team provided any spark during the contest.

Overall, The Kilby Boys lift this score up to a cushty 4/5. I hope they remain loyal to EK and give them the support they need going forward. The players appeared to appreciate it.

Quality of the Match

After a slow start to the proceedings, EK established themselves as the team who would control this game. With a plethora of former SPFL starlets it was immediately clear the gulf in class between the two sides would be too much for the visitors. Forward Joao Victoria is vastly experienced in Scottish league football and led the line superbly. His quick feet and spatial awareness provided the first chance of the game. After dancing through a few Uni players, his teasing cross was somehow headed over by Daniel McManus when it looked easier to score. McManus would redeem himself shortly after though. A surging run from Victoria fed McManus at the edge of the box. His deflected strike bobbled past Ben Fry in the Stirling goal to give EK the lead. The Kilby Boys erupted as the players celebrated in front of their young faithful.

For the rest of the first half, the game was largely non-eventful. A few half chances came and went for Kilby but failed to create anything meaningful. Stirling had a single snapshot on goal which was deflected wide. EK’s physical presence across the park was clear to see and could easily dominate any high balls or fifty-fifty tackles. Stirling would have to show a bit more if anything were to come from their trip to South Lanarkshire.

Half Time: East Kilbride 1-0 University of Stirling

The second half started at a much quicker pace. Neil McLauglin cut inside after a terrific dribble into the box, only to see his left-footed strike hit the post. EK began to pile on the pressure and got their just rewards. After a cross from the right was headed away, the ball fell to Ryan Blair who smashed a volley into the roof of the net. A superb goal which gave Kilby some breathing space.

After another shot was cleared off the line and a dipping volley from McLaughlin tested Fry in the Stirling goals, EK got their third. After Jamie Stevenson’s long-range strike was parried somewhat unconvincingly by Fry, Jack Stainrod quickly gathered the ball and slotted it away first time.

In my opinion, the goal of the game came towards the end of proceedings. A bursting run from half-way by right back Cammy Elliot saw him beat two or three Stirling defenders. He reached the by-line in a time Usain Bolt would be proud of and swept the ball into the box. An unmarked Stainrod coolly poked the ball home to give the hosts a four-goal advantage. Elliot’s run was tremendous to watch and showed the desire from EK to pressurise till the end.

Full Time: East Kilbride 4-0 University of Stirling

In the end, it was a comfortable performance from the home side who saw themselves stroll past their league compatriots. It is perhaps unsurprising when they have a number of players with SPFL experience. Chris Erskine, Gregg Wylde and Joao Victoria stood out for the duration of the game and showcased the reason they had played at a higher level. With these players on the books, I would be surprised if EK didn’t start to propel themselves up the league.

University of Stirling will feel disappointed with their performance today but showed glimpses of what they can do, especially in the second half. A host of smaller, trickier players provided some moments of excitement for the travelling support but ultimately had nothing to show for it. James Stokes had a few decent bursts from midfield and showed himself to be an agile player going forward.

Overall, I was treated to four goals, a superb atmosphere, and a few terrific individual performances. This game scores 3/5 for me. A more fruitful opponent may have provided a bit more excitement to the match.

Pricing

For this Scottish Cup tie I was charged £8 entry, £4 for a roll and coffee and £2 for a programme. Is £14 worth watching a game in this age-old tournament in a decent wee ground with a banging atmosphere? I’d say so. 5/5.

Final Score

East Kilbride finish with a final score of 15/20 and push themselves towards the upper end of the TSFA League Table. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at K Park and look forward to the day where EK have a permanent stadium to call home. I’ll be there one day to experience it when that time comes. I wish Kilby luck for the remaining league season and all the best for the Scottish Cup third round.

– Connor

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