It’s been a few weeks since my last Scottish football adventure. Season ticket duty at a lacklustre Easter Road over the past few matchdays has not only damaged my soul and questioned my sanity but has also had me chomping at the bit for something fresh. Benburb are the answer to my prayers this weekend, with a first ever trip to New Tinto Park soothing my mind before my Hibee-related stress bears fruit once more for Scottish Cup action away to high-flying Arbroath.
Various sources suggest Benburb’s name and origin comes from a small in village in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. It is suggested that immigrants arriving from the area had a big influence in the formation of the club, with the name sticking forevermore. After creation in 1885, The Bens circulated a few locations in Glasgow before calling Govan home. In their 137-year history, Benburb’s golden age blossomed in the 1930s. They won the junior Holy Grail in 1934 after a convincing 3-1 victory over Bridgeton Waverley at nearby Ibrox, in front of an estimated 13,000 spectators. With Govan buzzing with Scottish Junior Cup success, The Bens did it again. This time at Hampden, Yoker Athletic were beaten 1-0 after a replay to bring the trophy back to a then brand-new Tinto Park.
Since those glory days, silverware has unfortunately come few and far between. A few sporadic league and cup parades followed in the eighties and early noughties, but Benburb will be hoping for a few more chances at silverware come sooner rather than later. At the time of my visit, Benburb sit comfortably in midtable, while visitors Blantyre Victoria lie a long way down in second from bottom. However, on my visit to The Vics in late July, I witnessed Blantyre beat today’s host 3-2 in what is only one of two wins in the league for them this season. With The Bens looking for revenge for that defeat, today’s West of Scotland Premier Division looked a tasty one.
Govan is easily accessible by both car and public transport, but as a sucker for convenience I set upon an easy 25-minute drive from home. A busy but moving M74 and later M8 brought me towards Ibrox, where remarkable access to Rangers’ home ground is clear to see. It still amazes me how large the stadium is, no matter how many times I come across it. New Tinto Park is a stone’s throw away, and with plenty of street parking alongside the local Asda, I left the car and strolled towards my destination.
The first and most obvious element of NTP to point out is the unique grandstand left of the entrance. It stands out as an American bleacher style seating area which would not look out of place at the NCAA Basketball Finals. As someone who has spent a good amount of time working in the States, these seating arrangements are great indoors, where it is heated. Luckily, I planned for this visit and bought myself an umbrella, knowing fine well open bleachers do not work in outdoor, rainy Scotland. It certainly brings a unique scenery to football though and would be a great place to take in a game with a roof over its head. I’m sure it is terrific in the warmer months.
The jewel of NTP lies before you even head into the footballing arena. The clubhouse on the right is superb. It hosts a fantastic bar filled with seating, heating, food, drink, and a warm atmosphere for both home and away supporters. It has everything you would need for a good pre and post-match experience, and if I had chosen to take the train today, I would have been delighted to have a couple pints.
Overall, NTP has a unique quality to it. It hosts a terrific artificial surface used by multiple teams across the WoS leagues, has plenty of room to expand and a strange grandstand to take it all in. The clubhouse certainly brings the score up a bit, and I believe a score of 3/5 suffices.
Naturally, a rainy day can dampen the spirits of any supporter and keep neutral fans away from a ground with no cover. However, a good number of both Benburb and Blantyre loyal were scattered in attendance for today’s game. On my visit to the KG earlier in the season, Benburb had brought a decent number of young ‘ultras’ who supplied their team with a racket of noise. As far as I could see though, these super-fans were not present and the noise inside NTP remained largely muted.
Nevertheless, supporters younger and older gathered to take in their local team in league action. I enjoyed the chat inside the clubhouse and took in the laughter and positivity within. People discussing the ins and outs of the local game is fascinating to me and I have since developed a love for the lower league culture.
I was surprised there was not a higher attendance today given how close NTP is to Ibrox. As the Glasgow giants were not in action until later that evening away from home, I would have expected more Gers supporters to turn out and see their local club in action. It would certainly go a long way. Overall, the good vibes inside the clubhouse and welcoming feel of NTP pushes this score to a 2/5.
Quality of the Match
After a slow initial five minutes, Benburb made sure the first real chance of the game was a meaningful one. After good work down the right-hand side, a high cross into the box was controlled expertly by Bens’ striker Declan McDonald. As the ball dropped, he fired a volley into the net from close range and gave the hosts an early lead.
For the next ten to fifteen minutes, Blantyre largely controlled possession, but without a large attacking impetus found chances few and far between in the first quarter. Good Benburb pressure forced the away side into slack passes and almost reaped the rewards for their hard work. After a throw in from left-back David Leadbetter and a great flick on in the box, Ally Taylor found himself free on the edge of the box. He took on a volley first time which grazed the roof of the Vics’ net.
Benburb’s attacking dominance continued and almost doubled their lead soon after. After a poor defensive mistake, Luke Murphy found himself with a free strike on the right side of the box. His shot flew narrowly wide but drew a foul for his efforts. McDonald stood up to the task and unleashed a rocket of a shot, which Blantyre ‘keeper Kyle King matched superbly. He managed to acrobatically tip the goalward effort over and deny the hosts a second.
Blantyre improved dramatically in the second quarter and carved out their first clear cut chance of the game. After a superb through ball, Vics winger Cammy McNair saw himself with just the ‘keeper to beat. His low drive was saved well by Daniel McLean, who got down low to tip the ball wide for a corner and ensure Benburb headed into the break a goal up. Blantyre’s newfound momentum meant they were far from out of this contest and were looking to push their agenda further when play resumed.
Half Time: Benburb 1-0 Blantyre Victoria
Unfortunately for the Vics though, Benburb started the second half in the same way they did the first – with a goal. After a surging run down the wing by right-back Lee Duncanson, his terrific delivery to the back post was expertly met by compatriot Lewis Lovering. The wingers’ guided header nestled into King’s far post to give the hosts a two-goal advantage and dampen Blantyre’s spirits simultaneously.
Benburb were showcasing their flair going forward and began to take complete control of the contest. Once again, Duncanson found himself free on the right and delivered another beauty of a cross to the back post. Lovering’s volley was mistimed but not ineffective, as it flew into the air at the despair of the Blantyre ‘keeper. The young stopper was unable to claim the high ball in time, which allowed substitute Ryan Livingston to perform a crafty acrobatic finish to give The Bens a three-goal cushion.
Further chances came and went for the hosts, but with the Vics defence standing strong, it allowed opportunities to develop going forward. After a long ball forward from a free-kick, substitute Sam McKenzie controlled the ball superbly and turned his defender with ease. His left-footed effort was saved comfortably by McLean but opened the door for the Vics to continue the pressure. A rare defensive mistake by Benburb saw Connor O’Donnell gather a loose pass. He slipped McKenzie through once more, and with just the ‘keeper to beat, he deftly lofted the ball into the corner to ensure he scored his third league goal against The Bens this season. After witnessing his other two in the reverse fixture, I can assure you this superb finish still finishes third behind the other two.
Blantyre were on a high and were pushing for an instant second. A quick free kick from new signing Luke Watt drew his right winger into contention for a shot at goal. After an expertly controlled touch on the chest, a wicked half volley flew just wide of the mark, ending the Vics’ attacking momentum.
Benburb regained control and should have had a fourth ten minutes from time. After another good save from Kyle King, the resulting corner found the head of towering centre back Ryan Docherty. From four yards out though, his free header was directed just wide. Docherty’s headed efforts would not be in vain though. After another surge of corners, Leadbetter’s corner found Benburb’s number five once more. His goalward was blocked off the line by a scrambling Blantyre defence, only to be deflected straight in by Bens’ substitute Lewis McTaggart. A well deserved fourth goal from a team who worked hard until the final whistle.
Full Time: Benburb 4-1 Blantyre Victoria
After a competitive first half, The Bens will be delighted to have taken the game by the scruff of the neck and gain another important three points. Their work rate and attacking prowess was rewarded after the break and ensured the hosts walked away with a victory. As well as a good team performance, I feel a couple individuals stood out for me. No more so than right-back Lee Duncanson. His offensive and defensive performances set the record for his team, with his incredible work ethic and quality of crossing making the difference.
Blantyre can take a lot of pride in aspects of their performance. For large parts of the first half, they dominated possession and played a great deal of positive football. However, The Vics struggled to cut Benburb’s defence open to create enough clear-cut chances to win the game. Luke Watt looks to be a shrewd signing though. He played in a variety of positions across the park and looked very comfortable on and off the ball. Having seen him a few weeks earlier playing for Petershill, he looks a very positive addition to Blantyre’s squad.
Overall, I felt this match was an exciting one. As a neutral, I was treated to five goals, a load of positive football and a few inspiring individual performances. I feel as though this game scores a comfy 3.5/5.
Like most games at this level, I paid £7 entry and no more than three quid for coffee and a munch. To witness some of the quality at this level for these prices is incredible. 5/5.
There hasn’t been an experience on my travels thus far I haven’t enjoyed. Each ground is invariably different and brings a unique feel within itself. New Tinto Park is no different. Despite being exposed to the elements; it was hard not to take in the experience for what it was – an excellent game of football.Benburb end the day with a score of 13.5/20 and I wish them all the best for the future. The famous bleacher deserves its heyday.