I grew up in Dalkeith – spent the best part of twenty odd years in the place before moving to Glasgow for university. Like most towns, it has its smooth surfaces and rough edges. I lived in Woodburn (the rough edge), famous for underage drinking haven Dalkeith Miners Club and Marmite footballer Ryan Porteous. (I don’t like Marmite, but love Porto). Like in most council estates, growing up was an interesting exposure to what life could be like if I did not buckle down and get my priorities right. It is very easy to look down on these environments, but those who come through are some of the strongest individuals to walk society, and although my experience growing up wasn’t particularly tough, it gives a different perspective to life in general.
During the early 2000s, street and local park football still reigned supreme. Cowden Park and the AstroTurf pitches at the old Woodburn Primary School were always teeming with youngsters playing Long Bangers, Cuppy and Red Arse, which out of context sounds like a council smut film but I assure you they were street games. For much of my boys club career, I represented Dalkeith CYP, the predecessor to Dalkeith Thistle Community Club, where I had some of the best experiences of my playing career. Cowden was a fortress on its good days.
The Community Club does some fantastic work. Operating out of Woodburn, the organisation consists of a multitude of youth, amateur and futsal teams for boys and girls in the community. It provides opportunities to grow and showcases a real grassroots effort to bring enjoyment, physical activity and community to the surrounding areas. It also provides a ladder to climb from the lowest rung in the ladder to the senior outfit. Run completely by volunteers, they are a stalwart in the town. Long may it continue.
Further down the road, Dalkeith Thistle are the town’s senior team. After moving from the junior leagues in 2018, the club currently compete in the East of Scotland Conference ‘A’ and look odds on favourites to qualify for the newly formed Second Division. However, recent cup results will give the club encouragement that it can compete at a higher level. A sensational win away to Premier Division giants Linlithgow Rose showed the tip of the proverbial iceberg and was followed by incredible dressing room scenes. Scottish Border side Coldstream were next on the fixture list for The Jags, with a win essential in the quest to claw their way back up the league. For the first time, I was a home supporter in my blog adventures and would be hoping for a Dalkeith win.
King’s Park is situated in the centre of Dalkeith amongst a greater, green public space filled with rugby pitches, tennis courts and a bowling club. It is incredibly accessible from multiple sides with easy pickings parking. On arrival, the arena is about as basic as it gets, but has a unique charm to it. A single tiered shelter stands opposite the changing rooms with all sides of the ground open for spectators. Uniquely, seating took form of random single chairs dotted around the pitch which a good few viewers took the opportunity to use. On a sunny day like today, its hard to grudge the choice.
One thing about King’s Park that stands out to me is the scenery around the ground. With blossom trees blooming, a wonderful masterstroke of colour surrounds the skyline. It is shared by the picturesque church spire and the ancient looking King’s Park primary school in the horizon. It really is mesmerising to drag your eyes over the continued charm of the old buildings. It is not something I remember about the ground whilst on playing duty, but it’s a welcome addition for new memories.
I like King’s Park. For a basic ground, it has a lot of character and style. It certainly does the job for the level Thistle play at and has done for a long time. 3/5.
With neighbours Bonnyrigg Rose playing an incredibly important Pyramid Play-Off just up the road, it can be forgiven for how quiet King’s Park was today. A few shouts were heard here and there from the home supporters, with a handful of those from the Borders also providing limited noise. There is no doubt that Dalkeith provide a friendly, hospitable environment but in terms of actual atmosphere, today did not provide the party shown at Linlithgow a few weeks prior. I’ll just have to come back for a bigger fixture to take it all in. 2/5.
Quality of the Match
With plenty on the line for both sides, Coldstream started the brighter. After a scrappy midfield battle resulted in a corner, Christian Briggs put the ball directly onto the head of defender Ejay Gay. From five yards out, the big man couldn’t miss. 1-0 to the visitors.
Dalkeith struggled for the first twenty minutes, with a few injuries mounting up for an already depleted squad. After adjusting to the pace of the game, Thistle began to apply pressure and eventually got their just rewards. After a superb touch and turn from Dylan Greig, his intricate through ball matched a surging midfield run from Darren McTearnan. Coldstream ‘keeper Elliot Turnbull blocked the initial effort well, but striker Josh Davison reacted first to tap the ball into the net. A well-deserved equaliser. Game on.
With momentum on their side, the home side came close to a lead soon after. After a cleared long ball only reached as far as left-back Ronan Clelland, he unleashed an almost-perfect volley toward goal. The Dalkeith bench had their hands on their head as the ball fizzed just over.
As quickly as they had gained it, Dalkeith’s momentum would be sucked out a couple minutes after. For apparent dissent, striker Jack Burrows was sent off. Most people around the ground looked around in confusion, and I still have no idea what was said to warrant a red. Regardless, Dalkeith were down to ten and would go into the half with plenty to contemplate.
Half Time: Dalkeith Thistle 1-1 Coldstream
Coldstream immediately took advantage. After good build up on the right, Gary Windram was slid in with relative easy, with the forward slotting away to reinstate the visitors’ advantage.
With Dalkeith on the backfoot and the wind snatched from their sails, Coldstream went further ahead. More good work through the centre saw midfielder Craig Heugh control, turn and strike the ball on the volley. With tremendous technique, his effort wrong-footed Dalkeith stopper Dean Beveridge to send Coldstream into cruise control.
Things went from bad to worse for the home side. Unable to gain any control in midfield and with no real target man up top, the visitors squeezed with ease and continued their pressure. It told with twenty minutes to play, but not in the way the crowd were expecting. From a corner on the right, Windram swept the ball straight in at the back post. Poor defending which ultimately sealed Thistle’s fate.
Dalkeith’s only real opportunity of the half arrived as a result of the energetic introduction of forward Darren Leslie. His quick feet and direct running won a free-kick twenty-odd yards out. The resulting effort sailed weakly over the bar and summed up the home side’s second half.
Full Time: Dalkeith Thistle 1-4 Coldstream
It wasn’t to be for Dalkeith today. With a depleted squad, it was always going to be a difficult shift against a team in decent form. Going down to ten men doesn’t help either, especially coming during a time where The Jags were on the front foot. Darren Leslie looked a driving force in the second half, and I can only assume the forward was not fully fit to start the match, otherwise I’m sure he’d have showcased himself as a positive influence in the match. Dalkeith must now look forward to their few remaining games to head into next season with a forward mindset and determined attitude. If they can beat Linlithgow, there’s no reason why the club cannot push forward and assert themselves.
Coldstream looked a decent outfit. They were organised in defence, relentless in midfield and clinical up top. With more pitch space after the sending off, the visitors performed well to ensure they took the game by the scruff of the neck. They can be pleased with this performance and will be looking to push forward themselves. They’ll be a competitive outfit in the newly formed East of Scotland structure next season.
Overall, despite a lack of real quality for the majority, I was treated to five goals, a sending off and some moments of individual brilliance. 3/5.
I was charged £7 entry for today’s game, which nobody in their right mind can ever complain about. Adding in the cheap food and drink prices, this level of football is unreal value. 5/5.
Dalkeith end the day with a respectable score of 13/20. Despite a difficult afternoon on the pitch supporting my local team, I thoroughly enjoyed being back at King’s Park to take in a game. There’s no question I’ll be back, where I hope to see The Jags pushing their way back up the league and competing at a good level. Time will tell.