Cowdenbeath Football Club have a long history in Scottish football folklore. Founded in 1881 as a merger between Cowdenbeath Rangers and Cowdenbeath Thistle, the club are the oldest surviving in Fife. Imbedded in a town of only 14,000 odd people, The Blue Brazil have had decent success over the last 141 years. Despite no cup silverware, the club have achieved multiple league titles in the lower regions of the professional pyramid. No less than three old First Division titles have made their way back to the ‘Beath, meaning they have spent a surprising amount of time in the topflight. Not bad for an old coal mining town.
There are a couple different stories I could find around the unique and flattering nickname Cowdenbeath have. One involves a few coalminers digging all the way to a suburb of Rio De Janeiro, finding three skilful youngsters, and bringing them all the way back to Fife. According to legend, these three played as trialists and scored all eleven goals between them in an 11-1 victory over rivals Dunfermline and were thus dubbed the ‘Blue Brazilians’. I’d take it with a pinch of salt. I prefer the light-hearted version where Cowdenbeath’s style of play was so good, ‘it was like watching Brazil.’
Away from fictional Brazilian superstars, some prestigious Scottish football alumni have also plied their trade at Central Park. From prolific goal-machine Rab Walls (who once scored 54 goals in a season for ‘Beath), to outstanding shot-stopper Ray Allan as well as superstar loanees Craig Gordon and Derek Riordan. There’s no doubt the town has had some famous footballing names walk its streets.
In recent times though, Cowdenbeath have struggled. After plummeting from the heights of the Championship, which included a 10-0 thumping from Hearts, the club suffered consecutive relegations. After a dreadful League 2 campaign, the club faced a play-off with Lowland League champions East Kilbride. Only a victorious penalty shootout out saved them that day. The following year, the same fate awaited ‘Beath. This time an impressive 3-2 win at Central Park secured their SPFL status against now flying Cove Rangers.
The club find themselves in the play-off once again. This time, an ambitious Bonnyrigg Rose visit ‘Beath with promotion in mind. After a 3-0 hammering at New Dundas Park the previous week, it looks a certain struggle for The Blue Brazil to maintain their SPFL name. Would it be third time unlucky?
Central Park is one of the most talked about away days in Scotland, and rightly so. The ground sits right in the centre of the town (funnily enough) and is ridiculously accessible. The train station lies directly next to it, with pubs, shops and plenty of entertainment in the surroundings. Its popularity cannot be denied.
Inside the ground is everything I wanted it to be and more. From the steep steps to the terracing, to the surroundings banks, to the ridiculous stock-car track around the pitch, Central Park is an absolute wonderland of uniqueness. It has a terrific feel to it. It has seen thousands of goals, plenty of joy, a plethora of disappointment but most importantly, a huge number of memories. I felt as though I was part of one of those memories today.
Even the traditional home stands are mesmeric. The vast majority of Cowden supporters found themselves in the seated terracing behind the dugouts, while the noisier section found themselves in the adjacent ‘cow shed’. They are rustic, a bit ancient but they fit perfectly into the style of the old ground.
It is so easy to see why Central Park is unanimously loved, and I am very comfortable admitting I am now officially on board after seeing it in person. It gains only the second ever 5/5 in this category.
Just over 2000 people turned up for this vitally important match in both club’s history, and the atmosphere, for the most part did not disappoint. On estimate, I’d guess around 1400/1500 supporters travelled from Midlothian to support Bonnyrigg, with the far bank packed with red and white. An unbelievable effort.
‘Beath supporters were in good voice too. I love a drum, and with the banging coming from the shed, it riled up the home supporters hopes of turning over a difficult deficit. It had the atmosphere the occasion deserved, with a tense suspense depending on the action on the pitch. Otherwise, it was a friendly, welcoming, gala-day feeling with plenty of families and kids enjoying their day out at the football. 3.5/5.
Quality of the Match
With a three-goal deficit, Cowdenbeath would have to come out of the blocks quickly. After a nervy first ten, they almost snatched an early lifeline. A good touch and turn from Bobby Barr allowed him time and space on the 18-yard line. His curling effort beat Bonnyrigg ‘keeper Mark Weir, but the ball struck the post. A warning for The Rose.
Bonnyrigg responded well. With good work down the right, a ball in from Kerr Young found its way to the back post. Popular hometown winger Bradley Barrett peeled off his marker and met the ball, with his volley heading just over.
Bonnyrigg midfielder Lee Currie almost scored a fortuitous opener soon after. A strike from twenty or so yards slipped through the fingers of young stopper Cammy Gill, who was lucky the ball ended up wide.
The Rose continued their flurry of chances. A good corner to the penalty spot was met by captain Jonny Stewart, but his free header was nodded behind.
Former ‘Beath right-back Dean Brett was next to send the home supporters hearts into their mouths. From a corner, a few blocked shots and missed opportunities found its way to Brett on the right. His smashed effort flew over the bar from close range, letting Cowdenbeath off the hook once more.
Cowden’s opportunity to score arrived just before half-time. With good work down the right, a sweetly hit cross found its way into the box. With no marker and from four yards out, the ball was met by Samuel Denham. However, from a stretching effort, it flew over the bar with the Cowden fans with their head in their hands.
Half time: Cowdenbeath 0-0 Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic
Despite the importance of the following forty-five minutes, the second half started slowly. Bonnyrigg remained on top with possession, and would get their just reward fifteen minutes in. After gaining possession in the Cowden box, Ross Gray was fouled, and a penalty awarded. Spot-kick expert Neil Martyniuk stepped up confidenlyt to slot the ball home.A season defining moment.
Cowdenbeath pushed and pushed to no avail. Their long balls were defended well by a sturdy and organised Rose side, who looked under no pressure from their League 2 opponents.
Beath did show fight in the final stages. A flicked on long throw flicked on found the head of Quinn Coulson, who headed over from close range.
Mark Weir finally had a save to make five minutes before time. A well worked move found the feet of Alex Ferguson twenty-five yards out. His thunderous strike was met well by the strong wrists of Weir, who pushed the ball wide.
In tune with the tie as a whole, it would be Bonnyrigg who ended the game on a high. A well-timed cross found the head of substitute Kieran Hall who perhaps should have headed home. It would not matter in the end though, with the full-time whistle blowing soon after.
Full Time: Cowdenbeath 0-1 Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic (0-4 on aggregate)
Ultimately, Bonnyrigg proved a step too far for this Cowdenbeath side. The home side did not appear to have much of a game plan against a rigid defence, who dealt with many of their attacks with ease. It genuinely is a shame to see The Blue Brazil drop out of the SPFL, but I hope to see them flourish in the Lowland League to regain their identity. As one of the bigger clubs in the league, they have an opportunity to be a voice for change in an organisation that badly needs it. I wish them all the best.
On the other hand, I am delighted for Bonnyrigg Rose. The journey they have been on the last few years has been remarkable, and I cannot think of another club that deserves this promotion as much as them. Having visited them late last year, it is clear to see the massive community outreach they have. Their loyal supporters deserve this, the forward-thinking board and committee deserve this, and the town deserves this. I am very excited for Midlothian to have its first ever football club in the professional leagues. I’ll be back at New Dundas to see it.
As a game, it had tension, drama and expectation. Despite a lack of genuine quality, it was a gripping watch with so much at stake. I enjoyed the occasion and felt part of history. 3/5.
Tickets were priced at £12 for online purchases for this game. For the uniqueness of the ground and the size of the occasion, it is difficult to begrudge paying any less. 5/5.
Cowdenbeath end the day on a large score of 16.5/20. They’re a quality club with massive history and one of the best away days in Scotland. I wish them all the best in the Lowland League and hope they can find their way once more. I’ll be looking out for their results.