It’s been a wee while since my last venture to a Scottish club other than Hibs. A mixture of season-ticket duty, a winter break to South Africa and increasing postgrad workloads have left my adventures a bit sparse of late. For the handful of you who read these on the regular, I can only apologise. I’m hoping to return to a more regular schedule in the coming weeks and months.
With February now upon us (how did that happen?), and the winter weather a cause for several postponements in the lower leagues, it is usually a good idea to have plenty of plan Bs or stay close to home to avoid travelling for nothing. For this purpose, Thorniewood United are the perfect option this weekend.
Thorniewood’s location is a blessing. A mere 10-minute drive away in Viewpark, North Lanarkshire, it is an easy commute to a club that I attempted to visit more than a year ago. Although that trip was called off due to Storm Barra, I’m hoping this attempt to see them is successful.
A traditional working-class industrious town, Viewpark is steeped in mining culture and was built by the hands of the community itself. However, like many locations across Scotland, Viewpark saw the heart of their industry disappear in the 1970s and 80s, with new housing estates popping up to accommodate Glasgow’s busy commuters.
Viewpark is also the birthplace of two of Scotland’s most famous footballing sons. With three European Cups between them, Jimmy ‘Jinky’ Johnstone and John Robertson were both born and raised in this small Lanarkshire settlement. ‘Jinky’ remains one of the most loved and remembered people to ever pull on the green and white hoops of Celtic; his agile dribbling skills dragging punters into Parkhead to see them in the flesh. A member of the legendary Lisbon Lions, a statue stands proudly on the grounds of his old primary school; St Columba’s. The equally impressive John Robertson remains one of the very few Scots to lift multiple European Cups. Playing with a remarkable Nottingham Forest side who won Europe’s elite competition back-to-back years, he remains ingrained in the English side’s history. So much so that in 2015, he was voted 1st in a poll of favourite ever players to pull on the famous red shirt.
Bringing it back to today’s hosts, it is fair to say Thorniewood’s history is not particularly decorative. Since their four Lanarkshire League titles and two Lanarkshire Junior Cup triumphs in the 1950s and 60s, The Wood have had little to shout about. However, every new year brings new hope. After an impressive finish in last season’s West of Scotland Conference ‘B’, the club find themselves in the newly structured WoSFL First Division. However, they’re finding it tough in their new surroundings, only being a point off the relegation spots. To make things more interesting, today’s opponents Cumbernauld United lie a place below and a point worse off. A win for Thorniewood could stretch the distance between the two, while a loss drops the club into the bottom three. Robertson Park looks to be the venue to witness an absolute cracker.
Robertson Park lies in central Viewpark, and is easily missed if you’re not looking in the right place. Situated next to a function hall, a wooden fence guides you to the entrance to the arena. At first glance, Robertson Park is a good size. There is plenty of space on all four sides, with the main shelter directly opposite and a raised concrete embankment on your right. On your left stands the small, red dugouts with the changing rooms and snack bar on a hill behind them.
The red, black and white cladded shelter is a typically brutalist structure seen at this level of Scottish football. It does the job though, hosting plenty of spectators with rain the drizzling throughout the match. The raised embankment behind the goal reminds me of Cambuslang Rangers’ Somervell Park, with broken concrete steps making up the majority of the area. It probably needs a bit of work, but it is a fine reminder of the history of this fine wee ground. All around the perimeter lie plenty of benches and tables for supporters who either need it or want it. I bet it’s a nice way to take in the game with the sun out and a few beers.
Despite it’s obvious wear and tear, I enjoy the look and feel of Robertson Park. Its open space, rustic structures and clear history is something that I’ve come to appreciate when taking in lower league Scottish football. I feel it deserves a typical 3/5.
A relatively small number showed up for today’s encounter, most of which huddled underneath the shelter. A mixture of older and younger gathered for the game with a few enjoying a bev or two despite the miserable weather.
Noise-wise, there wasn’t much to shout about, but as the game went on and became more cagey, cries flew from the side lines as you’d typically expect at any game. On the whole though, it felt pretty welcoming, friendly and a space for all. 2/5.
Quality of the Match
With a lot on the line for both teams, you’d have expected a tight and cagey start. It was quite the opposite though, with the away side dictating play and pushing forward with pace and intensity. Their good start was almost rewarded when a corner was nodded in by captain Danny Boyle. However, the referee saw some pushing and disallowed the goal for a foul. I’m not sure there was much in it if I’m honest. A let off for Thorniewood.
The first twenty minutes passed with a lot of competitive play. Plenty of tackles flew in and both teams played some very positive stuff, even with the pitch progressively falling apart with the drizzly conditions.
Thorniewood would muster their first chance of the match half an hour in. An excellent touch and turn by striker Ally Small created plenty of space to power up the final third. His strike from an angle was saved well down to Matthew Wallace’s right, with an incredible last-ditch tackle denying a Thorniewood tap-in.
The home side would get their opener soon after. After another decent save by Wallace, the ball found its way out to the left, where it was crossed in and struck goalwards. The ball was deemed to have been blocked by a Cumbernauld arm from a close distance, with the referee pointing to the spot straight away. Ally Small stepped up and slotted the ball home. 1-0 Thorniewood.
Cumbernauld responded quickly and immediately pushed for an equaliser. Mark Hansen gathered the ball just out the Thorniewood box and unleashed a curling effort. However, Smith in the home goal dived smartly to his left to parry the ball out for a corner.
Cumbernauld did get their equaliser 2 minutes later. After a succession of corner kicks, a penalty was given for a foul on the far end of the box. With essentially the last kick of the first half, Dale Fulton confidently fired the ball home.
Half Time: Thorniewood United 1-1 Cumbernauld United
With the drizzle becoming more intense and the pitch falling apart, the second period proved to be considerably slower and increasingly physical. High balls became the norm, with the hustle and bustle of the contest beginning to really showcase itself.
It would take a very smart finish to fire either team ahead. Some excellent forward play by Dollani saw the striker jink past a defender and saunter into the box. He had enough time and space to lay the ball to Declan Brown, who fired a well-placed effort off the post and in. On the balance of play, it was probably deserved.
Thorniewood continued to push and were unlucky not to extend their lead on a multitude of occasions. Time and time again, ‘keeper Matthew Walsh kept the away side in the contest with a string of close-range blocks, including a remarkable double save with only minutes to go. Without the stopper, it could have been a much worse afternoon for the away side.
Full Time: Thorniewood United 2-1 Cumbernauld United
This result feels pretty important for Thorniewood. With two wins on the bounce, including one against a team one point behind them at the start of play, it appears the club can start seeking to move up the table instead of looking over their shoulder. They played well throughout and deserved their victory, much to the delight of the home players, staff and supporters. If they consistently play how they did this weekend, I have no doubt they’ll be pushing their way up the league.
For Cumbernauld, they’ll be disappointed to come away with nothing despite playing some good football at times. In the first half in particular, they played positively with some excellent passing sequences. They’ve some good players going forward, and if they can apply the finishing touch, I’m sure Cumbernauld will be grand. I hope to visit Guy’s Meadow very soon.
Overall, I was treated to a very competitive encounter with some excellent performances, positive football and a wonderful winning strike. I feel this game deserves a solid 3/5.
As always, the Scottish lower leagues provide unbelievable value. On a weekend where East Fife were charging £18 for a League Two game, I was able to see a good game of football with food and drink for under a tenner. Entry was a measly 6 quid, with a coffee and pie coming to £3. How can anyone turn their nose up at that? 5/5 every day of the week.
Thorniewood end the weekend with a solid three points and a score of 13/20 from me. Robertson Park is a wonderful wee ground full of history and memories for a lot of people. Its rustic feel and space provides an excellent arena for any punters to take in a game. With the team beginning to find their groove, I suspect Robertson Park will be a place where the results match the environment. If you haven’t already, get yourself along and see for yourself.
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