This weekend’s football quest takes me back to West Lothian, a county plonked right in the middle of Scotland’s two biggest cities. It is a hard-working and industrious part of the nation, filled with humble towns and villages who look after their own. I always enjoy visiting the smaller places Scotland’s football leagues has to offer. It provides a more local and relaxed feel, separate from the modern, fast-paced hustle and bustle of a life we’re expected to lead. West Calder is one of those places.
With a population of just over 3000, West Calder lies a stone’s throw away from Livingston and has an important industrious history. Shale mines were the norm in and around the village, providing ample opportunities for work in the 19th and 20th centuries. Despite the natural regression of the industry in modern times, five shale bings named the ‘Five Sisters’ provide a reminder of what boosted West Calder’s population numbers. They are iconic in the village’s landscape.
With increasing population, organised sport becomes a normality and thus, enter today’s hosts, West Calder United JFC. Formed in 1950, ‘The Cauther’ are the village’s primary football club and have proved to be a stalwart in the local community. During their 8th and 9th year of existence, the club amassed all of their trophies to date. Incredibly, these came in form of a treble and a double. In 1958 the club lifted the Brown Cup, Thornton Shield and Murray Cup in the same season and only missed out on the Brown cup the following campaign. Not too shabby.
However, since then silverware has run dry. The Cauther have lingered around the lower East divisions in the Junior set-up for the last thirty-odd years without a league win to their name. But, like many other junior outfits, West Calder have outgrown their roots and joined the East of Scotland set-up in 2021, in search of opportunities up the newly expanded pyramid.
West Calder currently sit third in the EoS Third Division, the bottom tier of the league structure. While they are some way off free-scoring leaders Bo’ness Athletic and fourteen points off second placed Armadale Thistle, West Calder will be keen to look to the future for potential promotion up the Scottish football ladder. It is certainly not impossible.
However, today brings a respite from the league campaign. The East of Scotland League Cup has begun, with this First Round tie throwing our hosts together with Luncarty. The Perth-based visitors are vying for promotion to the EoS Premier Division and will prove challenging opponents. It could prove to be a valuable test though, particularly if West Calder have ambitions of trawling their way up the pyramid. I’m sure they’ll be up for the fight.
Hermand Park sits right on the edge of the West Calder borderline, situated next to a wee housing estate. At first glance, its not much to look at it, with a classic white perimeter around the outside and a small but purposeful covered area for punters looking to escape the rain and wind. I enjoy how spacious the ground feels as you enter. There is plenty of room to wander around all four sides of the pitch without the feeling of being too crowded at any point.
Hermand Park does give a very rural vibe to it, with three sides looking out to either wooded areas or farmland. It certainly gives some of the club volunteers a job to do when the ball is inevitably kicked out of the playing vicinity.
The small pavilion serves its purpose well and reminds me of Orimston Primrose’s similar sized structure. Its modern feel and welcoming food service is something I always appreciate. The wee boy sat on the ledge telling me to watch for my pie being too hot was definitely a highlight. I took his advice as gospel.
Overall, although Hermand Park isn’t the biggest, most unique ground in the EoS, it does its job well. It is a classic wee village stadia, which is quite clearly well maintained by the club. 2.5/5.
Despite the smaller attendance number, every person I spoke with at Hermand Park was incredibly friendly and welcoming. A few shouts were audible here and there as the game went on, but in general it lacked any real intensity, much like most grounds in and around this level of football. It is by no means a negative, it showcases the locality and the loyalty of the supporters who were in attendance. Without them, the games a bogey. 1.5/5.
Quality of the Match
Despite the two league gap between the two sides, 3rd division West Calder started the brighter. After a free kick found its way to the back post, a lingering Cauther attacker saw his diving header just wide of the post. Early days, but a warning for the visitors.
Luncarty heeded this warning well and took the lead not long after. A set-piece to the back post was helped back into the 6-yard box, where Callum Kirkcaldy was at hand to smash the ball home. Time to kick on.
West Calder’s long throws and set-pieces were causing havoc in the Luncarty box, and on a few occasions should have capitalised. An arrow thrown into the box was met highest by a Cauther head but could only see his effort nodded over.
The hosts should have been level towards the end of the first half. After some good work down the left-hand side, a deflected cross fell the way of West Calder’s number 17. However, from 3 yards out, his effort was saved incredibly by Craig Hepburn from point blank range, and out for a corner. Huge opportunity.
Luncarty were next to attack. Some more set-piece trouble resulted in a close range header from the visitor’s number 6, only for Cauther ‘keeper Dean Shaw to push the ball wide of the post. It brought an end to an evenly contested first half.
Half Time: West Calder United 0-1 Luncarty
Despite heading in a goal down, West Calder showcased their belief to get back into the game incredibly well. Number 17’s ridiculously good long throws continued to send fear into Luncarty hearts, and got its reward five minutes into the second half. A well-rehearsed throw towards centre-back Hassan Nyang was expertly headed in, much to the delight of the home players and supporters. Its always a good feeling when a plan comes together.
Chances came and went for both sides, with both Dean Shaw and Craig Hepburn being kept busy without having anything ground-breaking to keep out. That was until the last minute of normal time, where West Calder’s number 17 had what felt like his thirtieth shot at goal, with Hepburn doing superbly to turn the ball round the post. It brought an end to an entertaining and competitive spectacle. Onto extra-time we go.
Full Time: West Calder United 1-1 Luncarty
Hepburn again would prove the difference during the first period of extra-time. As the hosts’ Number 15 waltzed into the box, his close range strike was saved excellently by the Luncarty ‘keeper.
As the second period of extra-time came to a close, Luncarty came agonisingly close to heading up the road with a win. Some excellent work on the left saw a cross fired low into the 6-yard box. However, Hassan Nyang capped off a wonderful performance by somehow clearing the ball off the line.
But, with no breakthrough for either time forthcoming, this first round tie would be decided by a penalty-shoot out.
Full Time in Extra Time: West Calder United 1-1 Luncarty
This may have been the longest penalty shoot-out I’ve ever witnessed in the flesh. Each team had ample opportunities to win the contest, but it seemed to last a good twenty-odd minutes. Before today, I had never seen a shoot-out circle the entire eleven players in person, but yet, with only the 28 penalties taken in total by both teams, here we were. Both ‘keepers played their part, saving 9 between them.
Finally, though, with West Calder stopper Dean Shaw landing his fifth save of the contest, The Cauthers had another excellent chance to win it. Number 15 stepped up, slotted away and sent West Calder through to the second round. What a day.
Full Time: West Calder 1-1 Luncarty (AET) West Calder win 9-8 on penalties.
West Calder will be absolutely delighted with this result. On paper, facing a side two divisions above them is stern competition and might have caused a bit of intimidation. The hosts did not seem overly fussed though. They stood up to their visitors and for the most part enjoyed the better chances over the course of the 120 minutes. Hassan Nyang particularly impressed for me. The big centre-back was a rock in the defence, consistently organising his fellow teammates and doing the simple things well. His orchestrated header flew into the net, and I suspect that long-throw play has been successful on multiple occasions this season.
Luncarty will naturally be disappointed to leave West Lothian with nothing but need to be more clinical in front of goal. Although they did not dictate possession, they had ample chances to finish the game off. The fact that West Calder ‘keeper Dean Shaw was named man-of-the-match is perhaps telling of the chances Luncarty missed. However, ultimately, I do not feel they did enough to win the game. They’ll now focus on pushing for promotion to the Premier Division, an achievement which will be incredibly impressive if they pull it off. I hope to make my way up to Perth for a game soon.
Overall, I was treated to an incredibly competitive 120 minutes, with plenty of chances, some excellent individual displays and a dramatic penalty shoot-out. I feel it deserves a decent 3.5/5.
For over 2 and a half hours of entertainment, I was charged a measly £6 entry into Hermand Park. This value is genuinely unmatched the higher you go up the pyramid and consistently amazes me. I also spent another £2.50 on a pie and a coffee, which puts me at a total at a whopping £8.50 for 120 minutes of competitive football, a penalty shoot-out and some decent scran. If you haven’t explored this level of Scottish football for some reason, get it done. You won’t regret it. 5/5.
West Calder United end the weekend in the 2nd round of the EoS League Cup and with a 13/20 from me. West Lothian is filled with plenty of hidden gems; something I am continuing to explore and be impressed by. I look forward to searching out more and exposing myself to the excellent value of lower league Scottish football. I encourage you all to do the same.
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