Hidden Gems – West Calder United – 04/03/23
This weekend’s football quest takes me back 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.
Progression – Celtic Women – 24/02/23
In the modern world, quite rightly, football is a game for all. Gone are the days of male exclusivity, bans on female participation and discriminatory laws. In Scotland, no matter your background, sexuality, age, race or ableness, there are opportunites to play and spectate the beautiful game. However, just as in most countries around the world, men’s football takes centre stage up here. Most chat is dictated around the SPFL, with other branches of the sport taking a back seat in the mainstream media. Slowly, but surely, this is beginning to change. The increasing popularity of the Scottish Women’s Premier League (SWPL) is beginning to prove that there is an appetite for something other than the traditional men’s game we all know and love.
It has not been an easy road, though. After the successes of unofficial women’s World Cups in 1970 and 1971, UEFA invited member nations to a vote to bring international women’s teams under the banner of their respective organistations. The vote went through by a resounding result of 31 for and only 1 against. Embarrasingly, Scotland were that sole organisation. It wouldn’t be after sustained pressure that the SFA gave in and awarded women’s football recognition in 1974.
Since then, women’s football has gone from stength to strength. With an increasing number of female footballing role models on the domestic and international stage, the Scottish Women’s Football League was born in 2002. The organisation contained 4 divisions and ran for 3 years, before the top division broke away to form the SWPL we know today.
For the early years of the league, it was largely dominated by Hibernian, who won 3 of the first 5 league titles, bringing through some wonderful talent for the national team in the process. Since Hibs’ last league win in 2007, only one side bore its name on the trophy for the following 14 campaigns; Glasgow City. Their consistency has been incredibly profound and impressive, especially given as they are a completely independent women’s club, with no professional men’s side in their ranks. It has only been in the last year or two where competition has really cranked up. Celtic and Rangers have seen the potential of women’s football, with both clubs pumping plenty of investment into their respective sides. It has paid off, with The Gers pipping City to the summit to win their first ever league title in 2022.
However, as it is their home game, my focus is on Celtic. Founded in 2007, Celtic are a rising prospect in the SWPL. Bolstered by the finances of the overall club, the women’s side turned fully professional in 2019, showcasing a high ambition to become a major player in both major Scottish football brances. They would be the first women’s club to do so. However, success has been relatively light thus far. The club have reached four Scottish Women’s Cup finals, losing three, all to Hibernian and winning one; a 1-0 victory over Glasgow City in 2021. They also have a sole Scottish Women’s Premier League Cup, dispatching of Spartans 4-1 in 2010.
Before kick-off on a cold Friday night, Celtic sit in second place, three points behind Glasgow City. Today’s opponents, and Old Firm rivals Rangers, lie only a point behind The Hoops. A win for Celtic would see them climb to the summit on goal difference, while a loss leaves them third in a three-horse race for the SWPL title. All to play for, with major bragging rights at stake.
Celtic play their home matches at Airdrieonians’ Penny Cars Stadium. It suits its purpose well, and makes sense for Airdrie to rent it out as much as they do, with Celtic B and Glasgow University also playing their home games in North Lanarkshire.
The four almost identical stands is a decent aesthetic, with the 10,000 capacity sizeable if not ambitious. The artificial playing surface is one of the better ones in Scotland. It allowed for a fast-flowing match and didn’t give the stickiness that other plastic pitches offer.
Overall, the Penny Cars seems a suitable home for Celtic at the moment. It is relatively close to home, has a decent surface to play positive football and is more than big enough to host a good number of spectators. Just as in the Airdrie write up, the Penny Cars scores 3.5/5.
I’m a big fan of Friday night matchdays. I feel it helps to bring a larger and louder crowd to the contest. Theres no better feeling than the working week ending and a match to watch under the floodlights. Others seem to agree, with a sizeable crowd drawn to a top-of-the-table Old Firm clash. A full stand was essentially packed out, with supporters of both clubs sharing a side each. Crowds this size are a good sign, and give hope for continued progression and exposure for the women’s game.
The crowd is very mixed in comparison to a typical men’s game. It is fantastic to see so many youngsters turning out with their parents to see their future role models in the flesh. With so many kids in attendance, naturally the atmosphere turns more family-friendly. The shouts, chants and abuse you typically hear on a Saturday afternoon are subdued, largely replaced with an aura of positive affirmation. It’s a nice change from hearing grown men shouting at players for doing their job. 3/5.
Quality of the Match
With the two sides only a point apart in 2nd and 3rd, my guest and I were expecting a cagey encounter with little to separate the two sides.
Celtic started the brighter, and had the first real opportunity of the match. After a mazy run by Jacyta Galabadaarachchi, she set up fellow forward Amy Gallacher for a strike at goal. The shot may have fizzed wide, but Celtic were proving their quality early on.
After contained pressure, the hosts took the lead. A corner from the far side was aimed to the 6-yard box, and with Rangers ‘keeper Jenna Fife flapping, centre-back Caitlin Hayes rose highest to nod the ball into the net. A deserved lead.
Rangers almost struck back in bizarre fashion. A cross/shot from the far side almost caught stopper Pamela Tajonar out, but she did incredibly well to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Rangers continued to press but seemed heavily reliant on long-shots and cross balls. The Celtic defence stood strong to bat anything that came their way, and with Jacynta’s pace and directness, the counterattack was always an option.
Half Time: Celtic 1-0 Rangers
The second half started with a bang. Chinese international Shen Menglu burst down the left and skipped past right-back Rachel Mclauchlin. Menglu’s cross was not dealt with, and Amy Gallacher pounced to roll the ball into the net. Rangers now had a mountain to climb.
That mountain became even steeper two minutes later. Another Jacynta corner found the head of Caitlin Hayes once more to power a header into the top corner. Rangers’ failure to deal with cross-balls and set pieces were proving costly. Celtic were flying.
From the 60th minute onwards, Rangers dominated possession but could not find a killer touch. Jenny Danielsson’s headed miss from 8 yards summed up the Gers’ evening.
With the game essentially won and the contest nearing its conclusion, Celtic would not be denied their clean sheet. After an excellent ball over the top, Danielsson found herself clear through on goal, but an excellent last ditch challenge stopped a consolation. It was celebrated almost as well as the three goals at the other end and put the icing on the cake for the hosts, who rise to the top of the table.
Full Time: Celtic 3-0 Rangers
With the two teams so close in the league and bragging rights on the line, I was expecting a closer battle. I had watched Rangers dismantle Hibs a couple weeks previous, but the visitors could not find a finish. Instead, their plan to fire long-shots and put balls into the box were well dealt with by the Celtic defence, and no plan B looked forthcoming.
Celtic on the other hand were incredibly ruthless in front of goal. They must have sensed Rangers’ insecurities from set-pieces and scored two similar goals from corners. Even with their dominance in the air, some of the football they played on the floor was a joy to watch at times. Their midfield controlled much of the match, and with Jacynta and Menglu providing directness, pace and flair it is no wonder they are feared by every defence in the league. They were exciting to watch.
Overall, despite the one-sidedness of the contest, this was a great game of football. It was incredibly open for the most part, with both teams pressing for goals at all times. The level of play was impressive, and it is clear to see that it is improving year after year. The future is bright. 3/5.
For a top of the table clash, the entry price of £8 is an absolute no brainer. There are calls that this level of pricing is undervaluing the product, but this accessibility can only benefit the women’s game in the long run. Cheaper tickets = more exposure = increased interest. I’m sure plenty of punters will have been impressed with the level they witnessed. Progression takes time, but it seems we are definitely on the right track. 5/5.
Celtic Women finish the weekend with a score of 14.5/20 and rise to the upper echelons of the TSFA League Table. I thoroughly enjoyed my first live exposure of the SWPL and will be making every effort to take in plenty more in the coming weeks and months, particularly with the increasing expansion of the women’s pyramid. I encourage you all to do the same. You won’t regret it.
‘Super’ Ayr United – 11/02/2023
Growing up, Ayr sounded like a magical faraway land I had only heard about in stories. Like most primary schools in Scotland, we had looked at and studied the poems of one of our country’s most famous sons; the Ayr born Rabbie Burns. His poems described his surroundings as whimsical, beautiful and in the case of Tam O’ Shanter, incredibly dark and terrifying for an 8 year old bairn.
I’ve only had the privilege to visit the town of Ayr on a handful of occasions prior to today’s match, mostly for university duty. While I found Ayr beach to be the windiest place known to man and half the machines broken in the nearby amusements, it is clear how historic and culturally important Ayr is to Scotland. From becoming a Royal Burgh in 1205 to transforming into a strategic location for several armies, Ayr has slowly built itself into a popular tourist location for locals seeking a decent portion of fish & chips and a walk along the sandy front. I won’t be taking part in this though. I’m seeking to visit a club I’ve been excited to see at home for a long time; Ayr United.
Formed in 1910 as an amalgamation of former Scottish Football League sides Ayr FC and Ayr Parkhouse, The Honest Men have been a consistent presence in the Scottish professional game. For a club that is probably most known in the modern day for playing primarily in the second and third tiers, it is worth noting that Ayr have spent a whopping 34 seasons in the top flight, their last outing coming way back in 1978.
Despite having never won a national cup competition, they’ve certainly taken some scalps on the way to a few finals. For a period, the club were known for beating higher league opposition, particularly at Somerset Park. The closest United have come to lifting a ‘big cup’ was the 2002 Scottish League Cup final. After beating by beloved Hibs in the semi-finals (obviously), The Honest Men came up against Rangers at a sell-out Hampden Park. Despite holding out until a few minutes before half-time, The Gers ran out comfortable 4-0 winners, sending the Ayr faithful home dreaming of another cup final.
Presently, Ayr United find themselves in somewhat unfamiliar surroundings. After a few idiotic punters (including me) predicted them for relegation this season, the Honest Men sit comfortably in 2nd, only 4 points behind high-flying Queens Park. Manager Lee Bullen looks to have given the club a new lease of life, with positive results showcasing themselves on the park. At this stage, success looks to be coming to fruition.
However, today’s contest is a rest from league action. Somerset Park is hosting some Scottish Cup Fifth Round action, with Elgin City travelling the long road down from the Scottish Highlands. It presents a wonderful opportunity for the hosts to progress to the Quarter Finals, allowing fans an ounce of hope in returning to Hampden once more.
Where do I even begin with Somerset Park? Even on the walk to the ground, the view from a distance just screams ‘iconic’. The instantly recognisable black and white striped roof of the Railway End is clear as day. Its rustic look is something that feels pretty rare in football nowadays, particularly the higher you climb up the pyramid.
Now, I’ll make a confession. I made the rookie mistake of buying a ticket for the main stand. I had (wrongfully) assumed I could just roam the terraces regardless of which kind of ticket I purchased. The grandstand accommodated us well, but I’d have loved to have taken a step on the wonderfully aesthetic concrete bowl Somerset Park is so well known for. I suppose the fact I got to enjoy the view of the Somerset End for 120 minutes is only a positive; McDonalds advert and all.
Inside the grandstand felt like a bit of an ancient, narrow maze at times for a first-time visitor. It took a wee bit of an effort to find a hidden side door to take us upstairs into the lengthy concourse, where the outstanding view of the park greeted us. Worth the wait.
I really enjoy how popular the standing terraces are with supporters. Supporters bunched in their droves behind the goal, standing side by side in close proximity. I feel it’s the closest I’ll ever get to being involved in an environment like this, just as my dad and grandad have described it to me.
Overall, I can see where the hype for Somerset Park comes from. It presents a wonderful blast from the past and something I have never really experienced before. It presents an obvious 5/5 for facilities, even if I made the error of sitting in the stand…
For the most part, the numbers at Somerset were pretty good. Supporters lined their way across the terraces, with the grandstand mostly filled with spectators. In terms of noise, the drum was hit and the flags were waved from the North Terrace pre-game, with an expectant crowd wishing their team to dispatch of their visitors quickly. However, as we’ll see, this was not the case. The support remained mostly quiet, only beginning their chanting and drumming at the end of the 90 minutes and during extra time (for obvious reasons). For a team sitting comfortably in second in the Championship, maybe I was expecting a bit more positivity throughout. It was certainly bouncing as the goals flew in. Huge respect to the small batch of travelling Elgin fans who made the long way down from the Highlands.
Overall, I feel it deserves a 2/5. I’m sure they’ve been plenty of better atmospheres at Somerset this season.
Quality of the Match
Despite coming out onto the Somerset pitch to a wave of applause and rapturous expectation, Ayr United hardly started well. After an incredibly drab first twenty, it was the visitors who went close first. A Russell Dingwall corner was met well by the head of Jake Dolzanski, only for Ben Dempsey to nod it off the line. A close call.
Another big chance followed. A quick burst up the park saw a strike from Dingwall parried by Ayr stopper Aidan McAdams, with Tom Findlay’s volleyed rebound bouncing just wide of the Ayr post. The home fans were becoming slightly restless with their team providing little to nothing going forward thus far.
Ayr did muster their first real opportunity half an hour in. After a whipped free-kick was cleared only as far as Ben Dempsey, his snapshot was saved well by the feet of Elgin goalkeeper Thomas McHale.
Just as the Ayr supporters felt their team coming into the contest, Elgin took their chance. A long ball flicked towards hitman Kane Hester saw the prolific striker volley past McAdams to give Elgin the lead. Not sure there could be anyone in the stadium who could say they didn’t deserve it.
Half Time: Ayr United 0-1 Elgin City
After being booed off the park at half time, you’d have maybe expected the hosts to come out ready to prove the doubters wrong. However, it was Elgin yet again who should have scored. From a corner, another Dolazanski header towards goal was saved well from close-range, with Hester’s rebound deflected behind the goal line.
More drabness ensued. Elgin began to dig their trenches and fell deeper and deeper defensively, allowing Ayr to advance through the midfield more often. It showed after good work down the left by substitute Fraser Bryden. He burst past his man before crossing for prolific striker Dipo Akinyemi. However, the big man’s volley was comfortably seen over the bar.
Long range efforts came and went for both sides, but no final touch came for either side. However, with hope sliding away from the Ayr supporters, a vital piece of luck saw the contest extended in the 89th minute. After a corner looked to have gone to waste, good work from Bryden saw his low, driven cross deflected in off an unfortunate Elgin defender. Delight for Ayr; an absolute sickener for Elgin.
With the momentum pendulum swinging Ayr’s way, Akinyemi’s close control and turn allowed him space to strike at goal a minute later. With the ball looking to roll into the net with the bouncing fans behind the goal, he saw his strike bounce off the post, along the goal-line and out for a goal kick.
To extra-time we go.
Full Time: Ayr United 1-1 Elgin City
Ayr were clearly a rejuvenated outfit after the late equaliser, and unfortunately for Elgin, they started extra time where they left off in regular time. A cross in aimed at Akinyemi saw the striker’s movements blocked illegally (according to John Beaton), with a spot-kick awarded. Ben Dempsey made no mistake, putting the Honest Men ahead for the first time in the contest.
Elgin looked out on their feet, and Ayr were beginning to take complete control. Some excellent control and a quick burst of pace by substitute Daire O’Connor saw a cutback for Akinyemi, with the striker slotting home from 4 yards after taking his time with his touch. 3-1, and game over.
HT in Extra Time: Ayr United 3-1 Elgin City
The scoreline was extended pretty quickly after the half-time whistle. Yet another venture into the Elgin box by O’Connor resulted in a lay off to Akinyemi. The striker came up with a wonderful touch and turn, with the end strike curling into in the far corner. The big man did not have the best of games, but two goals are never something to be sniffed at.
FT in Extra Time: Ayr United 4-1 Elgin City
Manager Lee Bullen was spot on in his post-match comments. His team were minutes away from an embarrassing defeat, only to end up running away with a 4-1 defeat. He and the home fans would not have been happy with the performance today. They lacked any real intensity going forward and really struggled to break down a team two divisions below. However, cup competitions are all about results, and their late rout has officially secured them a Quarter Final berth. A good draw and performance in the next round see The Honest Men heading to Hampden. What a day that would be!
For Elgin, this will be an obvious gutter. To have deservedly kept a club pushing for the Premiership at arms-length for the majority of the game is incredibly impressive. The players left everything out on the park and were mightily unlucky not to be in the hat for a historic Quarter Final appearance. They’ve done themselves, their supporters and Elgin proud.
Overall, despite the mostly drab affair, I was treated to five goals, an almost-upset and a tense atmosphere to go with it. The drama of the cup lives on! 3/5.
Student status strikes again. For a standard ticket, Ayr were charging £20 a go for this contest, but with my handy student card, I slithered in having only paid £13. Relatively, this is pretty decent value for a cup tie in a Championship setting. It is probably the cheapest I’ll get to come and see such a glorious arena in the flesh. 4.5/5
‘Super’ Ayr United end the day in the Quarter Finals of the cup and with a 14.5/20 from me. I’m delighted to have finally seen Somerset Park in the flesh, and it certainly did not disappoint. It really is a superb arena to watch football, and if all goes well it could be hosting some of the biggest names in the country next season. I’m not sure there will be many complaints about that…
Thorns and Roses – Thorniewood United – 04/02/2023
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.
Winter Sunshine – Cape Town City FC – 30/12/2022
This winter, I’ve been taking in a very different festive season. Instead of the usual miserable weather, slippy pavements and copious de-icing sessions, I’ve found myself in a genuine summer paradise.
I’m very fortunate to be spending the Christmas period travelling around South Africa; my first time even stepping on the African continent. In one trip, I’ve experienced an exponential wealth of opportunities. I’ve had an elephant sneak up behind me, a lioness saunter past the car and the most beautiful 16-hour drive through the acres of internal grasslands. I’ve taken in the dense outskirts of Johannesburg, the wild freedom of Hoedspruit and the sandy beaches of Saldanha. It’s been some holiday.
But you’re not here to read about my winter getaway, and for the purposes of this blog, neither am I. My mind is usually always on Scottish fitba’, as I’m sure much of yours are too. However, I’ve always said to myself that I ever had the chance to explore new and faraway lands, then taking in a game of local football is a must. There’s much to learn from a new culture by how the beautiful game is played there.
Since I’m only two hours from Cape Town at the time of writing this, sensibility tells us to take in a game there. Thus, Cape Town City FC find themselves under the microscope for my first ever South African football experience.
Originally founded in 1962, Cape Town City were one of SA’s more prominent football clubs. In their brief 15-year existence, they won the country’s top division twice and finished runners-up on four occasions. Their trophy cabinet also consisted of several Castle Cups, UTC Bowls and Champion of Champions Trophies (what a tournament name, eh?). Unfortunately for City, the National Football League (not to be confused with hand-egg in the States) dissolved in 1977, with Cape Town City disappearing with it.
It would take 39 year long years before the club would be resurrected. In 2016, franchise rights were purchased from the defunct Mpumalanga Black Aces and the club formally renamed and moved to Cape Town. Since their return to South Africa’s top footballing table, success has been somewhat limited but is slowly building momentum. The club lifted the Telekom Knockout Cup (essentially the League Cup) on the year of their resurrection and the MTN 8 (a cup competition for the top 8 in the Premier League) two years later. The club also finished runners-up in the DStv Premier League last campaign, and despite being a long way behind champions and league dominators Mamelodi Sundowns, the feat granted them access to the African Champions League for the first time.
This season appears more challenging for City. After twelve games in a thirty-game season, the club find themselves in the lower half of the division, desperately looking up to the clubs ahead of them. Today’s opponents, Royal AM find themselves in a similar predicament. After impressively finishing third last time out, only three points behind Cape Town, they are also languishing in the lower echelons of the table. Two teams struggling for form usually equates to a decent contest, which is exactly what I was hoping for on my visit to the DHL Stadium.
Cape Town City play their home games at the mesmeric Cape Town Stadium (or DHL Stadium for sponsorship reasons). Purposely build for Africa’s first ever World Cup finals, Cape Town Stadium is an architectural masterpiece. From the outside its bowl-like shape graces the skyline, and it’s purely white exterior allows it to stand out like a sore thumb.
Inside, it is a perfectionist’s dream, with every inch of the seating and structure in symmetrical ease. The levels match one another perfectly and you can tell it was built for elite level football. Bear in mind, this is the stadium that played host to some of the 2010 World Cup’s most exciting games and moments. Portugal hammered seven past North Korea here, Germany demolished Argentina four-nil and Giovanni Van Bronckhorsts’ screamer against Uruguay helped the Netherlands on their way to the World Cup final. You can almost feel the memories of these moments ingrained in the walls of the stadium.
The arena is shared between a few different sporting clubs, including Cape Town Spurs (formally Ajax Cape Town) and two different rugby franchises. Despite this, the pitch looked pretty good, even with the weird rugby lining that was clear to see. This is obviously a facility the city takes great pride in, so its nice to witness this in action with the care taken on the playing surface.
Overall, the Cape Town Stadium is easily one of the grandest and most beautiful sporting facilities I’ve ever set foot in. I can finally say I’ve stepped foot in a hallowed ground where real life, actual World Cup games were played. What a time to be alive. It deserves the first ever 5/5 for facilities on my adventures.
Quite often, the issue with having such a massive stadium is that it can turn into a bit of an empty cauldron without enough supporters. Cape Town Stadium holds a massive 55,000 spectators, but City average just over 3,000 per game. It leaves a bit of a desolate feeling where the quietness almost develops a sense of awkwardness at the sight of tens of thousands of empty seats.
In fairness, it is clear that the club are trying to create a decent fan culture. The ‘Superfans’ set themselves up in the lower tier of the stadium, waving banners and singing melodical songs to cheer their team on. But even then, because of the harshness of the sun, the group only began this exuberant support when the shade descended on their seats. As football becomes a more popular sport at the top level in South Africa, there is a hope that attendances will rise, and stadiums become less and less desolate. However, it doesn’t help that most clubs in the Premier League play in grounds far beyond their attendance means at the moment.
I will say though, the genuine openness and friendliness I felt during the course of the experience was second to none. There is a real feeling of togetherness within the stadium, even between rival supporters and teams. This was bizarrely showcased when the stadium announcer asked the crowd to ‘give it up for the visitors’ as the away side paraded around the pitch applauding supporters from both sides. Even more so, calls for a round of applause for the away side’s substitutes further demonstrated this strange phenomenon. Can you imagine if a stadium announcer asked a typical crowd of Scottish supporters to ‘give a round of applause’ to the guy who just scored against your club as he sauntered off the pitch? There’d be riots!
In all, it is a genuine shame to see majestic stadia such as this not even being a tenth full on matchdays. It gives a slow and eerie feeling to the game and I feel a downgrade would be a sensible option for many clubs in the country to generate a larger and louder atmosphere. However, this is certainly not to discourage the efforts of the club and the already decent support base Cape Town City have. I just hope it grows, and I’m sure it will. 1.5/5.
Quality of the Match
After an impeccably observed minute’s silence for legendary football figure Pele, the game started in what I could only describe as slowly. Be prepared, it’s a theme in which will become apparent during the course of this report.
After a laid-back and injury-laden first fifteen minutes, the first real opportunity fell to the visitors. Some poor defending allowed Royal AM striker Ruzaigh Gamildein the first strike on target. Thankfully for the hosts, ‘keeper Darren Keet was alert and scuppered any danger away.
Cape Town woke up and had a chance of their own soon after. With winger Khanyisa Mayo marauding down the flank, a slight deflection and a bit luck saw him stride into the box, but from a tight angle, his strike was well saved by Royals stopper Hugo Nyame.
The lack of real quality and intensity was beginning to show, with both teams eager to break each other down in the midfield, but both sets of player unable to do so. The breakthrough came with some good play on the wing. A layoff to Mayo saw his effort saved well, but only in the direction of debutant Bertrand Mani. The Cameroonian international was on hand to finish from a tight angle and give the hosts the lead.
Royal AM posed little threat going forward but scored an equaliser a minute before the half-time whistle. A dangerous cross from the left found the diving head of Ruzaigh Gamildein, who expertly nodded past a stranded Darren Keet. Despite a lack of quality and intensity, the scores were level at the break.
Half Time: Cape Town City 1-1 Royal AM
The second half started as slowly as the first, with neither team really having the attacking impetus to trouble the other. It took a poor headed back pass from centre-back from Keanu Cupido to create the first real opportunity of the half. Gamildein raced and beat Cape Town ‘keeper Darren Keet to the ball but was unable to determine any real contact with ball. A let off for the hosts.
Cape Town broke through themselves halfway through the second period. With Darwin Gonzalez beating his man, his strike at goal was comfortable enough for Nyame to beat away.
Then, finally a piece of quality decided the game. Some excellent forward play saw substitute Mduduzi Mdantsane break on the right-hand side. His cut-back across goal was expertly met by midfielder and fellow sub Thabo Nodada, who deftly finished past a devastated Hugo Nyame. A last-minute winner for the home side.
Full Time: Cape Town City 2-1 Royal AM
As my first South African footballing experience comes to an end, it is difficult not to try and compare the differences between the game here and the fitba’ I’m used to back home.
Firstly, I don’t have a great knowledge of South African football and so can only go by what I witnessed on the day. It is admittedly a tiny sample size for such a massive and diverse country. However, I failed to see any real intensity or purpose throughout the match. Things appeared to be moving at a snail’s pace half the time, with players consistently applying the sideways easy option instead of playing forward, cut-throat passes. I obviously cannot judge whether this is a style implemented across the country or specifically these two sides, but it can often be frustrating to watch, especially when Scottish football is often incredibly fast-paced.
That being said, there are clearly some excellent, technical players in this country. Particularly on the wing, players wished to be direct and try to beat their man but were often frustrated when balls were not returned in attacking areas. Just means I’ll have to return to increase my knowledge. What a shame…
Overall, I was treated to a new brand of football which, even though slow, is an exciting experience in itself. Who can complain about seeing a last-minute winner too? Certainly not me. I feel the match deserves no more than a 2/5.
I’ll do my best to convert currencies here, but what is worth noting is how incredibly cheap things can be when the exchange rates are in your favour. For a standard ticket, sales began at R40. This equates to around £2. For a Premier League game in any country, this is quite incredible.
However, something caught my eye that encouraged me to ‘go big or go home’. Business Lounge tickets cost R150, or around £7.50. For a VIP experience, I was never going to turn my nose up at leather seating and access to a bar at the football for me and my two guests. It resulted in an incredible view and an outstanding feeling of gratitude to be in this position in such an incredible facility.
It is also worth nothing that tickets are this price to make football as affordable as possible. However, given the gulf in financial disparities and inequality in South Africa, not everyone can afford the standard R40 tickets, never mind the VIP experience. Wages are lower, good housing is often inaccessible and you’ll often see kind-hearted people selling products on the street as a means of living. At times like this, it is important to understand just how privileged we are at home.
For the sake of this experience though, it is important to recognise Cape Town City’s attempt to make this experience affordable. 5/5.
The first overseas footballing adventure scores a handy 13.5/20. New footballing experiences are a gift, whether they are at home or abroad. Despite the difference in quality, I was able to witness a completely different culture play the game how they feel necessary. I’ll be keeping my eye out on Cape Town City’s journey this season, and the PSL in general.
South Africa, you’ve been a dream.
A Floral Derby – Ormiston Primrose – 03/12/2022
I’ve travelled to East Lothian a few times now during my Scottish football quest. While I grew up a short distance away in Dalkeith, I have only begun to appreciate the wonderful landscapes, towns and people the county contains. If my visits to Tranent Juniors, Musselburgh Athletic, Preston Athletic and Haddington Athletic have taught me anything, its that the footballing nature within East Lothian is one based on a culture of community, challenge and purposeful hard work.
Many of the towns and villages in East Lothian were a general mix of rural farming and industrious production. The small settlement of Ormiston is no different and was in fact the first ‘planned’ village in Scotland, presumably to give a home to those who would be using the area’s potential for agricultural and coal mining. More people means more workers. Workers have breaks, and breaks mean time for organised sport. Enter football, and today’s hosts: Ormiston Primrose FC.
Said to have formed as early as 1890, Ormi have a bit of a raggedy history where a few different versions of the club have represented the village. It can maybe look a bit confusing, but I’ll try my best to make sense of it in a chronological order.
As said, the original club were formed in 1890 and largely competed in the local East of Scotland junior leagues. Although there is limited success in terms of silverware, they came incredibly close to lifting the pinnacle of Scottish junior football. In 1989, Ormiston reached the final of the junior ‘Holy Grail’ at Rugby Park, where they faced Cumnock Juniors for the right to lift the cup. However, a tap in from Cumnock’s Derek Love was enough to sent Primrose back to East Lothian with nothing but their heads held high.
A mile from Ormiston lies the village of Pencaitland. Similarly sized, the settlement’s football club was formed in 1919 and largely competed in the Amateur Leagues. After winning the Scottish Amateur Cup in 1984, they joined the East of Scotland set-up two years later. Pencaitland won the EoS First Division in 1995, thus gaining promotion to the Premier Division where they competed for four years. At this point, Ormiston Primrose and Pencaitland were separate entities.
This changed in 1999, where the two clubs chose to merge. From 1999, the club were named Pencaitland & Orimston FC (catchy, eh?), where they won the EoS First Division as a joint organisation before splitting again a few years later. Ormiston continued as simply Ormiston FC, while Pencaitland re-joined the amateur ranks as Pencaitland AFC. Unfortunately, the amateur club resigned from the LEAFA in October 2022. Hopefully they’ll be back kicking a ball in some capacity soon.
At the beginning of the 2022/23 season, Ormiston returned to their roots and are reusing the ‘Primrose’ suffix. Currently, they compete in the EoS Second Division and are finding their new surroundings difficult. Before start of play, the club find themselves languishing second from bottom, only propped up by Hawick Royal Albert. However, opponents Easthouses Lily are only a few positions ahead in the table, giving hope for both sides to achieve a much-needed win.
Primrose v Lily. A weird floral derby.
New Recreation Park is situated right on the edge of town, with layers of picturesque green fields in view on one side of the pitch. It is a fairly basic facility, with all four sides open to spectators with a small metal fence around the perimeter. Currently, there is no terracing or covered shelters, but this is something that is in the works for the next couple of years. The weather stayed dry today, but I can’t imagine it being much of a laugh in the pissing rain.
The new pavilion looks fantastic and is clearly an asset to the local community. Inside contains a fairly modern setting with plenty of equipment for local clubs and changing facilities for today’s teams. Parallel lies a small cabin where refreshments were served by kind and chatty volunteers. It was much appreciated.
Without any terracing, the best view in the house comes from a small embankment on the near side, where a few punters joined me in taking in today’s action. It is amazing how a small incline can give such a different view of the game.
Overall, I enjoy the setting surrounding New Recreation Park and the obvious local football feel It contains. There is clear work to do and facilities to build to make this feel like a proper arena, but for what it is at the moment there’s not much else you can ask for. I’m sure when supporters visit the ground in a year or two, there will be more to appreciate. For now, it scores a handy 2/5.
A small number of punters showed for today’s match up, leaving plenty of room on the embankment and fence. Local football is indeed important, but I wonder if Tranent’s match-up with Hearts B a few miles away impacted the attendance at New Recreation Park. Regardless, it is also important to recognise those who do make the journey to watch their local club. The handful of punters who did take in this league encounter would not be disappointed with the quality and passion on the pitch. I did also enjoy the number of dugs in attendance too.
A fair few Easthouses supporters travelled the short distance from Midlothian to take in this game, largely gathering beside the pavilion and alongside the Lillies’ dugout. They made to make plenty of noise in key moments in the game.
Overall, I feel this also deserves a sturdy 2/5.
Quality of the Match
Even at this stage in the league season, it feels as though is a must-win for both teams looking to avoid relegation. For Ormiston, the afternoon could not have started in a worse fashion. A corner two minutes in was met by a wall of hesitation, with not one Ormiston player taking responsibility of the ball. In the end, it bounced off the head of a defender, hit the post and went in. Disastrous.
Easthouses went close to a second ten minutes later. An excellent through ball from Number 10* saw striking partner Number 11 with just the trialist Ormiston ‘keeper to beat. The stopper did well to meet the strike and put it past for a corner.
Halfway through the half, Primrose went close to scoring themselves. A horrible back-pass from Easthouses’ Number 5 was intercepted by Jay Murray, before laying it off to Dylan Hamilton. His strike was saved terrifically by the Easthouses goalkeeper resulting in a ridiculous stramash. The ‘keeper produced another block with his feet before his defenders cleared two goal-bound efforts off the line. I genuinely have no idea how Ormiston didn’t score.
They did hit the back of the net soon after through an excellently worked short corner. Chris Hogg’s ball to the edge of the box was met by Jay Murray who whipped a superb ball to the back post. Midfielder Sean Ballard read the script and put the ball into the net with a diving header. A well-deserved equaliser.
Half Time: Ormiston Primrose 1-1 Easthouse Lily
With plenty on the line, the second half began with more bookings than chances. Tackles flew in, hands were raised and tempers flared. It would go on to create a tense atmosphere and a battle on the park.
Easthouses would strike first in the second period. Some well worked play out to Number 17 on the right saw a tempting ball to the back post. Number 11 gladly took the bait and made a good connection with the cross, bounding the ball into the net with the Houses’ bench erupting.
Ormiston should have been level almost immediately. A free-kick into the away box was flicked over to Ben Maxwell, who only had the ‘keeper to beat. His low strike was saved well by the Easthouses ‘keeper who was increasingly becoming more and more important to the visitors.
The ‘keeper would be called into action once again. Some excellent battling from Jay Murray saw him win the tussle with Number 5, before playing an excellent cross-box ball to Scott Walker. The winger’s first-time strike was well saved once again to deny the hosts another equaliser.
They’d get it with only a short time left on the clock. More excellent build up play allowed Ben Maxwell space to cross for Jay Murray. The striker’s first-time finish nestled into the net, much to the delight of the home players and support.
Full Time: Ormiston Primrose 2-2 Easthouses Lily
Local football is class, especially when there is something on the line. It was clear and obvious how much this game meant to the two teams on the pitch, with passion ingrained into the play. I feel Easthouses will naturally be disappointed to have chucked away the lead twice but can also count themselves fortunate with the form of their goalkeeper. He pulled off some incredibly important saves in key moments in the match and consistently barked instructions to his backline. An impressive performance.
I think Ormiston will be disappointed themselves, given how much they pressed for a winner at the end. I believe they had the better of the chances and perhaps should be walking away from today’s encounter with three points. I felt Jay Murray in attack was fantastic. He worked incredibly hard throughout the match, forcing mistakes and carrying the ball with purpose. He deserved his finish and was maybe unlucky that more opportunities did not fall his way. He looks a superb asset for Primrose.
Overall, I genuinely enjoyed what I witnessed today. I saw two teams put in a battling performance to share the spoils. I took in some superb goals, witnessed tempers flare and saw two teams play purposeful football. I feel this encounter deserves a solid 3.5/5.
Like most clubs at this level, football is incredibly affordable. I paid a mere £6 for entry and a quid for a coffee. I’m not a meat-eater myself, but steak pies were reasonably priced at £1.50, with any confectionary tallying up to a mere fifty pence. Excellent prices which deserves nothing less than a 5/5.
Ormiston Primrose come in with a final score of 12.5/20 and find themselves in the midriff of the TSFA League Table. I genuinely enjoyed my time with the club and believe there is plenty of potential there to grow. I’m sure in a year’s time New Recreation Park will be looking the part with a new stand and a team pushing forward. I wish to be there to see it, and I’m sure it’ll come to fruition.
* I could not find any information for Easthouses’ team line for today’s match, nor could I find any squad details online.
The Stenny Warriors – Stenhousemuir FC – 19/11/2022
The Scottish Premiership is on a break to make room for a weird winter edition of the World Cup. There are plenty of benefits to a top-tier rest (one of which means I don’t have to suffer through another Hibs masterclass). Another is that it gives plenty of opportunities to find a lower-league gem. For the last year and a half, I have found plenty of joy in applying this to my football-loving life and would genuinely recommend it to anybody who has the slightest interest in the beautiful game.
I was originally supposed to stay local this week and embark on the short trip to Wishaw FC, but a series of heavy rain across the country caused the game to be postponed. At this time of the year, it is always a good idea to have a plan B, preferably one that includes an artificial surface. With this, it seemed a good idea to head back up Falkirk-way.
Stenhousemuir has been a club I’ve been looking forward to visiting for a wee while for a few reasons. One of which is their community branch Warriors in the Community. Time and time again it has proven to be of incredible importance in the local area. During the eerie, vulnerable times of lockdowns, Stenny stood up and delivered packages to those in need, showing a truly genuine interest in keeping those in the vicinity safe and well-looked after. Stenny’s community presence also extends as far as player pathways for the youth, inclusion programmes and holiday camps to provide a footballing respite for those who need it.
On the pitch, Stenhousemuir have been a mainstay in the area since 1884. Supposedly formed as a breakaway club from Heather Rangers, Stenny have spent the majority of their history in Scotland’s lower leagues. Despite this, The Warriors have a fair amount of silverware lining the Ochilview trophy cabinets. Two Scottish Qualifying Cups from the early 1900s, eleven Stirlingshire Cups and a single Scottish Challenge Cup from 1996 are to name just the knockout tournament successes. The club also reached the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup in 1903, only to be beaten 4-1 by Rangers.
League wise, the club have mostly spent their time in the third or fourth level of senior Scottish football since their induction in 1921. Funnily enough, they remain the only Scottish club to have competed in the professional leagues to have never won a league title. Their promotions to the Second Division/League One have come through means of finishing runners-up or progressing through the modern play-offs.
Today, Stenhousemuir will be hoping the play-offs become their friend once more. Sitting just below the four play-off spots, The Warriors have keen ambitions to elevate themselves back to Scotland’s third tier. However, Stephen Swift’s side have only mustered one league win in their last six before today’s match, conveniently coming against today’s visitors Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic. This encounter between the two seems a must-win for both. The home side desperately need to gather momentum to push their promotion hopes, while Bonnyrigg’s introduction into the senior leagues has not fully gone to plan. Tipped to do well after their Lowland League triumph, The Rose lie second bottom, only propped up by a struggling Forfar Athletic. With a few strong sides in Tier 5, clubs will be desperately trying to scrape their way up the leagues to avoid the dreaded relegation play-off. A View from the Terrace presenter Craig G. Telfer and bizarrely The Wire’s Isiah Whitlock will both be hoping to see their beloved Stenny come away with the three points.
Ochilview has been Stenhousemuir’s home for an incredible 132 years. It stands in the heart of Stenny’s community with its floodlights providing a mainstay in the skyline. Sitting behind a B&Ms and a Tim Hortons, The Norway Stand stands as Ochilview’s first major landmark. Weirdly named after a Norwegian Supporters Group formed in 1992, the seated terracing holds just over 600 and provides ample views wherever you are sat. It looks clean, modern and provided a good experience being tucked in amongst the Stenny faithful. Behind the goal on the left-hand side, a simple standing terrace hosts away supporters. I can imagine this place bouncing during a big occasion.
The wee snack hut proved to be a hit with supporters, with queues stretching a fair distance leading up to kick-off and during half-time. The array of selection was immense, with food on offer going down a treat. Also, the artificial surface looks fantastic and plays very well. It allowed the ball to be played on the deck at a sometimes-frantic pace, allowing for a better-quality encounter.
Overall, I feel Ochilview is a lovely wee ground completely fit for purpose in the Scottish lower leagues. It acts as a central hub for the community and provides an excellent experience for supporters on both ends. Although it doesn’t possess the charm of other lower grounds on my roster, it remains one of my favourites in League Two. I hope to return soon to take in a Syngenta Juniors match. I feel it scores a decent 3.5/5.
The bustling feel of the ground was clear as soon as you entered. The line at the snack stall spoke volumes, as did the near-packed Norway Stand. I’m not sure if the Premiership break brought in a few more punters than usual, but regardless, it felt good to be part of a busy crowd for a League Two game.
As usual, a good crowd of travelling Bonnyrigg supporters travelled from Midlothian and were in good voice throughout. They seemed to be dotted around both behind the goals and mingled within the Norway Stand. They chanted throughout and went wild at Bonnyrigg’s equaliser. 3/5.
Quality of the Match
Despite a poor run of form, Stenny were clear favourites for this encounter. However, the game started slowly with both teams putting out occasional well-dealt-with feelers. The first real opportunity of the match fell to the home side with a well-worked move sending Matty Yates through on goal. He reached the ball before a rushing Mikey Andrews but could only poke that ball past the ‘keeper and wide of the goal.
Winger Euan O’Reilly was next to go close. After making room down the left, he could not keep his strike below crossbar height.
The Rose mustered their first opportunity half-way through the half. Some good play down Bonnyrigg’s left saw a pass across the eighteen-yard box where Jonny Stewart met it with a strike at goal. However, Stenny ‘keeper Jay Cantley was quick down to his right to deny the visitors an opener.
After sustaining some Bonnyrigg pressure, The Warriors broke quickly and intricately passed their way through the Rose midfield and defence. A quick one-two saw Adam Brown taken down in the box, with the referee pointing to the spot immediately. It looked a stick-on to be fair, with Stenny’s purposeful play paying off. Brown stepped up himself and slotted the spot-kick away confidently, leaving Andrews stranded in the centre of the goal. 1-0 to The Warriors.
Then, Bonnyrigg produced a truly magical moment. Two minutes after going behind, Bonnyrigg left-winger and Boomtown local Bradley Barrett produced a moment of pure brilliance. After picking the ball up in the Stenny half, the attacker strode forward before unleashing a wonder-strike from thirty-yards. The strike was hit with clean precision, as Cantley could only dive in hope before the ball kissed the underside of the bar and hit the net. Barrett rushed to the away supporters in glee as the limbs in the stands moved towards their local hero. I can’t imagine I’ll see a better goal live this season.
Half Time: Stenhousemuir 1-1 Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic
Two minutes after the interval, Stenny almost pulled off a wonder-strike of their own. After cutting in from the left, Mikey Anderson’s curling effort smashed off the far post before being cleared. From my angle, it looked destined to hit the side-netting.
Bonnyrigg’s Kevin Smith went close soon after. A few minutes after testing Cantley with a snapshot, a free kick into the Stenny box was headed down by striker George Hunter. Smith controlled and hit a swerving volley into the ground, only the ball to go just wide of the post.
Hunter was a few inches away from hitting the net himself. Some excellent control from Keiran Mitchell gave him time to use his blistering pace to beat his man before firing a ball across goal. Hunter stretched and connected but the ball could only hit the outside netting.
Stenny once again sustained the visitor’s pressure to muster a rare second half opportunity. Some good play saw the ball fall to substitute Tam Orr. The striker held the ball up well, but his turned shot could only land into the ‘keepers hands.
Bonnyrigg should have taken the lead as the game edged to a conclusion. A fortunate deflection saw Keiran Mitchell through on goal. With only the Stenny ‘keeper to beat, the forward could only place his strike wide of the far post. A wasted opportunity which should have seen the visitors back head back to Midlothian with three points.
Full Time: Stenhousemuir 1-1 Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic
Stenny will be disappointed not have played to their potential today. Going in as favourites against a struggling Bonnyrigg, it looked a stick on for The Warriors to play with free-flowing ambitions. However, the visitors made it incredibly difficult and battled well in the midfield to prevent any real efforts on goal. Stenny certainly have the personnel to make a real impact in this league but will need to learn how to deal with rugged defences at home.
Bonnyrigg may actually be disappointed to have only left FK5 with a point. They created the clearer chances in the game and will rue poor finishing and misplaced final passes. Although Rose look to be in a bad place at the lower end of the table, I believe they will be absolutely fine if they carve out the opportunities they had today.
Overall, I was treated to an absolute worldie of a goal, some impressive attacking plays and a battling performance from both sides. I feel today’s match scores a healthy 3/5.
I paid £14 for the pleasure of entering Ochilview for the first time. On the face of it, it looks a steep incline from Tier 5 prices, which generally meet the £7/£8 mark. I also paid a mere £4 for a pie and a coffee. I’m certainly not complaining. A higher tier requires a higher price for better quality. I feel a 4/5 is a fair assessment.
Stenhousemuir finish the day with a score of 13.5/20. I was genuinely impressed by Ochilview and certainly enjoyed the experience of being in with the Stenny loyal. I witnessed a truly competitive fixture with plenty on the line and had the sheer luck of seeing one of the goals of the season. I think both sides will be absolutely fine this year, and I look forward to seeing them both head in the right direction.
Hail The Gallant – Linlithgow Rose – 12/11/2022
I’ve unbelievably never been to Linlithgow before this afternoon’s fitba adventure. The ancient old town plays an important role in Scotland’s historical landscape. A natural stop-off between Edinburgh and Stirling, Linlithgow has housed many a Scottish royal in the stunningly picturesque Linlithgow Palace. The palace was even the birthplace of James V and Mary Queen of Scots, two figures of cultural significance in this tiny country’s story.
As much as I have every intention of arriving in Lithgae in plenty of time to see the palace in the flesh, this is obviously not my primary reason for stepping foot into these age-old streets. West Lothian hosts a huge array of legendary football establishments, but Linlithgow Rose may be the most prominent and famous, at least in the Junior scene. Formed in 1889, The Rosey Posey have an incredible amount of silverware to their name. Their trophy cabinet hosts a stupid number of EoS Junior Cups, Fife & Lothian Cups, Edinburgh and District League titles and East Superleague trophies. The most important of all come in the presence of the club’s four Scottish Junior Cup victories.
The Rose secured the right to parade the trophy around Linlithgow for the first time in 1965 with a resounding 4-1 win over now defunct Baillieston Juniors. However, they would not lift the famous old cup again until 2002 after a very impressive win against Junior Cup kings Auchinleck Talbot. This started a trend for the Rose who would go on to feature in four more finals in a ten-year span. Although they lost the next year to Tayport, Linlithgow would go on to defeat Kelty Hearts in 2007 and Largs Thistle in 2010 before Auchinleck exacted their revenge in 2013. Still, their four titles mean they are tied third for the most successful club in the tournament’s history.
Today, The Gallant find themselves in new surroundings. They joined a large contingent of clubs to jump from their junior roots to the expanded senior pyramid. After a third placed finish in the East of Scotland Premier Division last time out, Linlithgow will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Tranent Juniors. Last year’s league champions look to have found their feet in the Lowland League quickly and have set an expectation for other EoS clubs to join them.
Currently, The Rose are flying and sit top of the league. Before today’s top-of-the-table clash with 2nd place Penicuik Athletic, The Rose are six points clear with today’s visitors having a game in hand, which makes this afternoon’s contest incredibly important. A win for the hosts secures a nine-point gap, while a victory for the visitors sees that gap close to a measly three points. I was in for a cracker…
Prestonfield has been the home to Linlithgow Rose since 1949. It is almost tucked away just to the side of Linlithgow high street but comes into prominence as soon as the floodlights catch your view. The minute you enter this famous hallowed ground, the incredibly picturesque scene of the grandstand comes into sight. A row of trees lay in the back with a wonderful viewing of the rolling hills on the horizon. The grandstand looks wonderful, perched up just a wee bit to give an excellent view of the well-kept pitch. Decorated in Lithgae colours, it looks superb.
Straight ahead lies a less-aesthetically pleasing but useful nonetheless shelter. It looks very similar to the one I stood under at Tranent, cladded with the same maroon paint. Most spectators from both sides took their positions here and were close enough to the action to smell the tension between the players.
A mound lies beyond the far goal where plenty of Lihtgae’s kids kicked a ball about while watching the seniors take the field. It also offers a lovely perspective of the action.
The food/drink stall lies within the covered shelter and proved popular with punters, selling out of pretty much every pie come the half-time whistle. I always enjoy giving club volunteers the praise they deserve, with the two friendly women serving with kindness and enthusiasm.
Finally, I enjoy seeing clubs offer incentives to supporters to be engraved into their club’s brickwork. The Linlithgow Rose Family Wall displays just this, with plenty of names taking their spot into Prestonfield’s history. It is perfect for any passionate Rose fan.
Overall, I absolutely love Prestonfield. Its gorgeous scenery, mix of old and new and obvious sentiment to the community leaves me wishing I had come to visit sooner. It scores an easy 4/5 for me.
It was a busy day in West Lothian, with plenty of supporters from both sides coming out to see this top-of-the-table encounter. Eager travellers from Midlothian lined the shed cladded in their club’s blue and white merchandise. Similarly, The Rose have a stable and loyal fanbase dotted around the stadium, some of which took their seats in the elevated stand. Noise remained limited as the game progressed, but the hustle and bustle of the busyness and the friendly community feel will always be something I appreciate. 3/5.
Quality of the Match
With the importance of this afternoon’s game at a high, it made sense that the contest would start slowly; both teams feeling each other out in the midfield. A first effort of the match came from Linlithgow’s Connor McMullen, whose first-time volley from the edge of the box landed safely in Kyle Leiper’s arms.
Penicuik’s first effort on goal came from striker Gregor MacDonald. His well-timed run saw him through on goal with Rose ‘keeper Cammy Binnie rushing to meet him at the edge of the box. MacDonald got there first and with Binnie in no-man’s land, lobbed the ball over. It landed just wide, but the threat was there.
Linlithgow took it seriously and broke the deadlock just before the half-hour mark. A Jack Ogilvie corner found its way to Connor McMullen, who somehow had the time and space to take a touch with his midriff before firing a left-footed strike into the roof of the net. A good finish: and exactly what the game needed to come to life.
Linlithgow almost got a quick-fire second. A bursting run from left-back Cammy Thomson resulted in an accurate cross for Mark Stowe. The winger took a touch and hit but was blocked well by a Penicuik defender before being cleared off the line. Linlithgow were taking control.
With Rose pushing for a second, the task was made incrementally easier by Penicuik’s Andy Mair. The visitor’s number sixteen was sent off for an off-the-ball incident, to make Penicuik’s job that much more difficult. I’ll be honest and say I have no idea what happened, as I was too busy checking to see how Hibs were getting on. (Spoiler – not well).
Penicuik were hanging on, with Linlithgow bossing play from here on out. Wave after wave of attack came, and the visitors needed another goal line clearance to keep the score at one. Then, some excellent build up play from Greg Macpherson and Mark Stowe set up a strike for forward Alan Docherty. His low shot was saved well down to Leiper’s left, but it felt as though it would be a long afternoon for the visitors.
Half Time: Linlithgow Rose 1-0 Penicuik Athletic
Penicuik’s plan to get back into the game was shattered a minute into the second half. A wonderful galloping run by Macpherson set by Stowe who burst past his man before laying the ball back to his teammate. After continuing his run, Macpherson swept the ball into the far corner, and with the aid of the post doubled his side’s lead. A genuinely fantastic goal.
Jack Ogilvie almost made it three moments later. An excellent ball through from Thomson allowed Ogilvie time and space to set up a shot at goal but could not convert past a rushing Kyle Leiper.
Lithgae winger Max Stowe was running the show down the right-hand side and got his just-rewards for a very positive performance. A throw into the box was controlled and laid off, with the winger taking a touch to set up before unleashing a strike at goal. With the aid of a very slight deflection, the ball crashed off the underside of the bar and in. A great finish to round off a superb individual performance.
Penicuik could not get near their hosts a man-down, and Linlithgow made them pay. More positive work from Stowe sent substitute Alan Sneddon down the right. He made plenty of space for fellow subbie Conor McKenzie to smash a low drive past Leiper to put icing on the Linlithgow cake.
Penicuik did have a couple of ventures forward, but could only result in comfortable snapshots for Cammy Binnie, with the Linlithgow defence swatting anything else away. A day to forget for the visitors.
Full Time: Linlithgow Rose 4-0 Penicuik Athletic
This result is huge for The Rosey Posey. This resounding victory means they are six-points clear of now second place Crossgates Primrose and nine-clear of Penicuik. It is fair to say that the Rose are clear favourites for the division and are heavily touted for promotion to the fifth-tier if that goal is achieved.
They definitely have the ammunition to do so. I was heavily impressed by a few Linlithgow performances; none more so than from winger Mark Stowe. He caused issues all day for the Penicuik defence with his pace, close control, and drive to progress up the park. He’ll be delighted with his contribution of a goal and assist today, and rightly so. If he’s on form, so are Linlithgow.
It is fair to say that Penicuik’s afternoon could have been much better. Apart from Gregor MacDonald’s lobbed effort, they did not get the chance to lay a glove on their hosts. Obviously, the fact that they were down to ten-men for two thirds of the game did not help their ambitions and I question why tempers rose high enough for a straight red half an hour into the game. There is clearly a very good team in the ranks at Penicuik and I hope they bounce back quickly. They deserve to showcase their abilities. I hope to head to a game there this season.
Overall, I was treated to some wonderful goals, some excellent individual displays and plenty of opportunities. It is a shame the game was ended as a contest after the red card, but nevertheless I enjoyed the spectacle. 3/5.
For a top-of-the-table match, a pricing of £8 entry into Prestonfield and a further £1.50 for access to the grandstand is fair enough. It is certainly value for money; much like all football at this level. I cannot have any complaints and enjoy how accessible tiers 5 and below are. 5/5.
The Gallant finish with a respectable score of 15/20 and fire themselves up into the upper echelons of the TSFA League Table. I am delighted to have visited one of my most sought-after grounds for these adventures and was certainly not disappointed. Prestonfield is an absolutely beauty, and it hosts a wonderfully historic, successful and ambitious football club. I hope to see The Rosey Posey making their mark in the Lowland League very soon.
The Battle for the North – Ashfield FC – 05/11/2022
It’s been a couple of weeks since my last venture to an unfamiliar ground. A mixture of season ticket duties, social visits and university placements has meant it has been difficult to organise a visit anywhere other than Easter Road. However, on a strangely mild November afternoon, normal service resumed.
Today’s trip takes me back to the north of Glasgow, where Ashfield Football Club lie in wait. The area plays host to plenty of clubs in short proximity. I was genuinely baffled to realise Glasgow Perthshire play a stone’s throw away from my destination today; to the point where you could hear the cheers and shouts as goals flew in from the stands at Ashfield. I had already taken in atmospheres at St Rochs and Glasgow United , and it is clear just how important community clubs are in this part of the city.
The Field interest me for a few reasons. The first is that they one of the oldest ‘Junior’ clubs in the country having been formed as early as 1886. Plenty of history envelops the club, particularly with their mountain of success in the Scottish Junior Cup in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The second comes in the form of the club’s home; Saracen Park (Peugeot Ashfield Stadium for sponsorship reasons). Ashfield have played in this hallowed ground for close to ninety-years but have shared their home with speedway team Glasgow Tigers since 1999. Speedway has not been uncommon at Saracen Park though, with the Ashfield Giants calling the stadium their home from 1949-1953. It is certainly a strange experience, but more on that later…
As mentioned, Ashfield were one of the major early players in the Scottish Junior scene. Four Scottish Junior Cups wins, six Glasgow Junior Leagues (including five in a row) and a ridiculous number of Glasgow Junior Cups line Ashfield’s trophy cabinet with pride. With a huge number of other, smaller league and cup wins it is no wonder the club hold the illustrious title of being the first junior club to win 100 trophies. Impressive.
Despite Possilpark being a popular venue for a trophy parade in the early 1900s, success has somewhat dried up. The club have not won a piece of silverware since an Evening Times Cup win in 2012 and a West Superleague First Division title in 2011.
Since their switch to the senior pyramid, the club will be hoping that changes pronto. Ashfield currently ply their trade in the West of Scotland Second Division and look to be finding their feet well in their new surroundings. They sit four points behind early leaders Renfrew before start of play and will be hoping to achieve promotion to the First Division at the first time of asking. The way they’re going, it looks as though they’ll have a strong case of doing just that.
Right, here we go. I’ve read a lot about Ashfield’s home in the last few years and have seen a few photographs here and there but have always wished to reserve any judgement until physically entering the arena myself.
Firstly, I will say that I genuinely really like the aesthetics of the grandstand. Its old, rickety wooden look is mixed with newer, more modern seating, merchandise, and facilities. I really like the propped-up view you get no matter where you sit in the stand. It is possible to get a tremendous sighting of the whole pitch at a good, elevated position. It is clear that this place holds a million memories for the club, and you can feel this when in the environment.
However, it is also clear that The Peugeot Ashfield Stadium is catered far more to the speedway side than the football. The track totally eclipses the pitch, so much so that it is possibly one of the narrowest playing surfaces I’ve ever seen. I remember playing on one similar at boy’s club level in Wallyford, East Lothian. Luckily, it didn’t much effect the standard of play from either side, but you’d be lucky to get any use of wingers on this park. It reminds me an awful lot of Cowdenbeath’s Central Park which also plays host to a stock-car track. Having had a wee walk around the track and onto the far terracing, I passed garages, tractors, and speedway specific equipment. It feels as though the football is an afterthought, and that’s a shame. I suppose the second tier of British Speedway trumps the eighth tier of Scottish football. I feel a score of 2/5 is fair all elements considered.
A decent number of supporters from both sides turned up for today’s North Glasgow Derby, sitting on opposite sides of the grandstand. It was good to see a good number of away fans travel the short distance cladded in Maryhill jackets and hats to take in an away day. Even with plenty of bodies, noise remained limited, perhaps also due to the distance from the pitch to the grandstand. Everyone associated the club I interacted to was very welcoming and kind. The guys at the gate and the tea/coffee stand were excellent with service and decent patter. With Celtic at home a short distance away, it was good to see a good number show up for their local clubs, and that in mind I feel a 2.5/5 is fair.
Quality of the Match
Ashfield kicked the contest off as favourites, flying high in second place with only one defeat. This is all the more true with visitors Maryhill languishing at the bottom of the table. However, it was The Hill that mustered the first real opportunity of the game. A deep free kick to the back stick saw Fraser Lee’s header go over the crossbar. As the big centre-half was free, he perhaps should have done better with his effort.
It didn’t take Ashfield long to respond. After a first corner of the match was cleared, left-footed forward Craig Young turned his man on the far-side and fired a cross-come-shot towards goal. Young Maryhill ‘keeper Ross Goldie was alert to divert the ball over for another corner.
Goldie would be busy again soon after. A low free kick by veteran Bobby Barr somehow made it all the way through a wall of bodies, forcing the ‘keeper to parry the ball away with no takers for a rebound.
Maryhill broke up the park immediately and almost took the lead as a result. Some good play saw the ball break for midfielder Robbie Manley, whose strike from the edge of the box left Ashfield stopper Chris Calder stranded. He’d be counting his lucky stars though, as the ball flew just over his crossbar.
Ashfield took the warning and grasped the game by the scruff of the neck. A long ball forward aimed towards Jonny Black was taken down well by the striker, before a wonderfully lobbed effort from the corner of the box landed in the bottom corner. A well taken goal from a guy who has forged a habit of hitting the net this season. Advantage to the hosts.
Maryhill were not deterred and continued to play the ball forward. They were certainly unlucky not to equalise after some excellent build up play. Some fantastic close ball control and passing at the edge of the Ashfield box saw the ball rolled out to Shaun Roberts, whose first-time strike kissed the near post before heading behind.
Robbie Manley went close again and will be disappointed not to have scored. After Ashfield had originally done well to play the ball out from the back, the ball was nipped and gathered by Manley whose free hit from the edge was comfortably parried by a frustrated Calder.
Jordan Hood would be the next Maryhill player to test the Ashfield goal. More excellent play saw the forward through on the left-hand side. From a tight angle, his low shot was comfortably blocked by the feet of Chris Calder. Maryhill were certainly not playing like a side propping up the table. They’ll have been disappointed not to head into the break at least level.
Half Time: Ashfield 1-0 Maryhill
Some harsh words must have been said in the home dressing room, as the hosts came flying out the traps in the second period. A sensational save by Goldie in the Maryhill goal denying Ashfield from doubling their lead.
They would not be denied for much longer though. A great switch of play to forward Jonny Black saw him burst into the ‘Hill box before cutting back for strike partner Fraser Sheridan, who did well to beat the uneven pitch and bobble his strike into the net, with Goldie grasping at thin air. 2-0 Ashfield.
The hosts were playing with far more fluidity and freedom, with their midfield taking control of the engine room. They should have been three-up halfway through the half as a ball to Craig Young was flicked onto Jonny Black. Black’s strike was saved well by Goldie, with Sheridan’s rebound flying over the bar from twelve yards.
They did not stop though. Ashfield remained relentless in attack and got their just-deserves soon after. A superb ball through for Bobby Barr saw the forward one-on-one with Goldie. The former Livingston, Morton and Raith Rovers forward showed his class to lob the stranded goalkeeper to put the icing on the cake for Ashfield.
Maryhill did have an opportunity to pull a goal back ten minutes from time. A rare venture into the home box saw an attempted cross come off the arm of an Ashfield defender. It looked a stonewaller from my angle given the new handball rules. Jordan Hood stood up to take the spot-kick, only for it to be saved well by Chris Calder, who looked absolutely delighted to keep his clean sheet. The event summed up the visitor’s afternoon.
Full Time: Ashfield 3-0 Maryhill
Ashfield will be grateful to have ridden the wave of Maryhill attacks in the first half to achieve this win. They took their chances well and took control of the contest in the second half. Bobby Barr impressed this afternoon and showed his quality going forward. He may be thirty-four years old, but he has plenty of offer Ashfield this season and beyond. Goalkeeper Chris Calder had a superb game for the hosts. He saved his side a few times in the first half with important blocks; rounding his performance off in style by saving a penalty. A shout-out must also go out to captain Colin Leverage, who played his 100th match for The Field. If he and his team play as they did in the second half, I’m sure they’ll be finishing at the top end of the table this season.
Maryhill will be naturally gutted to head away with nothing today. They were perhaps the better side in the first forty-five and should have had at least a goal to their name heading into the break. They unfortunately could not keep up in the second half and lost control of the midfield battle. They’ll be disappointed to have lost an important derby match, but they’re a good team with a strong squad. I know first hand how resilient they can be, having seen them come from two-goals down to beat Glasgow University. If they play like both they and I know they can, they’ll be absolutely fine.
All in all, I was treated to three excellent goals, a topsy-turvy match and some excellent individual performances. I feel today’s encounter deserves a good 3.5/5.
For this visit to a West of Scotland Second Division encounter, I paid a measly £5 entry fee and a further quid for a coffee. Most clubs at this level charge at least £7, so fair play to Ashfield for offering an experience this cheap. In times like these, I can guarantee it is appreciated by many. 5/5.
Ashfield finish the day with a respectable score of 13/20. I enjoyed experiencing the Peugeot Ashfield Stadium for the first time, and it is certainly one I will not forget in a hurry. It is certainly a unique venue and has played an important role in this quality club’s history. I’m sure I’ll be back again soon.
Lilywhites in Bloom – Inverness Clachnacuddin FC – 15/10/2022
Before today, I’d never been anywhere near Inverness. The furthest north I’d ever stretched to was Aberdeen; Pittodrie being the venue for a couple of Hibs away days. The north of Scotland has been consistently romanticised for its beauty and legendary myths. The chance to travel up had always evaded me, but thanks to a rare opportunity to volunteer my services to drive my partner’s dance group to a performance in Eden Court Theatre it suddenly became possible. On a sunny Saturday in the middle of October, I set off in a seventeen-seater mini-bus destined for ‘The Capital of the Highlands.’
Inverness has a lot to offer. The city holds a grand detail of importance, both of traditional Scottish culture and historical influence. It is an area where ancient Norwegian invaders were fought, Jacobite armies were defeated and Highland-clearances took place. It stands as a symbol of positivity in a truly mesmeric landscape. I was interested to read that it was voted the happiest place in Scotland in 2015, which may or may not be saying much considering the stereotypically pessimistic undertones we exude as a nation.
In a sporting context, Inverness have produced some belters. World champion runner Laura Muir hails from the city, as does Jenny Graham, who set the world record for the fastest time to cycle around the world. Quads of steel indeed. Cleveland Browns punter Jamie Gillan also has links to Inverness, making him one of the very few Scots to immerse themselves in the NFL.
Inverness is also famously the birthplace of Charlie and Ryan Christie. The father and son duo have followed similar footballing paths; both representing Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Celtic respectively. Ryan in particular has had a wealth of success come his way. He won the 2015 Scottish Cup with ICT before winning an incredible six trophies in succession with The Bhoys. Two League Titles, two League Cups and another two Scottish Cup medals line Ryan’s personal accolade cabinet. Currently turning out in the English Premier League with AFC Bournemouth, Christie will go down in history with the Scotland National Team, scoring that goal in Serbia to send us on our way to Euro 2020.
The Christies played for ICT, the only professional outfit remaining in the city. There is however, a much older, far more established and trophy-laden club in the form of Clachnacuddin Football Club. Formed in 1885, they are an age-old presence in Inverness. Clach are historically successful, having won a record-tying eighteen Highland League titles. A ridiculous amount of North of Scotland Cups, Highland League Cups and Inverness Cups also shine brightly within Grant Street Park. This is even more impressive considering the club almost went bust in 1990. With Clach hours away from disappearing from the footballing world, a generous group of seven stepped in to save them. Two of these people: David Dowling and Colin Morgan continue to play important roles in the running of the club.
However, since then, silverware has been hard to come by. Their last league title came in 2004 and the latest Highland Cup win came exactly a decade later. The increasingly improving Brora Rangers, Buckie Thistle and Fraserburgh look to have the next few league titles wrapped up between them; hoping to follow trend-setters Cove Rangers into the SPFL.
Currently, The Lilywhites sit third bottom in the standings, with only six points from eleven games. As far as I’m concerned, Clach are a dormant giant desperately needing to be woken up. My involvement begins with this home tie against Lossiemouth. Sitting mid-table, they travel to Inverness in confident mood. It’s up to Clachnacuddin to regain some of their own.
Grant Street Park is located a mere 20-minute walk from the city centre. As I took in the incredibly picturesque architecture around the River Ness and inched closer the ground, you realise just how imbedded GSP is in the community. It is easily missable, plonked right inside an old wee housing estate. I followed the music and a group of Clach supporters and entered the arena with anticipation.
GSP is incredibly tight. Battered white walls run the perimeter of a well-looked after pitch with supporters hanging over each side. It almost feels you can reach out and grab the players if you somehow decided that was a good idea. A grandstand emerges in all its glory on the left, supplied with a four-tiered seating arrangement that gives a wonderful view wherever you’re sat. On the far side sits the ‘The 1947/48 Clean Sweep Enclosure’, a simple standing area commemorating the famous Lilywhites side who won every competition available to them that season. Their memory marches on.
It is clear that GSP has been here for a long time. The fact that you can get a pretty detailed view into the gardens of local residents tells a peculiar story, but I’m not sure many would change that. It gives a very grassroots community feel where everyone surrounding club has a role to play. I can picture club directors having to knock on their neighbour’s door to ask for their ball back.
Busy queues for the snack shed were consistent, decent toilet facilities and purposeful structures make GSP a superb wee place to watch football. You feel that you can hear every shout, every contact with the ball and that you are almost part of the action with how close you are. The fact that it is imbedded in the local community is also a big plus for me. It easily deserves a higher score of 4/5.
The Highland League is full of older clubs with large and loyal fanbases. I saw this in full clarity as the periphery lined up with supporters from both sides. Lossiemouth to Inverness is around an hour’s drive, with a relatively noisy away crowd pouring into GSP. The crowd provided plenty of laughs with sarcastic shouts directed to the referee and opposing players. It was an atmosphere with a largely positive and friendly feel to it, with both sides conversing before kick-off and during the half-time break.
I wasn’t sure what to expect crowd number wise, but I was pleasantly surprised by just how many came in to give their support to their local club. Granted it went quiet at times, but I feel that it to be expected at most levels of the game. The fact that people consistently travel acres of land every week will never cease to amaze me. 2.5/5.
Quality of the Match
After a slow opening fifteen minutes, the game burst into life. Building from the back looks good when it works, but there is always a risk of looking the fool when it doesn’t. Nightmare became reality when Lossiemouth’s Ross Morrison stole the ball from Clach midfielder Martin Callum on the edge of the box. With nobody but the goalkeeper to beat, Morrison slotted the ball home to put the visitors a goal up. I’m not even sure Clach goalkeeper Martin Mackinnon had touched the ball with his hands before picking it out the net.
The home side responded well. A floated corner from Robbie Thomson found the head of centre-back Gary Warren. He rose highest but his header landed just over. Their pressure kept coming, but Lossiemouth thwarted much of their attacks.
Lossie perhaps should have extended their lead halfway through the half. After an in swinging free kick was cleared and subsequently rebounded, the ball fell to Adam Macleod. In on goal, his left-footed strike was blazed over with the help of a deflection.
Clach’s sustained control paid off. A superb cross-field pass was taken down expertly by Lewis Mackenzie, who sent a wicked pass into the heart of the Lossie six-yard box. A horrible deflection off defender James Leslie found its way past ‘keeper Logan Ross. The goal looks to have officially been given to Clach striker James Anderson, but I’m not sure he’ll care too much, so long as the scores were level.
The home side were really beginning to screw the nut and were looking good for a lead. A quick throw-in saw Paul Brindle beat his man and cut the ball back. Anderson looked destined to hit the net only for a superb last-ditch interception to send the ball behind. The intentions were clear to see.
Clach did have the ball in the net just before half-time. From the resulting corner, a nodded effort at the back post was sent in only for the flag to be raised. I’m not entirely sure if there was a foul, an offside or the ball had gone out of play. Whatever the reason, it sent both teams into the changing rooms on level terms.
Half Time: Inverness Clachnacuddin 1-1 Lossiemouth
Lossie started the better in the second period. An excellent run down the left by McLeod saw him in on goal. His low driven strike was saved and held well by Martin Mackinnon; forcing his first real test of the match.
His second test was much more impressive. A ball over the top saw Adam Mcleod involved once more. He controlled the ball superbly and looped an accurate cross to the back post to colleague Ross Archibald. The attacker’s diving header looked destined to nestle into the net, only for Mackinnon to scamper across goal and block the effort wonderfully. A really important save.
Clach mustered their first chance of the half when the ever-present Donald Morrison cut inside and fired over. His performance throughout the match was something to be admired.
Another decent chance fell for the visitors, who looked in danger of rueing their chances. A ball in was only half-cleared and fell to Archibald once more. He was thwarted again by Mackinnon who looked to be playing his role perfectly.
With the game petering out, a highly dramatic last five minutes unfolded. Having not created many clear-cut opportunities, it would be Clach who struck next. An accurate corner into the back post was volleyed goalward by Paul Brindle. With the aid of a deflection or six, the ball rolled into the net much to the delight of the rapturous home supporters. Their season suddenly looked to have kickstarted.
Drama in football is never finished until the final whistle. There was still time for Lossie to push for an equaliser. A long ball fell to the edge of the box, where a Lossie player fired a low strike goalward. The shot was blocked, with every single Lossie player flailing their arms upward with shouts of handball. I honestly couldn’t see whether it was or not, but even the reaction of the Clach players suggest today’s referee got it wrong.
Clach had escaped, and the three points were theirs.
Full Time: Inverness Clachnacuddin 2-1 Lossiemouth
I’ve read many great things about the Highland League. I’ve been told that the standard is good, the support is strong, and the competitiveness is very much real. This was as clear as day to me. I witnessed a dramatic encounter where the match could have swayed either way in the blink of an eye.
I certainly cannot complain in seeing a basketball-like game where chances came in droves and the game did not slow down until the final whistle. Last minute winners are always fantastic to see as a neutral. I feel a score of 3.5/5 is fair.
For a tier five encounter, entry cost me a mere tenner, with a requirement to fork out an extra quid for entry into the stand. I am always complementary to clubs in the central belt for fair and inclusive pricing and it is wonderful to see clubs in the Highlands share these values. I did not partake in any food or drink for today’s encounter but a wee peer into the snack shack had me hoping for my appetite to get its arse into gear. 5/5.
My first foray into the Highland League was certainly a positive one. Inverness Clachnacuddin finish the weekend with a score of 15/20 and fire themselves into the upper echelons of the TSFA League Table. I certainly hope to get the chance to head up north again this season. It appears I’m missing out on an awful lot.
Learning Lessons with the Accies – Hamilton Academical – 01/10/2022
Originally known as Cadzow, the town of Hamilton has a long history that has seen it become the eight biggest settlement in Scotland. William fitz Gilbert, a Scottish nobleman who was also governor of nearby Bothwell Castle ceded the protective structure to King Robert the Bruce after the Battle of Bannockburn. Gilbert had originally supported the English but changed allegiance to Bruce after the victory in 1314. As a reward for his switch in loyalty, he was gifted a large piece of land in the historic county of Lanarkshire. Over time, this piece of land became an ever-growing town, eventually named Hamilton after the family of the same name. They still hold major parts of land in the town to this day.
History aside, Hamilton has been the birthplace and hometown to a multitude of Scottish football superstars. The likes of Jock Stein, Barry Ferguson, Davie Cooper, Craig Brown, Steven Fletcher, Paul Hartley, Paul McStay and Phil O’Donnell all have a connection with the town. That’s not a bad seven-a-side playing and management team.
Since 1874, the town’s primary football club come in the form of Hamilton Academical. Created off the back of the Hamilton Academy team, they are still the only professional club in British football to have originated from a school team. They have been a mainstay in professional Scottish football since shortly after their formation; only a brief spell in the 70s breaking their continuous run. In their early years, the club finished runners up in the Scottish Cup twice; losing to Celtic 2-0 after a replay in 1910 and 2-1 to Rangers in 1935.
In the last twenty or so years, this club has spent time in almost all levels in the current SPFL. After an inability to pay their players in the 1999-2000 season, the club were docked fifteen points; enough to see them relegated to the third tier. However, the direction was only upward from there. They won the league the next year and gained promotion to the SPL in 2008. They spent three years in Scotland’s topflight before relegation in 2011. Despite this, they did receive significant praise and monetary gain from their focus on youth development. This was exemplified by the sales of James McCarthy and James McArthur to Wigan Athletic.
I really did not like The Accies come 2014. After a relegation play-off against my beloved Hibernian, they beat Hibs 2-0 at Easter Road and won the subsequent penalty shoot-out, forcing me to watch Championship football for the next three years of my life. I disliked Accies for an embarrassingly long time as a result, only for it to dawn on me that the Championship years ended up being exactly what Hibs needed at the time. I’m not sure I’d have seen that famous day in May had Accies not sent us down…
Today, Hamilton are playing in the Championship themselves. After a seven year stay in the Premiership, Accies were relegated back to the second tier; a league in which they are still trying to find their feet again. After a mediocre 6th placed finish last term, new manager John Rankin will be hoping to be the person who take them back to a better place. However, they sit 8th after 7 games, and with pre-season league favourites Dundee coming to town this afternoon, things do not look to be getting any easier.
Commonly known as New Douglas Park, Hamilton’s home ground since 2001 has been through a series of various alias’ due to sponsorship reasons. For easiness, I will be referring to the venue as simply NDP.
The ground is a very basic layout, with two red and white stands making the bulk of the attractions. One of these elongated structures run along the touchline; hosting the home supporters with a similar but shorter stand sitting behind the goal for travelling fans. An unused gazebo-type structure sits on the opposite touchline. It looks like a decent wee place to plonk yourself down, but it was unfortunately out of use for today’s fixture. I quite enjoy the layout of NDP. It has spacious walkways and several layers of steps up to the seating areas.
The food and drink stands are situated on these walkways, and while there is loads of space to queue, I can’t see many people standing outside to wait while it’s pissing down with rain. I found it odd that the concession stand I bought from only accepted cash. The vast majority of clubs in tier 5 and below I’ve visited in the last 18 months have taken card, so why can’t this happen in the second tier?
The artificial surface is often criticised, especially when Accies were in the topflight. However, I feel it played quite well and didn’t impact the pace of the game whatsoever. It allows Accies to use the pitch for training and youth games which provides a handy cost-cutting opportunity.
Overall, I feel NDP serves its purpose well in Scotland’s second tier. It is fairly modern, clean and spacious. I felt as though I would have had a wonderful view of the action no matter where I sat. Although there are much stronger venues in the SPFL, I can’t have too many qualms with Hamiton’s home. 2.5/5.
Hamilton are currently averaging just under 1,500 in attendance figures for the 2022/23 season so far. People outwith Scottish football might look at this and wonder why a town of 55,000 can’t muster higher interests in their local football team. The answer to this is a simple and easy one. Glasgow’s big two have always had a consistent grip on support in the west (and most other areas of the country), which diminishes a larger local fanbase. It will always be difficult for towns in a stone’s throw distance away from Glasgow to grow this support. I don’t even think it is anyone’s fault, it’s just the way it is in Scotland.
Regardless, I was fairly impressed by the energetic atmosphere that I witnessed at NDP. It was certainly interesting to take in the atmosphere from the home end as I had only been a part of the away crowd in fixtures involving Accies and Hibs. The club had supplied a few local boy’s clubs with a wealth of tickets for today’s match. I was sat at the far end of the home stand close by to this huge gathering of young supporters. They chanted and shouted for the majority of the game, bringing smiles from supporters and substitutes alike. Even if these boys have prior loyalties to other clubs, they certainly won’t forget their trip to NDP with their pals. Hopefully some of them return on a regular basis. Their chant of ‘Dundee’s in the mud, in the mud’ will be ringing through my ears for the foreseeable future.
Dundee brought a decent crowd down from the City of Discovery and provided a good level of noise throughout. Naturally, their noise level rose and quietened as specific parts of the game transpired.
Overall, I don’t feel the NDP atmosphere was half as bad as what people make out. The young team certainly helped, but there was enough noise to justify a score of 3/5.
Quality of the Match
With the bucketing rain clearing up, Accies got the game underway. It took fifteen minutes of teams feeling each other out for the first real chance to muster itself. A Dundee corner played out to Paul McMullen saw the winger take a touch and curl a cross to the back post. His effort found the head of captain-for-the-day Jordan McGhee, whose effort was saved and held well by Acccies ‘keeper Ryan Fulton.
McGhee almost turned provider himself soon after. Some good play in the middle allowed McGhee to drift out to the left and play a well-aimed cross towards winger Lyall Cameron. His header flew over the bar after applied pressure from the Accies defence. A good chance, nonetheless.
The Dee were not allowing their hosts any chance to leave their half. Their pressure almost told midway through the first forty-five. Lyall Cameron became centre of attention as he latched onto a wonderful one-two, before expertly firing the ball into the far corner. A good finish from a lovely piece of play. Dundee were deservedly a goal up.
Hamilton’s only real effort in the first half fell to full-back Matthew Shiels. His drive from the edge of the box was easily held by ‘Dundee stopper Adam Legzdins. John Rankin’s side would have to be a lot better to get anything out of this game.
Half Time: Hamilton Academical 0-1 Dundee
Wishing to end the contest early, Dundee immediately pressed for a second. A cross from the right from Paul McMullen found Lyall Cameron once more. His point-blank header was blocked well by Fulton, with the ball eventually falling to Jordan McGhee at the edge of the box. However, his strike flew just over the bar.
McMullen was involved once more ten minutes later. After Dundee broke well, Cameron played the winger in on goal, but his strike inside the box was blocked superbly at the last-second.
Then, Hamilton began to push. The introduction of Fulham loanee Jean-Pierre Tiehi changed the game, with the big man’s physicality and good touch causing problems for the visiting centre backs. A wonderful through ball saw Tiehi in on goal for Hamilton’s first big chance. However, Legzdins rushed out well and blocked the striker’s effort with his foot.
Dundee went close once more. Zach Robinson worked space on the right of the box well and played a wonderful low cross to the back post. Lyall Cameron (once again) almost had his second, with his tight-angled shot coming off the side-netting.
The Accies pushed back but were rueing their luck when forward Andy Winter drilled a strike from twenty-five yards. The direction was good, but the height was just off. The ball smacked off the top of Legzdins’ bar to bounce over.
The equaliser continued to evade the hosts. Some great build-up play found Lewis Smith to the right of Legzdin’s box. His low cross was inches from meeting Tiehi’s foot, but the ball was cleared out of the ground by the Dundee defence.
With two minutes remaining, the points were won and lost for both sides. Firstly, a corner by Steve Lawson was met at the front post but flew wide. A big chance that looked a certainty to go in if directed goalward. Then, with Accies pushed up, Dundee found a chance to break. The ball found its way to Luke McCowan who smashed the ball past Fulton to finish the game with the last kick of the ball. Football is a brutal game sometimes. The erupting Dee supporters didn’t care.
Full Time: Hamilton Academical 0-2 Dundee
The Accies will be disappointed with this result for a number of reasons. They were essentially non-existent up top in the first half, allowing Dundee to press forward and create opportunities. Ultimately, they were punished by slack passes and a lack of intensity going forward. However, I feel the introduction of Jean-Pierre Tiehi was a light at the end of the tunnel. His hold-up play and physicality will cause problems for defenders in this division. I’m sure they will be okay this year.
On the contrary, Dundee will be delighted with their ability to defend and counter-attack. They took their two goals well and created a number of chances in both halves. I was impressed by winger Lyall Cameron. He was involved in most opportunities Dundee created and took his goal in his stride. He looks a real talent for the Championship.
Overall, this second-tier game contained two well-taken goals, an entertaining second half and some decent individual displays. Relative to the level, I feel this deserves a 2/5.
For this second-tier match, I paid £20 for entry. While this is a common price for this level, I think it may be slightly overpriced given the quality often seen on the pitch. I have seen plenty of more entertaining games below the SPFL, with prices never exceeding £8 entry. However, professional clubs have professional levels of upkeep and for this reason I can understand a £20 standard entry. It is what it is. 3/5.
Hamilton Academical finish this visit with a final score of 10.5/20. They lie bottom of the TSFA League Table, but that by no means is a complete negative. The vast majority of my visits this season have been superb. On another day, I could have witnessed a high-scoring, dramatic affair. Maybe next time.
The Honest Toun’s Club – Musselburgh Athletic – 28/09/2022
Musselburgh is a town I know well. Having grown up in nearby Dalkeith, The Honest Toun is somewhere I spent a lot of time in for a few different reasons. I failed (and passed at the second attempt) my driving test here, I have regularly walked the dogs in the lagoons and played many a youth football match at Pinkie Playing Fields. ‘Lucas’ is a cracking wee spot to finish a stroll on the beach with an ice cream. It is a special wee place.
The largest town in picturesque East Lothian has an ancient but unique history. Previously known as ‘Eskmouth’ based on the river in which it sits, the name ‘Musselburgh’ derives from a mussel bank on said River Esk and the same suffix as Edinburgh, although Musselburgh was named this before the actual formation of royal burghs. Like plenty of Scottish towns in the Central Belt, Musselburgh was formed by the Romans in AD 80. Remnants of these ancient conquerors still exist, with the Roman Bridge still being used by everyday pedestrians in the town.
The wonderful name of The Honest Toun comes from a lovely wee story dating back to 1332. The late Randolph, Earl of Moray died in Musselburgh but was catered to at great length by the local townspeople. He wished to reward them for their kindness only to be declined as they claimed they were only performing their duty. They were labelled ‘honest men’ and thus, the Honest Toun was born. The town holds a celebration to commemorate this every year. An Honest Lad and Honest Lass are elected annually to continue the tradition.
Sporting wise, Musselburgh is home to a multitude of firsts. The Musselburgh Silver Arrow is said to be the oldest ever sporting trophy in the UK. It is annually contested by the Royal Company of Archers and is said to date back to 1603. The town is also host to Musselburgh Golf Course, once home to the Open Championship. It has recently been given the title of the oldest continuously used golf course in the world. Not bad at all.
However, I’m not here for archery or golf. I’m here for Musselburgh Athletic. Founded in 1934, The Burgh have been a mainstay in the town for decades on end. Original club names date back as late as 1898, playing under guises such as Musselburgh Bruntonians, Musselburgh Fern and Musselburgh Juniors. As the Bruntonians, the club won the biggest prize in junior football: The Scottish Junior Cup. In 1923, they beat fellow Gorebridge side Arniston Rangers 2-0 in front of 20,000 spectators packed into Tyncastle to earn the right to parade the trophy through the streets of Mussy.
Since then, Musselburgh Athletic have been a consistent presence in the East of Scotland scene. The Olivebank trophy cabinet is littered with a mass of cup wins and hard-end league successes. More recent silverware includes two East Region Premier Divisions, a single Alex Jack Cup and one East of Scotland Cup-Winners Shield; a victory that allowed Musselburgh entry into the 2020/21 Scottish Cup.The club did reach the final of the Junior Cup twice more, but unfortunately fell to junior giants Auchinleck Talbot both times. A 2-1 score line after extra time in 2011 was matched again in 2015 to send the East Lothian side home with nothing.
Today, Musselburgh ply their trade in the East of Scotland Premier Division. Much like a host of clubs in 2018, they made the jump from junior football to the senior pyramid. They appear to be doing well in these new surroundings and are emerging as contenders for promotion to tier five. They’ll be looking to improve on an eighth-place finish last campaign, and with new boss Liam Burns in charge for the first time this evening, a new dawn looks to be coming to fruition.
I’ve been to Olivebank before, but never as a spectator. The ground hosted a whirlwind of a youth cup finals in my playing days. Turning out for Dalkeith CYP, we lost out on penalties after a wild three-all draw with Leith Athletic. I’ll try not to let my PTSD play a part in the viewing of the ground.
Funnily enough, I was greeted at the gate by a club volunteer who knew who I was based on the fact I was the last person to enter with a Fanbase ticket. I haven’t shown my face on Twitter (yet) so was incredibly confused when he shouted my name and asked how I was. I loved it though, it just shows the friendly, community feel to the club and those involved.
Laughing and joking aside, Olivebank looks much improved from when I last entered the blue and white gates. Firstly, The Belmont Stand looks excellent and serves its purpose well. Clean and sturdy, it kept plenty of punters dry and hosted the rapturous Mussy young team for the majority of the first half. The standing area opposite consists of plenty of raised embankments; allowing for a good view of the pitch no matter where you plonked yourself. Behind the goal a shelter is available for those wishing to take a seat and have a drink on accessible benches and chairs. It all looks great, with the well-kept playing surface looking like a dream to play on.
The highlight of the ground is undoubtably the clubhouse. Decorated in a mass of signed strips, club pendants, memorabilia and a full layout of the club’s history, this wee place looks like the perfect area to spend pre-match and halftime with a few bottles. I’ll be sure to spend a bit more time in here in future; and I’ll definitely be leaving the car at home.
Finally, a few rarities caught my eye at Olivebank. This is only the second time I’ve seen signage at a lower league ground. It points you in the directions of toilets, the clubhouse, standing areas and the refreshments stand. It is so easy to put up and helps people like me find their way about. Also, pictures of the Musselburgh first team squad were placed around the ground; full names and squad numbers in all. Furthermore, the line-ups for both teams were displayed right next to the clubhouse, making my job incredibly easy in identifying the players for the up-coming match report. Very basic stuff, but wonderfully helpful.
Overall, Olivebank is a lovely wee setting with plenty of room to grow. Its class clubhouse and clean, simple facilities make it a great place to watch football. The ground staff play a major part in this with their maintenance of the amazing playing surface. As Musselburgh grow, I’m sure Olivebank will too. I feel 3.5/5 is a fair assessment.
You know me, I like a drum at the football. I feel it generates a noise and collective togetherness in a ground. Olivebank has their own sound machine in the form of the ‘Mussy Boys’. This wee group of youngsters spent their Wednesday night chanting, singing songs, flying homemade flags and banging that drum. In my opinion, if you’ve got a group like this attending your games on a midweek evening you’re on to a winner.
There was a pretty decent attendance for tonight’s match. Plenty gathered on both embankments in groups to take in the game, with a few shouts here and there providing the intensity. I have the feeling Musselburgh is a wholesome community club with their variety of youth teams and local outreach programmes. It shows with the friendly collective support and welcoming feel. Overall, between the core support and the Mussy Boys singing their songs it deserves a 3/5.
Quality of the Match
Musselburgh welcomed Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale to Olivebank this evening. On paper, this looked to be a close contest. Hutchy lay two points behind the hosts going into this game and were hoping to leapfrog them in the table come half nine tonight.
Liam Burns’ managerial debut started slowly, with the first action only coming after ten minutes. Musselburgh looked to play a slick passing game, aided by the glistening grass pitch. The first chance came as a result of poor Hutchy Vale defensive work. A loose clearance landed at the feet of Matthew Knox. He took a touch and slotted a left-footed strike past the diving Kevin Swain. The former Livingston, Brechin and Tranent player showed his quality to punish a silly mistake. 1-0.
Musselburgh continued their pressure and almost capitalised as a result. An in-swinging corner rebounded off a few heads before landing at the noggin of Matthew O’Connor. His header was directed to the back post but was well met by a Hutchy defender on the line.
Hutchy perhaps should have equalised soon after. A deep free-kick into the Musselburgh box was knocked down into the middle. With plenty of space, Joe Viola met the ball with a volley, but his effort flew way off target. A missed opportunity.
The Burgh were showing excellent pace and precision on the break. A swift counter saw forward Russel Cairns through on goal. After attempting to round Swain, the ball rebounded off the striker before tapping it in. However, the whistle blew for either offside or handball (no idea which). Either way, it stayed 1-0 to the home side.
If things were already difficult to LTHV, they were about to become even harder. Midfielder and captain Scott-Taylor Mackenzie flew in with a dangerous tackle on his Musselburgh compatriot. In my opinion, the ball was never there to be won, and the speed in which the tackle came in was much too needlessly aggressive. It warranted a straight red, with Hutchy now down to ten.
Musselburgh rallied and looked to take immediate advantage. Some lovely play down the left saw a pass played central to Matthew Knox, who was allowed to shoot once more. His left-footed effort looked destined for goal but crashed off the underside of the bar.
Despite being a man down, Thistle mustered their second chance of the game. Some good strength shown by Sean Wringe allowed him entry into the Mussy box. From a very tight angle he fired a low cross into the box, forcing ‘keeper Daniel Laing into his first real action of the half.
Hutchy ‘keeper Kevin Swain denied the hosts a second with an excellent one-on-one save but could not be prepared for Declan O’Kane’s volley minutes later. After a cross was scrambled away, the ball fell to the Musselburgh captain who hit an unstoppable first-time effort from the edge of the box. The Hutchy ‘keeper had no chance, who could only admire Musselburgh’s cushion provider fly past him.
Half Time: Musselburgh Athletic 2-0 Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale
An expectant crowd came out to hopefully witness Mussy put a few notches on their goal difference. However, their attempt to play the ball from the back almost backfired. A slack pass allowed Thistle striker Wringe in on goal, only for Daniel Laing to stop his effort with an excellent block on the edge of the box. The goalkeeper showed real composure and prevented his side from any unnecessary panic.
The minutes came and went, with neither team showing any real quality increase the scoring. Winger Jordan Smith did his best to change this for the hosts. His excellent touch and flick over his defender allowed him space to run into the box. His low-fired cross went all the way across goal, just wide of the post. The slightest touch would have put the game to bed.
Declan O’Kane was next to go close. His free-kick from twenty-yards was well met by Swain who was doing well to keep the score down.
However, he could not stop Musselburgh’s third despite his best efforts. A deep cross to the back-post was met sweetly on the volley by substitute Andy Jones. The volley was hit with an incredible amount of power, with Swain saving from close range. The rebound fell straight to Jones though, who scrambled the ball home. It was hard not to feel for Swain who pulled off a fabulous block, only to have conceded the game-killer. I’m sure he’ll like his new ‘Mitre’ tattoo on his stomach though.
Full Time: Musselburgh Athletic 3-0 Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale
Mussy will be pleased to have scored three goals and gained a clean sheet. They performed well for the most part; I was impressed with their pace, slick passing and desire to play patient football. They have a young squad that are hungry to impress, with plenty of talent and ability on show. They may be disappointed with not racking up a few more goals against ten men but I’m sure Liam Burns won’t be losing too much sleep over a 3-0 win in his first game in charge.
I was hugely impressed by Matthew Knox. I saw him play last season for Tranent Juniors and enjoyed watching his pace and close-ball control cause issues for defenders. He easily could have had two excellent goals to his name. He is one to watch in this league.
Thistle will obviously be disappointed with this result, but I feel they battled well with ten-men. Despite being a goal down when Mackenzie was sent off, they were well in the game. Who knows if they could have come back with eleven on the pitch, but I’m sure they’ll have had a better chance to. I hope to see the Edinburgh side at home some point this year.
Overall, I was treated to some very good football, a couple of excellent goals and a few intense talking points. The red card certainly took some of the contest out of the game and resulted in a slower second half, but beggars can’t be choosers. I feel this game scores right down the middle. 2.5/5.
As always, prices at the level are unbeatable. Entry fees were labelled as £8 and £4, with food and drink more than reasonably priced too. It is completely possible to have a brilliant day at the football with a few beers and a pie for under £15/£20. That’s entry fee alone at most SPFL clubs. 5/5, no question.
Musselburgh Athletic score a handy 14/20 and fire themselves up into the higher reaches of the TSFA League Table. I really enjoyed the experience at Olivebank, and I feel that Musselburgh Athletic are a prime example of the effort a club can go to provide a positive experience for supporters. The warm, clean, friendly feel is something I will remember and is something that will bring me back to Olivebank in the future. I wish them nothing but the best for the rest of the season.
The Mighty Mariners of Camelon – Camelon Juiors – 24/09/2022
For the longest time I thought Camelon was pronounced ‘Cam-E-Lon’. It turns out I’ve been wrong for the entirety of my twenty-seven years on this planet. I figured that it had similar phonetic principles to ‘Camelot’; the place where the legendary King Arthur held his court. It was perhaps my love for Disney’s ‘The Sword and the Stone’ as a youngster that inspired this mistake, but who can ever be sure. Funnily enough, there are several myths and stories linking this wee town in Falkirk to the ancient location. It is rumoured that King Arthur used an old Roman fort in Camelon as his base to suss out his archnemeses Mordred. Stories go as far as insinuating that Camelon may even be the site where Arthur died. Though the famous Battle of Camlann is said to have happened somewhere in Wales, I prefer exaggerated biasness.
Anyway, turns out Camelon is pronounced ‘Came-Lin’. Every day is a school day, eh?
Mythical folklore aside, Camelon has plenty more to offer. I’m here for the local football team, who have been present in the area since 1920. Camelon Juniors make their debut on the blog this weekend, and the club have an interesting history to delve into. After playing in the local Stirlingshire leagues for the first seven years, the club joined the Scottish Intermediate League where they only lasted a short two and a half years before resignation. They joined the Scottish Junior League next, where they remained for a while longer before leaving to ply their trade in the Edinburgh and Lothian District Leagues in 1947.
In 2018, Camelon joined a host of clubs to leave their junior status behind to be a part of the East of Scotland League setup. Despite entering the senior ranks, the club keep the ‘Juniors’ element to their name as a nod to their time in the junior system. They can look back on some incredibly memorable moments, including their one and only Scottish Junior Cup win in 1995. At Motherwell’s Fir Park, The Mariners (class nickname by the way) defeated Whitburn 2-0 to lift the famous old trophy for the first time in the club’s history. They did reach the final again the next year but missed out on consecutive titles; losing to Tayport by the same scoreline.
Other successes line the Camelon trophy cabinet, with the nineties, noughties and 2010s bringing the majority of the club’s silverware back to Carmuirs Park. Camelon captains of old have lifted the East of Scotland League Cup twice, the Lothian District Division One twice, the Alex Jack Cup once and the Fife and Lothians Cup three times. Not too shabby.
Today, The Mariners see their matches played in the EoS First Division where they still finding their feet. After finishing rock bottom in the EoS Premier last season, Camelon sit 15th out of 16th in their new surroundings. Results have been close though; two of their four defeats have been by a single goal. The club will hope this weekend’s match against local rivals Dunipace will kickstart a run to the top end of the table. Their 5-0 drubbing of Strathspey Thistle in the Scottish Cup the weekend before should give some well needed confidence for the league season ahead. I near enough always head into these adventures with a support for the home side. This is certainly the case today, where I hope to see a positive performance and three points on the board for the home side.
Carmuirs Park (The Moor Equipment Hire Stadium for sponsorship reasons) has been Camelon’s only official ground in the club’s history. They existed as a nomadic presence for a long time until offered a piece of land on the north side of the Forth and Clyde canal. They were offered this land by a farmer, who was impressed by the fact that all but two of the Camelon squad had been army veterans. The ground has undergone a huge lift since the days of a supporter rope. Carmuirs Park was born and alive; taking its name from the farm in which it lay.
I’ll give away a spoiler right away; I absolutely love Carmuirs Park. You literally enter the ground through the side of the road with cars blocked from queuing supporters. Its turnstile entrance is old, concrete, narrow and perfect. I gave my entry fee to a friendly club volunteer and entered to see an absolute beauty of a stand in plain sight. It has an elevated row of seats in a rustic old enclosure; Camelon badges and branding emblazoned on its roof. To my right is a standing enclosure that serves its purpose well. Its imperfect concrete steps tell a story of years gone by and the multitude of spectators who have stood there before. Behind the goal is a small embankment where plenty of people stood and sat in a wave of faces.
The Carmuirs Park pitch looks superb. It glistened in the sun and played its part in some of the passing play during the game. I doubt you’ll see many pitches as well kept as this one in the lower leagues, perhaps even in the SPFL. A lot of credit must go to the grounds staff for keeping the beautiful game looking beautiful. (Smiv, 2022).
The refreshments bar was a nice wee visit too. A pair of lovely volunteers served with enthusiasm and positive chat. Volunteers make up the looks and feel of a club. They have the unique ability to produce a welcoming atmosphere to anyone who visits. I certainly felt that today.
I think I’ve found a hidden gem in Carmuirs Park. I knew there were some absolute belters in Scotland’s lower leagues, but I feel Camelon’s home is something particularly special. It is a mix of rustic and modern, battered but beautiful. It is a superb place to watch football and I have no hesitation in giving a high score of 4/5.
This clash was a local derby. Separated by just 4 miles of road, Camelon and Dunipace were about to fight it out for East of Scotland bragging rights. Therefore, you’d have expected a fair few away supporters to be in attendance. They showed up in numbers, with the majority placing themselves on the far side of the south enclosure and scattered within the opposite standing section. Both sets of supporters provided a level of noise that went along with the intense nature of the game. It felt as though there was something important at stake, with cheers and shouts matching the happenings in front of them.
There is no doubt that the game contributed to the emotions of supporters, but the feeling inside is one that I have not experienced in the lower leagues for a wee while now. It felt good to be a part of and I feel is deserves a solid 3/5.
Quality of the Match
Hold on to your hats, troops. This is going to be a rollercoaster.
It only took five minutes for the first chance of the game. Dunipace’s Sam Colley broke on the right-hand side before firing a thunderous shot towards Camelon ‘keeper Darren Dolan. The big stopper parried the ball well to deny an early opener.
The first goal of the game would arrive soon after. Some wonderful play from the back by Lewis McArthur saw him cushion a pass to winger Mitchell Taylor. He played a superb wee flick to Mati Zata who powered forward with the ball. He was tackled well, but the ball found its way to Lewis Paton. He beat his man at the edge of the box before cutting the ball back for Zata. The midfielder confidently slotted the ball past David Kane in the Dunipace goal to put the home side one-up. A wonderful move.
Dunipace may have considered themselves unlucky to have not found a way back into the game from the penalty spot. A ball into the box flicked on by David Grant made its way over to Colley who went down under after some pressure from the back. The referee had his whistle in his mouth, but no spot-kick was to be awarded.
The ‘Pace were beginning to really find their feet and took their time to control the remainder of the first half. Striker Keir Stevenson saw his left footed strike from the edge of the box fly just over, but it was a warning for Camelon who allowed pressure onto themselves.
Camelon were hanging on. A good cross in from Liam McCroary was dropped by Dolan. With the ball bouncing around the box, it fell to Stevenson with the ‘keeper still on the floor. He could only hit the ball over the bar, much to the relief of the home support.
The Mariners then had an opportunity to double their lead. They looked dangerous on the break, with a flick from Kyle Samson finding Taylor through on goal. However, his low right foot strike was not powerful enough to beat a well-positioned Kane. Taylor had another half-chance soon after. After cutting inside onto his left, he curled an effort over the bar to end a half filled with opportunities for both teams.
Half Time: Camelon Juniors 1-0 Dunipace
The second half began with an urgency from the away side. Chances came thick and fast, with the first falling to Tristan McArthur. He rose highest from a free-kick but could only head his effort towards Dolan.
David Grant was next to be frustrated. Good midfield play saw the striker through one-on-one with Dolan. From an angle he could only shoot over the bar, much to the annoyance of the striker. A golden opportunity to equalise.
Just as the contest was beginning to slow down, the derby feeling came to light. A few tackles flew in, hands were raised and tempers were flared. A switch flicked from one particular argy-bargy in the Camelon box, and the game came to life…
This is where things get messy.
Despite consistent Dunipace pressure, Camelon broke away and made it two. Some good work in midfield resulted in Kyle Samson trotting down the wing. His backpost cross found Kieran Anderson, and with the goalkeeper in no man’s land, his well timed header looped over the stopper and into the away net. A superb breakaway and a wonderful finish against the run of play.
Dunipace continued their push with an increased sense of willpower. They should have pulled one back when a cross swung into the middle was flicked goalward. With the goal at their mercy, two Dunipace players got in each other’s way, with the ball heading upward and into a grateful Dolan’s hands.
Camelon perhaps should have increased their lead even further. Filled with confidence, Kieran Anderson found space on the right-hand side. With the goal at his mercy and a man running next to him, the striker chose to go for goal. His effort was saved, with the cut-back to his team-mate looking like the better option in hindsight.
The drama truly began with around ten minutes of regular time to play. A corner whipped in by Liam McCroary was cleared into the direction of the right back. The defender rushed to meet the ball and hit a wicked half-volley straight at the ‘keeper. The power looked too much for Darren Dolan as the ball deflected off his knees and into the far corner. A disappointing goal to concede. Dunipace had their tails up.
The ‘Paces’ attacks became more and more common. Camelon could not get out of their own half and looked physically and mentally drained. The pressure told, and it happened in the blink of an eye. A corner swung in resulted in a strike at the back post. The low, driven shot was saved well by the feet of Dolan, but only in the direction of striker David Grant. He placed himself well at the back to tap in the equaliser, much to the delight and elation of the ‘Pace support and bench.
The away side were not finished. Camelon advanced up the pitch in an attempt regain their precious lead. However, when the move broke down, Dunipace raced away. An incredibly quick counterattack saw Grant race away with acres of space in front of him. He advanced forward with huge anticipation from the players and coaching staff behind him. It felt as though time stood still when he slotted the ball under Dolan. Then… eruption. The entire Dunipace bench jumped in the air and ran onto the pitch. The players wheeled in celebration with Grant leading the wild antics. The away side had come from two goals behind; the Camelon players were on their knees. A potential 90th minute winner had just been scored.
This is where things get really interesting. Goal-scoring hero David Grant was subbed off and was sent to the far end of the pitch to complete his walk to the bench to prevent any time-wasting. As he passed Darren Dolan in the Camelon goal, audible pisstaking could be heard. “Yous are shite”, “Bottom of the league” to name just a few. Just a bit of competitive football patter. Step in – Karma.
With seconds left to play, Camelon threw everything at Dunipace. Somehow, someway they scored. A throw in on the near side bounced around the away box. I have no idea who got the final touch, but the ball was bundled into the net. Carmuirs Park erupted with a ridiculous amount of emotion. At the centre of said eruption was Darren Dolan. He immediately made his way to the Dunipace bench to produce a sensational ‘Get it right up ye’ sign toward (one can only assume) David Grant. Just when you thought that was that Dolan was sent off for his gesture. Unjust in my opinion, but incredibly funny, nonetheless. Centre back Steven Dolan took the gloves for the final moments to bring this absolute fuckfest of a second half to a close.
Full Time: Camelon Juniors 3-3 Dunipace
Where do I even start with this?
It’s a strange on for Camelon. They will be absolutely gutted with chucking away a two-goal lead, but to even the game up again in the last few seconds will feel like a win in itself. I believe they showed enough today to suggest that they’ll be okay this year. They can clearly play the ball on the deck when the need to and present a pacey threat on the break. Centre backs Steven Dolan and Lewis McArthur looked solid, building decent plays from the back. They’ll be looking to build on this draw to push up the table.
This result also sees Dunipace go through a whirlwind of emotions. From being two goals down to a goal up, you’d have expected ‘Pace to head home with all three points. Lady luck does not work like this though. I feel they dominated the majority of the game and were unlucky to be two goals down in the first place. They showed outstanding belief to continue implementing their game and deservedly found themselves ahead. Only a blip in concentration let them down. I’d be surprised if they weren’t pushing for the top four or five places this season.
Overall, I was treated to one of the best halves of football I’ve ever witnessed live. The game had everything you could want as a neutral. Six goals, a lead blown, a comeback, a red card, high tempers and a last-minute equaliser. I don’t think the overall game beats the unbelievable Pollok 3-3 Auchinleck Talbot match from last year, but it runs it pretty close. 4.5/5.
Pricing at this level is always incredible. I paid £7 for entry, £2 for two raffle strips and a further £2 for a couple hot drinks. £11 for everything I experienced is amazing value. 5/5 every single time.
Camelon finish the weekend with one of the highest scores ever produced on my adventures. They race to the top of the TSFA League Table – Season 2 with a score of 16.5/20. Please, if you’re ever able to get to Carmuirs Park for a game, do it. Even if the game is not half as good as the one, I witnessed today, you’ll leave with a sense of gratitude that you experienced this age-old venue in all its glory.
The Junior Cup Journey – Rossvale FC – 26/08/2022
Before selecting Rossvale as my club of choice this week, I had only a brief understanding of the split between them and Rossvale Academy. While there is an extensive history to delve into, I feel it is important to immediately address the elephant in the room.
As far as I understand, the story goes like this:
Originally formed as Woodhill Boys Club in Bishopbriggs, Rossvale operated as an organisation primarily operating youth teams from the ages of 5 to 18. However, in 2010 the club made the decision to form a ‘first team’ that would compete in the Scottish Junior Leagues; joining the West Region Central District Second Division from the 2011-12 season. The aim of the first team was to provide a clear pathway from the multitude of youth teams into a competitive squad in the Junior ranks. It seemed to work as they achieved a respectable amount in a short space of time. A West Region Central District First Division title success lifted them into the West Region Premier Division.
This is where the spice comes in. As with plenty of former Junior outfits, Rossvale joined the newly formed West of Scotland Football League to take their place in an expanded senior pyramid. A couple seasons in, the club began a background restructure, including an interesting link with Gibraltar National League side Europa Point FC. During this time, Rossvale also relocated to New Petershill Park in Springburn while Huntershill Sports Hub was being developed.
The Academy side of the club became disillusioned with what the senior side had become, with arguments about the entire purpose of the club not being fulfilled. They felt a clear divide between the WoSFL side and the academy had been created. Claims that youth players were not being given a fair chance to progress came to light; with Rossvale’s decision not to enter an U20s team for the 2022/23 season used as the prime example. The academy also claimed they were not involved in the process of the link with Europa Point. As such, Rossvale Academy split from the senior outfit and were successfully inaugurated into the West of Scotland Fourth Division, with aims to reach as high as their potential allows them.
As for Rossvale FC, they currently ply their trade in the WoSFL First Division with a slight change to their original badge. The year 2011 lies at the base to signify the first season the senior team competed. Whereas Rossvale Academy sport the year 1976 after the original formation of the club. This leaves the confusing visual of a ‘first team’ and ‘academy team’ playing in the same league system that doesn’t involve the infamous Colt sides.
Moving forward, Rossvale look to be in a tricky situation. As with the terms of the split from the academy, they have until the beginning of next season to rebrand themselves. They will no longer have access to the Rossvale name. To spin it positively, it leaves hope for new opportunities and a fresh start for the club to forge an independent path.
However, I am not here to pick sides or to dispute who is right and who is wrong. I’m here for football not politics.
Friday night brings my first ever experience of the Scottish Junior Cup. It is a famous old competition responsible for hundreds of exciting moments, incredible narratives and a whole lot of community vibrancy. For decades, it was one of the highlights of the Scottish football calendar. It still runs strong to this day with plenty of now ‘senior’ clubs returning to their roots to compete for the ‘Holy Grail’.
This first round fixture sees my hosts for the evening take on Muirkirk Juniors at New Petershill Park. Cup ties always bring excitement, drama and anticipation. Under the floodlights, this was due to be a cracker.
New Petershill Park is a relatively new multi-use venue in the heart of Springburn’s community. As well as the fantastic football facilities, NPP also hosts a gymnasium, dance studio, health suite, a bar and a function room. Upon entry it is clean, organised, and homely. It pays tribute to the multitude of club sides the ground hosts, including women’s football giants Glasgow City with pendants and memorabilia decorating the walls. Given this was the first match of the Junior Cup calendar, the famous old trophy was on display in the reception area. It is a lot bigger and glamorous than I thought it would be. After being welcomed at the door by friendly club staff and paying my entry fee, a door leads you outside where you are greeted by a flawless artificial playing surface.
NPP really is a great place to watch football for all. A 500-seater stand is the main attraction, consisting of two sections of regular seating with raised benches either side and small standing sections behind them. Three sides of the park are accessible, with a miniscule, raised embankment just behind the dugouts – presumably for away supporters on the busier occasions. Behind the goal to my left, I spotted an interesting feature to keep younger audiences entertained; a Teqball table. For those not familiar, the sport is essentially played in a ping-pong style on a similar sized but curved table, using your head, literally. I would highly recommend.
On the far side of the stand, The Coffee Cabin can supply your food and drink needs with approachable service and decent prices.
Overall, I really, really like NPP. It has a wonderful setting, a comfortable feel and is clearly a mainstay in the community. It is not difficult to see why the venue is experienced in hosting UEFA Women’s Champions League football. There were still ‘reserved’ stickers for prestige spectators on seats in light of the WUCL group stages matches played last week. I hope to return one day to experience the competition for myself. 4/5.
For a first-round cup game played on a Friday night, I was expecting a reasonable crowd. I was not disappointed. The majority of the plastic seating was filled, with others crowded around the benches and standing at the metal railing. Both clubs were represented well. Rossvale-branded jackets and club merchandise were clear to see as well as a highly visible Muirkirk away support. Supporters old and young made their voices heard, signifying everything the competition stands for. 2.5/5.
Quality of the Match
* I could not gain access to a team-sheet, nor were there numbers allocated to names on either side’s Twitter feeds. Therefore, It was difficult to name players during the following match report.
Rossvale kicked the game off in nervy style. A low, drilled freekick into the box was swiped by Rossvale’s number 5 towards his own goalkeeper from close range. Luckily for the defender, his ‘keeper Stuart Goodfellow was on hand to react well and tip over. Muirkirk continued their early pressure and perhaps should have taken the lead. A whipped corner met the head of number 8, who could only glance his effort wide.
A more even period arrived, with Rossvale gaining traction in the match, but the chances kept coming for the visitors. A decent strike from distance from Muirkirk’s 14 was easily dealt with by Goodfellow, before the same player’s free kick flew just over the crossbar.
With the half coming to an end, Rossvale mustered their best chance of the match. Good work down the right by Rossvales’ number 7 made space for a cross. He found the head of his number 9, whose header was saved well by stand-in ‘keeper Gary Bishop. The rebound was tapped in by number 8 to loud cheers, only for the referee to chalk it off for offside.
Half Time: Rossvale 0-0 Muirkirk
An exciting end-to-end second half loomed. Muirkirk threw the first punch, with a free-kick fired into the box. The ball bounced around the home box before falling to Muirkirk’s number 17. His poked effort from two yards was held well by Goodfellow.
Rossvale responded. Firstly, some fantastic work by the captain saw him muscle away from his defender. Entering the box, he squared to number 9, who unleashed a decent effort at goal. It was matched well by Bishop who did well to tip it over. Number 9 had another chance two minutes later. More superb work by number 7 in midfield resulted in a perfectly weighted through ball for his striker. One-on-one and from an angle, he could only volley the ball wide.
Rossvale continued their pressure. A corner fell to number 5 at the back post. The ball arrived at the wrong height though, with the defender only managing to weakly volley over.
Muirkirk countered. Some excellent work down the visitor’s right-hand side worked an opportunity for number 17. His volley looked goal bound but a much-needed deflection saw the ball wide, only for the referee to give a goal kick.
Rossvale’s left back then had two quick-fire opportunities. A free kick in by number 12 found the head of the defender, whose effort went just wide. A corner two minutes later also found his head at the back post but his body leaning backwards could only result in the ball going past the post.
With Rossvale dominating, Muirkirk went very close to finally opening the scoring. A long ball over the top found the visitor’s number 17. He cut inside on his right before curling an effort just wide of the post.
‘The Kirk were mightily aggrieved with the final whistle on the horizon. With number 11 through on goal, he looked to have been taken out by the last defender. With space to get up and shoot though, the striker got up and fired an effort goalward. Stuart Goodfellow saved it, with the Muirkirk players arguing for a sending off despite advantage being played.
Muirkirk kept going and had the final big opportunity of the match. From the resulting corner, A header by number 9 went just wide. It looked easier to score, much to the frustration of the corner’s deliverer.
No goals in ninety-minutes. A nervy crowd awaited penalty kicks.
Both teams kept their nerve for the first six penalties, but it was Muirkirk who would blink first. Stuart Goodfellow matched his opponent’s effort to save well. Gary Bishop evened it up once more though. The stand-in parried wide to keep the scores level.
Muirkirk missed again with a poor effort hitting the outside of the post, leaving a single spot-kick to win the game. Rossvale took the opportunity, just. Bishop got a hand to the effort, only for the ball to hit the top corner and cause home celebrations. Rossvale had kept their nerve.
Full time: Rossvale 0-0 Muirkirk (Rossvale win 4-3 on penalties)
For a nil-nil this was a thoroughly entertaining spectacle. Cup ties are always played at a higher intensity. Each moment is important and could be the difference between progressing and elimination. Both teams showed that on a tense Friday night under the lights. A flurry of missed opportunities had the crowd on the edge of their seats; frustration gradually building with each effort.It is a shame for Muirkirk, who were struggling for numbers. They battled well with no substitutes and a stand-in goalkeeper. I’m sure they will be absolutely fine this season when the squad numbers reach a healthy level.
Overall, it is impossible to be disappointed with a match like this. People look at nil-nil draws and instantly believe the match is boring. I can assure you this game had more action than your standard football match. Furthermore, I got to witness the first ever penalty shoot out since my journey began. No reasonable supporter can complain with the number of chances created, good individual performances and the tension of a shoot-out. 3/5.
I’ve said it a million times; football at this level is incredible value. I paid £7 for entry and £1.80for a tea. Under a tenner spent to watch an entertaining game in a wonderful competition. 5/5 every time.
Rossvale end the weekend with a score of 14.5/20. They climb to the upper echelons of the TSFA League Table and deservedly so. No matter what is going on behind the scenes, these scores are subjective to my experience on the day. They are part of a superb set up at Petershill Park and play some good football. Their future will certainly be interesting.
Off the Mark – Maryhill FC – 13/08/2022
Like many others who have documented Maryhill FC in recent years, it feels like a sheer privilege to even be able to do so. In June 2019, the club issued a call for help. Financially, they were in bits. With a GoFundMe page set up, Maryhill received donations from far and wide but still looked in a lot of trouble. The unthinkable looked imminent. A club with over 130 years of history looked to be doomed. Then, weirdly enough, two sports joined forces to save The Hill. Glasgow based wrestling company Insane Championship Wrestling stood up and sponsored the club with enough cash to keep them afloat. With Scottish icon Grado and WWE wrestler Drew McIntyre amongst their alumni, ICW owner (and Maryhill local) Mark Dallas deserves a lot of credit for the work done for his community. His generosity and loyalty to the local football club will have meant so much to so many people.
In their long history, Maryhill have achieved more than most as a junior outfit. Through the late 1800s and early 1900s, The Hill were a big name in the Scottish Junior Cup. In a nineteen-year period, they finished runners up in the competitions four times and won the trophy outright once. They did add another Holy Grail to their cabinet in 1940, where in front of 26,000 at Celtic Park, they beat Morton Juniors 1-0 to secure the cup once more. The Maryhill trophy cabinet is also filled with a multitude of Central, Glasgow and Western titles. However, the last came a wee while ago, winning the Central District League Cup in 2006.
The club will be looking to add more silverware sooner rather than later after joining the senior leagues. After an 8th place finish in the West of Scotland Conference ‘A’ last season, they find themselves competing in the newly structured Second Division. It has been a slow start for The Hill though. Two defeats, no goals scored and five conceded leave them bottom of the table two games in. Today’s visitors Glasgow University arrive at Lochburn Park with a perfectly even record. One win, one loss, two scored, two conceded. This so called ‘West End Derby’ (not sure it will catch on) is the perfect opportunity for Maryhill to kickstart their season. The scene was set for a pulsating match.
The more grounds I visit in the Scottish lower leagues, the more I realise how incredibly unique a lot of the venues are. Each one has its own story to tell, perfectly in sync with its community and supporters.
Lochburn Park is no different, and I was pleasantly surprised by each aspect. The ground is situated in the middle of an industrial estate and would be very easy to miss if you were not actively looking for it. Its age-old black and red gates are the first element seen. It looks incredibly old-school and reminiscent of football grounds you see on Premier League Years in the early 90s. Entering through these gates allows the real attractions of Lochburn Park to make themselves known.
The Maryhill FC social club sits in a wee pavilion right next to the park. I was genuinely amazed by how modern, clean and welcoming the establishment is. It is decorated with plenty of Maryhill memorabilia, old team photos, signed tops and pendants from clubs up and down Scotland. It was also interesting to see pendants from the likes of London clubs Arsenal and Watford. I’d like to hear the story of how those ended up in Maryhill. The social club feels like the perfect wee hangout spot for a couple hours pre and post-match, where I was happy to learn iconic Scottish sitcom Still Game filmed a few scenes. My guest and I were more than happy to sink a few pints that’s for sure. Arguably the best part about this is ability to take your drinks out to the side of the pitch, so long as we brought our glasses back. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to drink and watch a football match in person before. It proved to be a popular element with the support and allowed for an easy-flowing atmosphere. The element of trust Maryhill provide their crowds must be commended.
As for Lochburn Park itself, it really is a thing of beauty. The pitch sits below all four sides with walls running the perimeter of the playing surface. It’s like watching a match in a massive shoebox. This is not a bad thing of any means, as it allows a superb view from any standing position in the arena. It also means the pitch is incredibly narrow, allowing for passing styles of play to shine. Each side of Lochburn Park is different. We stood next to the social club with most of the other supporters. The changing rooms are opposite with a weird looking warehouse roof-like structure holding it up. Opposite one goal is the single bleacher-style seating area while the other is a standing area with good-looking graffiti styling its walls. Words can only do so much justice though. Get yourself to Lochburn Park to experience it yourself. Between the social club and the park itself, it deserves a score of 4.5/5.
In terms of numbers, I was expecting a wee bit more. Maryhill’s SPFL team Partick Thistle were away from home, suggesting there may be a Jags contingent supporting their lower league club. It didn’t appear Glasgow Uni brought a great deal of support either.
However, with the drink flowing and an exciting match on the pitch the noise levels were decent. Even with their club 2-0 down, the Maryhill loyal kept their heads and encouraged their team on. For a team who were bottom of the league at this point with no goals to their name, fair play. I feel it deserves a score of 2/5.
Quality of the Match
Today’s entertainment started off sluggishly, with both sides putting out well needed feelers. The first real chance fell for the hosts on the ten-minute mark. A wonderful through ball sent Adam Bridges on his way. One-on-one with the Uni ‘keeper, his weak strike was saved comfortably on the ground.
This scare wakened the Uni players, who responded with a chance of their own. Their number nine* lead the line relatively well in the first half and should have put them in front. He made his way into the Maryhill box, wriggled away from a couple challenges before misfiring a shot wide of the post. A wasted opportunity.
Further chances came few and far between in the first half. A midfield battle ensued with neither team really coming out the better.
Glasgow Uni did the take the lead close to the whistle. A free kick won on the far side swept to the back post was met by the The Students’ number five. His header fell to number ten, whose deflected strike flew past the trialist Maryhill ‘keeper.
However, there was time for two more opportunities for the home side. Firstly, a free kick was swept just wide by Callum Imrie before a strike from the edge of the box by Shaun Roberts also flew past the post.
Half Time: Maryhill 0-1 Glasgow University
The second period started as it meant to go on. A floated free kick to the back post by Bridges was directed goalwards by a Uni defender, forcing a decent save from the away ‘keeper.
Despite Maryhill pressure, Glasgow Uni doubled their lead. A corner directed to the back was met well by Uni’s number five, who had the simple task of heading home. Two-nil to the Uni, with a long way back for the hosts.
Maryhill responded in rapid fashion. Five minutes after conceding they had a golden opportunity to cut the deficit. Pacey striker Haydn Long broke into the box and was taken down, with the penalty being awarded instantly. Jack MacLaren stood up to the task and fired the ball into the bottom corner. Game on.
The hosts had the tails up and pushed for an equaliser. MacLaren twisted and turned away from his defender before unleashing a great strike. It may have been saved well by the Uni ‘keeper but it proved to be a wonderful statement of intent.
Step up Adam van den Brink. After being subbed on in the seventieth minute, he made an immediate impact. After being sent for a run on the right, his pinpoint cross found the head of MacLaren whose goalward effort could not be stopped. The comeback had been complete, but the hosts would not stop there.
Four minutes later, Van den Brink was sent through after great work by Ward. Van den Brink took a single touch before firing a left-footed effort into the far corner much to the delight of the home support. An unbelievable strike that ensured Maryhill’s turnaround.
Shellshocked, Glasgow Uni were suddenly searching for an equaliser. They almost achieved it through their number eleven. After dancing away from his defender his strike could only be hit straight at the ‘keeper.
The winger had a final opportunity to level the game. A good dummy and solo run looked to send hearts into mouths for the Maryhill support, but thankfully his end strike could only directed into the gloves of the home goalkeeper.
Naturally, the final whistle was greeted by extended cheers, applause, and excitement. If there’s a way to get your first three points of the season, its by coming back from two goals down.
Full Time: Maryhill 3-2 Glasgow University
I thoroughly enjoyed today’s entertainment. It is incredibly rare to see a team perform a comeback like this. Even after having the majority of the chances, the home side found themselves two-nil down. It takes a lot of heart, belief, and perseverance to force a way back into a match. Maryhill achieved this in some style. You certainly can’t bat your eyes at five goals, a marvellous comeback, and some wonderful individual performances. I feel the match deserves a good score of 3.5/5.
For a match of this quality, we paid a mere £6 for entry. Pints were well priced at £3 each, with the legendary Maryhill breakfast pie costing £2.50. This level of football is always incredible value. Maryhill represented this well today. 5/5.
Maryhill end the weekend with a score of 15/20. I loved the experience at Lochburn Park and feel it is a must-visit when it comes to lower league Scottish football. It is a truly unique venue with a good level of football, a superb social club and the incredibly rare ability to guzzle pints while watching a game. Do yourself a favour and get along. You won’t regret it.
*I could not for the life of me find any information on any of the Glasgow University player names or the 2022/23 squad in general.
A Pennypit Pitsop – Preston Athletic – 06/08/2022
East Lothian is a beautiful place. I’ve enjoyed my visits during my footballing escapades, particularly on my trips to Haddington Athletic and Tranent Juniors. Home to the scenic Golf Coast, sandy beaches and significant political and cultural history, East Lothian has a lot more than meets the eye. Each town plays its part, and my destination this weekend is no different.
A mere eight miles from Edinburgh, Prestonpans is a traditional coastal town built on industry. Named after the old art of salt panning, the town grew in stature and importance after the discovery of coal mining. Breweries, fishing, soap production and pottery also placed this versatile town on the map. However, like all mining communities across central belt Scotland, the coal mining decline left the town to shrink. Today, Prestonpans is a generally quiet commuter town to the capital with engaging walks, attractive scenery, and age-old architecture. The Prestonpans leg of the John Muir Way has been a favourite destination for the dogs and I over the last couple summers.
The town’s sole football club are my destination this weekend. Founded in 1945 as a junior club, Preston Athletic are a core element in the community. They were kept afloat by the residential coal miners, who paid a penny a week out of their wages to finance it. A local club with local players brought big crowds. According to the Preston Athletic website, the 1960s brought in huge numbers to Pennypit Park. Everyone loves a community hero or two.
The club turned senior in 1994, making an instant impact. They finished runners-up in the East of Scotland First Division and won the Alex Jack Cup at the first time of asking. A first senior league title followed eight years later, filling the Pennypit trophy cabinet a little bit more. At the beginning of the new millennium, Preston applied to the professional leagues no less than three times. Unfortunately for The Panners, they lost out to Peterhead, Elgin and Gretna respectively. Had Preston been voted in, history could have looked very different for the East Lothian side. Instead, the club were one of the founding members of the Lowland League in 2013. They stayed in Scotland’s fifth tier for four years, before eventually falling to relegation back to the EoS league system.
Today, Preston Athletic play in the newly structured EoS First Division. Agonisingly, they finished third in a three-horse race for the title in 2021/22. They narrowly missed out on a place in the Premier Division after finishing level on points with Glenrothes and a mere point behind champions Oakley United. On a positive, last campaign will fill the club with confidence for the season ahead. They will look to push for promotion once more. However, after a loss and a draw in the opening two matches, The Panners are looking for a first win of the season. Today’s opponents Kennoway Star Hearts are hoping for the same after two defeats on the trot. An interesting battle awaits with the club from Fife.
Pennypit Park is built on top of an old coal mine, where miners were once paid a penny a shift. The whole sports complex consists of the football ground alongside a rugby pitch where Preston Lodge play their home games. Both arenas consist of identical single stands, which look very well maintained. Metallic benches fill in the interior and present a great view of the entire pitch.
All four sides of the playing surface are accessible with elevated mounds behind the goal and opposite the stand. I love a ground with a natural elevation. It gives a higher vantage point than standing at the pitch side railing and in this case gives a decent view of the sea in the distance.
The dugouts are arguably the most attractive element of the ground. Branded with the Preston Athletic badge, they look relatively new and give a nice modern feel to those sat in the terracing. The clubhouse offers a good range of food and drink, as well as a bar for those fancying a pint or five during the game. An accessible seating area is joined to the building, giving a comfortable seat for those who need it.
Overall, Pennypit Park is a superb wee ground; one of the best at this level of football. The stand is good looking, practical and is entirely personal to Preston Athletic. The raised mounds give a good alternative view, and the popular clubhouse suits its purpose well. It is class and I feel it deserves a good 4/5.
For an EoS First Division match, the atmosphere at times was intense. Circumstances throughout the game indeed raised tempers and elevated a few angry voices throughout. I don’t mind this too much. Far too often, matches at this level can coast through without a single shout, cheer, or complaint. Wee bit boring for me.
It was excellent to see a team of players from a nearby boys’ club out supporting their local team. They were invited to the match and played a small game of 5-a-side on the pitch at half time. Exposure to this level of football and their local club is important. Hibs and Hearts will always dominate this area of the country in terms of support, so it is excellent to see these youngsters taking this match in and getting a feel of what Preston Athletic can offer.
I love a loud and vocal support, but at this level it is incredibly frustrating to hear shouts for handball, offside and petty fouls from the terracing. With no assistant referees at Tier 7 and below, it is already a woefully difficult job for the man in the middle without the consistent shouts, jeers and over the top criticism. Granted, today’s ref did not have the best of games, but overbearing supporters don’t make things any easier. Its no wonder there is a lack of participants in refereeing courses. This is not specific to either Preston Athletic or Kennoway Star Hearts supporters but is just something I have seen too many times over the last season and a half on my travels.
Anyway, today’s atmosphere scores a cosy 2.5/5.
Quality of the Match
With both teams looking for their first win of the season, it did not take long for the first major moment of the match. After an opening five minutes of prolonged Panners pressure, Kennoway made a break for it. Midfielder Dylan Walker collected the ball outside the box, strode forward and played the ball inside to striker Jake Grady. Star’s number nine went down, with a penalty subsequently rewarded. Walker took the penalty himself, slotting the ball past the trialist Preston ‘keeper.
For the next twenty or so minutes, chances came few and far between. Instead, tackles flew in, yellow cards were shown, and the quick tempo of the game could barely begin. Heavy touches and poor control allowed rough challenges to take centre stage. Some fair but given as fouls, some dangerous but being waved away. Consistency was not in the script today.
Kennoway could, and probably should have doubled their lead half an hour in. A long goal-kick controlled nicely by Walker allowed him to play a lobbed ball over to Grady. The striker allowed the ball to bounce before hitting a volley just inside the box. From my angle, it looked inches away from hitting the top corner. A decent opportunity.
Preston failed to create any meaningful chances of their own within the first forty-five and struggled to break down an organised Star defence. Their best opportunity fell to Kyle Baker, whose 25 yard free kick was saved relatively comfortably by Star ‘keeper Kyle Moran.
The severe lack of footballing quality allowed for a more humorous take on the half. As such, for the entire forty-five, a major highlight unfortunately came in the shape of Kennoway right-back Jay Watson. The poor guy was smacked face first with the ball at least five times, much to the (attempted) supressed laughter from the terracing. He had a solid game in fairness, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a temporary ‘Mitre’ tattoo on his cheek for the next few days…
Half Time: Preston Athletic 0-1 Kennoway Star Hearts
Preston needed a much improved second period and came close early on. A curled Jamie Devlin free kick beat the wall but also beat the post, bouncing away to safety.
Kennoway sustained the home side’s pressure and had the best clear-cut opportunity of the game as a reward. From a long ball over the top, Jake Grady controlled well and turned his defender. His attempted cut back to Dylan Walker was blocked but left the striker with time and space to shoot at goal. His effort inside the box was weak though, nestling into the hands of the Preston ‘keeper.
Much like the first, the second half fizzled. Again, more emphasis fell upon the increased physicality of the players. Pushing and shoving became the norm after more poorly timed tackled from both sides with the referee struggling to gain control of the situation. Bookings flowed on a consistent basis, with any actual football unable to be prioritised.
The game continued, with Preston rueing a missed opportunity. Good play down The Panners’ left found Mikey Hamilton through on goal. One-on-one with Kyle Munro, the attacker could only blast the ball over the bar in what proved to be a wasted chance.
In what proved to be the most exciting period of the game, Kennoway instantly responded with a huge chance of their own. Impressive substitute Murray Black tracked back and won the ball at his own corner flag. He then proceeded to charge forward down the left, playing a one-two with Dylan Walker in the process. He found himself on the edge of the box and cut across to Walker on the penalty spot. He hit his shot first time, but agonisingly curled over the bar. A quality passage of play that was inches away from finishing the game as a contest.
Chances finally began to flow. Preston were finding room to play on the left, with Jamie Devlin finding more space to venture into the box. He had time to pull off a low, driven shot with his left, but Munro was once again equal to it with ease.
Kennoway looked comfortable defensively, with most Preston attempts being booted away and possession largely being held at the home side’s corner flags. Then, drama ensued. With the last seconds of the game ticking away, a superb deep cross from Jordan Keenan flew towards the back post. Jamie Devlin rose highest and planted a header over the stranded Kyle Munro to equalise at the death. Scenes broke out with intense celebration on the pitch, frustration bubbling over into joy for The Panners.
Full Time: Preston Athletic 1-1 Kennoway Star Hearts
Just before the Preston equaliser, I was thinking to myself that this game barely deserved to be a 0-0 based on the largely poor quality of play. I was half-right, with a draw coming true at the last second. As one of the division’s favourites to go up, I was surprised at the sluggishness shown by the hosts today. Barely anything stuck to feet, passes went astray and final-third opportunities came few and far between. However, this is a results-based business and at the end of the day, Preston pushed on and scored an important goal to turn a defeat into a draw. That must be commended. I feel Panners’ midfielders Robbie Walker and Paul Currie were the bright sparks for the hosts today. They consistently broke up play in the middle of the park and tried to set up their strikers on several occasions. They’ll be a part of a successful season for sure. Also, Jamie Devlin showed fantastic composure to take the chance to equalise. With pressure building, it could have been easier for the opportunity to pass him by, but he took the chance with both hands. Fair play.
Naturally, Kennoway will be absolutely gutted to be leaving Prestonpans with just a point. They looked unperturbed for the majority of the game and should have had the game wrapped up halfway through the second half. Positive signs did show themselves though. Midfielder Dylan Walker had a solid game today. His physicality is an impressive attribute of his, as is his range of passing and spatial awareness. He dispatched his penalty with ease and on another day could have had another couple on the scoresheet. He’ll be an important Kennoway asset this season. Furthermore, substitute Murray Black was incredibly bright after being brought on. His defensive work and energetic mentality drove his side forward, bringing his fellow teammates into the game as a result. He looks a pler.
Overall, the match as a whole was largely void of real footballing quality. Poor tackles, hesitant refereeing and an aggressive on-pitch atmosphere left the game with a real stop-start feeling. Neither ‘keeper was tested too much, which perhaps tells a story of the finishing on display too. However, it is still very early in the season. Teams are still finding their feet and bringing in new signings very week. I imagine it will take another wee while for squads to gel and the flow to start. I thoroughly believe both clubs are capable of attractive, passing football, but today was not that day. I must admit though, the drama on the field was decent entertainment at times. I feel a score of 2/5 is fair.
For my visit to the Pennypit, I paid a measly £7 entry and a quid for a coffee. From what I could see, everything inside the clubhouse is cheap and cheerful, just as it should be. I will never have any complaints about the pricing at this level. It is always incredible value. 5/5.
Preston Athletic end the day with a score of 13.5/20. There is no doubt that Pennypit Park is one of the more impressive grounds to visit at this level, with great scenery and impressive facilities. It may be one of my favourites since I began my travels. Prestonpans is a nice wee seaside town with plenty to do around the ground, so if you have the chance, I would highly recommend a Preston Athletic away day. On another afternoon, a better performance may have seen The Panners higher up the TSFA League Table. I wish them all the best on their promotion push to the Premier Division. An excellent community club such as this deserves success.
New Name, Same Community – Glasgow United – 30/07/2022
Glasgow is famous for many attractions, cultural wonders, and the greatest humour on the planet. As Scotland’s biggest city, it plays an incredibly important role in how Scotland is perceived. Glaswegians are famous around the world with a ridiculous amount of notable people calling the place home. The city and its surrounding areas also play host to a huge number of football clubs. The sport is imbedded into the framework of the area, and probably always will be. Rangers and Celtic will always control the landscape when it comes to media coverage, but there are plenty of hidden gems peeking their head out looking for a break.
One of the newest names in Glasgow’s football empire is Glasgow United Football Club. Don’t be fooled though: Glasgow United have a huge history to delve through. Famously known as Shettleston Juniors until 2021, their presence in Glasgow’s East End has played a huge part in a huge number of lives. Founded way back in 1903, the club has been seen as one of the more notable names in the Scottish Junior game. They have been regarded as a key hub in nurturing countless future professional players in the junior leagues, even receiving record British transfer fees for players. Plenty of league titles and regional cups fill the trophy cabinet with exciting memories of years gone by. Unfortunately, the Scottish Junior Cup is missing. In 1959, in front of over 65,000 supporters at Hampden, Shettleston came short: losing 2-1 to Irvine Meadow.
Presently, Shettleston have left their Junior roots and joined the Scottish senior football pyramid as part of the newly formed West of Scotland Football League. A huge number of former Junior clubs followed them in what is arguably the most exciting part of the new system. A new era needed a new name and thus, Glasgow United came to life. The club finished 9th in the WoSFL Conference ‘B’ last season, enough to earn a place in the restructured Second Division.
Today, I am excited to be attending the first game of the brand-new season in the West. Opening day always brings a sense of fluttering expectation, conscious worry, and a feel of the unknown. In the lower leagues, it signifies the return of local football. Punters gather to take in their community team, get behind new players and cheer on those they already love. I always feel privileged to watch games at this level. Today is no different.
Saturday arrived, and I headed to Greenfield Park to watch a Glasgow derby. Glasgow United took on Glasgow Perthshire to kick-off the new season. Here. We. Go!
Greenfield Park has been the home to my hosts for almost ninety years. Opening in 1933, the old ground looks as though it has plenty of stories to tell. A huge positive with weathered stadiums like this is how unique they are. No two parts are the same.
As you enter behind the goals, plenty of grey stairways, ramps and terracing are clear to see. The dugouts are tiny and battered and the terrace roof is rusty and discoloured. It all looks a bit uneven, pitch included. The word ‘character’ comes to mind. It’s a classic ‘sit where you want’ kind of situation, where bums are plonked on hardened benches behind the goal and cracked, grey concrete parallel to the pitch length. Even the nets are a bit imperfect, reminding me of the goals you’d play with at a boy’s club level.
None of these are negatives. I love grounds like this, where there is clearly so much history. It is built in the centre of the community and is easily accessible for locals. There is no bad view of the park with all four sides open to supporters. Furthermore, the snack bar is tremendous, integrated to the public outside and supporters inside.
The Shettleston Juniors Social Club is a place I have experience in. It’s a superb venue attached to the ground with cheap drink and a great atmosphere. I was there before the 2016 Scottish Cup Final amongst a wave of other Hibernian fans awaiting that special day in May. It’ll remain part of one of the best days of my life.
Grounds like Greenfield Park are the ones you long to see in person. They are rarely talked about, but you cannot help but feel part of history when you experience it. It’s not aesthetically pleasing by modern standards, but if its not broken, don’t fix it. 3/5.
The noise around Greenfield Park was limited. I was a bit surprised at the lower numbers in attendance, particularly for the first game of the new season. However, those who did take in the match were in good spirits. I overheard chats of positive expectation for the season ahead and a buzz for the fresh team on the park. A good mix of loyal, older supporters were mixed with younger fans enjoying the day with their pals and a carry-out. It all blended well into a good atmosphere on an individual level, where each group provided their own noise, in comparison to bigger stadia where supporters are usually in unison. Regardless, these punters were here to enjoy some local football, and that itself is a win. 2/5.
Quality of the Match
With the new season kicking off with much anticipation, Glasgow United started much the more positive. Central midfielder Dexter Morrison came close after five minutes. His strike from twenty-five yards hit the top of the Perthshire bar and away to safety.
The Town’s electric start would be rewarded soon after. Some excellent midfield work by Paul Gordon saw the ball out to winger Jack Campbell. Skinning a defender in the process, he switched play to compatriot Dylan Martin and ventured into the box. Martin’s cross deflected into the path of striker James Gallagher, who with plenty of space and time cut the ball back to Campbell. With an open goal and a beaten ‘keeper, he couldn’t miss. It’s a goal I’d have been proud of scoring in FIFA 14. 1-0 United.
United were controlling the game well and could have been a couple of goals up by the twenty-minute mark. A thirty-yard free-kick looked goal bound, but Morrison’s effort was matched well by Banks in the Perthshire goal. Another good play from Dexter Morrison saw his spread find Martin on the wing, but again his effort was parried wide.
A second goal arrived. A superb bursting run by Jack Campbell saw him leave two Perthshire defenders in his wake before cutting the ball back for Paul Gordon. The midfield technician hit it first time with his left through a wall of bodies from twenty yards. The low drive may have caught Banks off guard, with the ball taking a bounce off the ‘keeper and into the net. United certainly deserved their two-goal lead.
Perthshire were struggling to find their rhythm, with long balls clearly not working. When playing the ball on the deck, they began to create opportunities. Firstly, a good cross in from right-back McIntyre found Munro free on the penalty spot. His close-range header was fired straight at Town ‘keeper Ewan Roche. He did well to react quickly, but a better header was required. Secondly, Patterson did well to turn his defender and surge into the box. His cut back found teammate Butler, with his striker’s shot being saved down low by Roche.
At the other end, Banks was called into action once more. More fantastic play by the United forward line resulted in Gordon setting up Gallagher. From a tight angle, Banks’ positioning did all the work as he saved yet another shot on target. United went into the half full of confidence and two goals up.
Half Time: Glasgow United 2-0 Glasgow Perthshire
With much to do in the second half, Perthshire needed a big performance. However, it was United who would start the final forty-five on the front foot. Jack Campbell continued to run riot down Perthshire’s right-hand side. He beat his man once more and crossed well from the by-line. He found James Gallagher who, with the entire goal at his mercy, hit his close-range strike against Banks’ legs. It looked easier to score, but it remained two-nil.
The second period wilted out as quickly as it began. No real opportunities presented themselves over the course of the thirty or so minutes, with most strikes on goal coming from Perthshire. However, they were largely pot-shots from outside the box with little chance of hitting the net. United did not look in any danger of conceding, with plenty of substitutions killing the momentum of the match for both sides.
They did have one final chance to add insult to injury. Substitute Matthew McLevy slipped in Craig Thomson, whose narrow-angled strike struck the post with force. The following corner saw the end of proceedings, with United ending the afternoon with a comfortable victory.
Full Time: Glasgow United 2-0 Glasgow Perthshire
The Town will be incredibly satisfied with their opening day win. They largely controlled the game through intricate play which exposed their opponents’ weaknesses. Jack Campbell ran riot down the right-hand side and easily could have contributed more goals and assists today. He looks a really good player. Midfielder Paul Gordon also had a fabulous game. His technical ability shone through, allowing him to contribute to most attacks. His left foot looked very dangerous. However, a special mention must go to maestro Dexter Morrison. I felt he strolled today’s game and looked incredibly comfortable all afternoon. His passing range, dribbling ability and conscious football mind made him a stand-out. For me, he will be one of the players of the division.
Perthshire will be disappointed to start the season so poorly. They had a couple chances here and there but looked largely unconvincing going forward. Their longball tactics did not work and will need to head back to the drawing board. However, there are a few individuals who looked a good level. With further cohesion, they look as though they have potential to have a positive season.
Overall, I was treated to a wonderful first-half full of excitement, chances, and technical ability. A couple of good goals and excellent individual performances made this journey more than worth it. Despite a fizzled out second period, I saw more than enough to cement the belief that there are gems in the lower leagues. This match deserves a 2.5/5.
As always, pricing at this level is incredible value. Glasgow United are a proud community club, and their prices reflect this. Admission is an exceptional £5, a quid cheaper than most of their league counterparts. Options at the snack bar looked great, but I opted for a coffee only, setting me back another quid. £6 for a ninety-minute game and a drink is unreal. 5/5.
Glasgow United finish with a respectable 12.5/20. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at a grand old ground filled with history and community vibrancy. This is only the beginning of an exciting new era for Glasgow United, and they look well equipped be a contender for the next step up. I look forward to seeing how their journey progresses.
European Nights – Motherwell FC – 21/07/2022
Motherwell, North Lanarkshire is an easily recognisable town to point out on the Scottish landscape. A former home to industrial greatness and a steelworks empire, Motherwell sits twenty minutes south-east of Glasgow. Home to a few notable attractions including Strathclyde Park, Motherwell is a close-knit community that was built up quickly through heavy industry and torn down equally as rapid when the work dissipated. The town has recovered, and football has always been huge part of the town’s culture – even when times were tough.
Founded in 1886, Motherwell FC have a rich history in the Scottish game. The club have four major honours: Scottish league champions in 1932, Scottish League Cup winners in 1951 as well as two famous Scottish Cup victories in 1952 and 1991. The latter remains one of the most dramatic and exciting finals in the competition’s history. A crowd of over 57,000 filled the Hampden terraces to watch a since immortalised Motherwell side beat Dundee United 4-3 in extra time to lift the trophy. It is an occasion that will never be forgotten.
Weirdly, the club have also (unofficially) won Spain’s largest domestic cup competition. A second-place finish in the previous league campaign was enough to be invited to Madrid to take part in a prestigious mini-tournament. After dispatching the also invited Swansea City in a semi-final, The Well faced legendary Real Madrid in their home stadium for the trophy. Motherwell won the match 3-1 to become (again, unofficial) Copa Del Ray champions in 1927. A more informative and incredibly interesting article and be found on Motherwell’s website here.
Success in the 2000s is all relative. Back-to-back second places in 2013 and 2014 is an incredible achievement for a club Motherwell’s size, even with the league omission of Rangers. Consistency is the name of the game for the The Steelman. Higher mid-table finishes have been come alongside two cup finals in 2018. Frustratingly, they had to come up against a Celtic side in the middle of a historical quadruple treble.
“I’m not a Motherwell fan but this is class” is a phrase that has been popularised in Scottish football over the last few years. There’s good reason for this. Free season tickets for unemployed or low-income supporters, a wonderfully generous community outreach and a refreshingly transparent social media are just some examples of the excellency Motherwell represent. The sentence “It is in our DNA to improve people’s lives where we can.” speaks volumes of the values the club currently hold. Chief Executive Alan Burrows seems to understand the importance football has on the community and has instilled this mindset throughout the entire club and fanbase. More outfits need to follow the example they set.
After a dramatic fifth placed finish last season, the club have been rewarded with European football in July. A first ever outing in the Europa Conference League awaits Fir Park, with League of Ireland side Sligo Rovers taking the short journey over the Irish Sea. The winner of this two-legged tie will face either Czechia’s Sparta Prague or Norway’s Viking FK in the next round. The Well are favourites to progress, and I am incredibly excited to witness the beginnings of a potentially wonderful expedition.
Fir Park has been Motherwell’s home since 1895. The old ground has seen many ups and downs in its history but has always been a constant in the community. Of the 12 Premiership grounds, Fir Park stands as one of the most unique. All four stands are different, with no two looking the same. Each one adorns the name of a different Motherwell legend. The Davie Cooper Stand houses home supporters behind the north goal. The John Hunter Stand gives the more vocal Motherwell supporters a space, whilst also being remembered for the famous ‘Keep Cigarettes Away From The Match’ Slogan. The Phil O’Donnell Main Stand gives a superb view of proceedings, even if the seating is a bit old and stiff. Finally, The Tommy McLean Stand is the largest of the structures and looks superb. Funnily though, it has only been used to house away supporters. I was sat inside the POD Stand for tonight’s match and stupidly chose to buy a ticket behind a pole. Lessons have been learned.
Fir Park is a great place to watch football with an array of history surrounding the old buildings, the ancient seating, and unique viewpoints. Furthermore, the pitch looked incredible. Huge credit must go to the Fir Park ground staff who have done a superb job to keep the beautiful game looking beautiful. Fir Park has shown itself to be one of my favourite arenas to take in a game thus far. 4/5.
A near sell-out home crowd marched on Fir Park for a rare European match. The bustling, close-contact, exciting chatter amongst supporters was a joy to be a part of. It made me insanely jealous of the Scottish clubs who get to attend experiences like this on a regular basis. Before proceedings on the pitch kicked off, The Well supporters were in full voice, with the majority of noise coming from supporters in the John Hunter stand. This particular group of young fans are famous for regular displays and did not disappoint tonight. A wonderful showcase of claret and gold ran the full way across with the words ‘From the slopes of Fir Park terracing onto its playing field so green, there’s eleven stalwart warriors, the best you’ve ever seen.’ Unbelievable. However, given the result, the positivity deteriorated somewhat over the course of the game. Atmosphere scores 3.5/5 in total.
Quality of the Match
Motherwell came into the match heavy favourites but some supporters were already weary of a potential upset brewing. After all, visiting Sligo Rovers were well into their domestic season and the standard of Irish football has risen over the last few years.
It would take just thirty seconds for the home side to experience a scare. Rovers’ winger Karl O’Sullivan found time and space on the right to whip in a dangerous ball. A mixture of new signing Paul McGinn and Ugandan prince Bevis Mugabi managed to clear the ball against a Sligo striker and over the bar.
Motherwell would hit back with a chance of their own. New addition Josh Morris found time and space to the left of goal. His effort smashed the side netting, yet the Motherwell fans had their first real moment of excitement.
Excitement turned to nerves five minutes later. A Sligo free kick found Garry Buckley unmarked at the back post. His knock-back across goal was met well by Lewis Banks, but ‘Well stopper Liam Kelly reacted well on the goal line to prevent the visitors the lead – for now.
Sligo did take the lead soon after. A horribly judged headed back pass from Bevis Mugabi allowed former Hearts and Falkirk striker Aidan Keena time and space to comfortably lob the ball over Kelly. Sligo were one up, with the Ugandan prince looking like a bit of a jester.
Motherwell responded well. Firstly, a strike on goal by Barry Maguire tested the palms of ‘keeper Luke McNicholas before a cross fired in from the left met the feet of Connor Shields four yards out. The off-balanced striker could not direct his effort on target though, with the visiting support breathing a sigh of relief.
Half Time: Motherwell 0-1 Sligo Rovers
‘Well needed a strong second half. It began with big striker Kevin Van Veen finding himself through on goal. His first touch was poor, leaving him no space to either chip or round the onrushing McNichols.
Motherwell’s supporters were growing increasingly frustrated as Sligo created their second real opportunity. More good work by O’Sullivan allowed him to cross for Keena. The striker met the ball well, but his effort landed on the roof of Liam Kelly’s net.
Exciting prospect Ross Tierney entered the fray for Motherwell and almost made a blistering impact. Josh Morris slipped the youngster through on the left, but his effort could only hit the side-netting once more. Still, more hope for the home support yet.
Hearts were in mouths yet again though. A cross to the back post met Sligo substitute Max Mata, whose header goalward was blocked for a corner. Huge shouts for handball from both players and support fell on deaf ears.
Wells’ final opportunity fell to Josh Morris. A good cross from McGinn found the attacker’s head, but his effort could only be directed straight into McNichol’s hands.
Motherwell threw everything they could into the box with nothing to show for it. Their efforts amounted to little, with boos ringing around the stadium as the full-time whistle blew. An ecstatic away support exploded with joy.
Full Time: Motherwell 0-1 Sligo Rovers
It cannot be said lightly; Motherwell were very, very poor. Their efforts were weak, they failed to break down an astute Sligo defence and substitutions had little to no impact. It is natural to expect a top-flight Scottish team to perform better at home to supposed weaker opposition, with supporters not afraid to show their emotions afterward. They cannot afford to be as poor in Ireland next week.
On a positive note, new signing Paul McGinn looks a decent acquisition. After a slow start, the former Hibs, St Mirren and Dundee defender showed his experience and consistency. I may be a bit biased as a Hibee, but I think he will prove to be a quality signing for Motherwell. I was sad to see him leave Easter Road.
Sligo played to their strengths tonight. They had powerful centre backs ready to put bodies on the line. As a cliché, they proved to be strong, difficult to break down and clever in possession. I thought I had seen my weeks’ worth of shithousery from Greenock Morton at Hibs the night before, but Sligo have shown that the skill of shithousery is an art.
In all, tonight’s affair was a poor watch. A poor Motherwell side struggled to break down weaker opposition, with the only goal of the game coming from a massive defensive mistake. Here’s hoping the away leg proves to be a worthwhile display. I hope to see Motherwell coming out on top. 1.5/5.
Returning to university for a postgraduate degree has its perks. I paid a reasonable £15 for a student ticket for a European game. Food and drink were well priced too. I certainly cannot complain. 5/5.
My first visit to a Premiership ground scores a handy 14/20. Despite another poor result for a Scottish team in Europe, I loved being able to experience Fir Park in all its glory. I hope next time Motherwell get a chance to experience a continental competition at home, it brings a more successful outcome.
A New Era – FC Edinburgh – 16/07/2022
Edinburgh. Embra’. Auld Reekie. Egg-in-burger. Scotland’s capital has a few interesting nicknames. Some nice, some not so much. Whatever your personal feelings and opinions on Edinburgh, its hugely significant historical and cultural importance has played a key role in how Scotland presents itself to the rest of the world.
I love Edinburgh. I grew up twenty minutes away in Dalkeith. As a city, Edinburgh is a wonderful mixture of old and new. Ancient and modern. I love the narrow closes and wide-open parks, the hidden pubs and thriving chains. The city speaks of legend, both of inquisitive scientific discovery as well as horrible and languishing dark practices. It is mesmerising at times. The view from Arthurs’ Seat is one I long to see for a lifetime. I moved to the West in 2017. The people of Glasgow are incredibly welcoming, friendly, and genuinely hilarious. However, as a city, Edinburgh will always have my heart.
The city has an extensive footballing culture largely dominated by Heart of Midlothian and my beloved Hibernian. Leith Athletic and St Bernards also had their time in the sun in the late 1800s/early 1900s but fell away relatively quickly. Since then, only three clubs have competed in the professional league system. Hibs, Hearts, and my hosts for today; FC Edinburgh.
Known as Edinburgh City until exactly a month ago, the club’s interesting change of branding needs a history lesson for context.
Chapter One – Founded in 1928, the original Edinburgh City were formed. They played as an amateur club, hoping to become the Edinburgh equivalent to Glasgow’s Queens Park. Playing in Edinburgh’s amateur leagues until 1946, the club struggled in professional football and left the set-up only three years later. They operated in the junior leagues until 1955, where the club were wound up and ceased activity.
Chapter Two – A new club in the city emerged in 1966. Named Postal United, they joined the East of Scotland League. During this time, the original club still existed through the Edinburgh City Social Club who continued trade despite the lack of actual football. They gave Postal United permission to use the Edinburgh City name in 1986, which they did until June 2022.
Chapter Three – After promotion to the third tier of the SPFL pyramid for the first time in history, the club wished to own the Edinburgh City name outright. The social club refused. With rumours of an expensive legal battle on the horizon, the club took proactive action and changed their name to FC Edinburgh, thus ending their affiliation with the Edinburgh City Social Club and subsequent Edinburgh City brand.
During their EC years, the club amassed a huge amount of success in the lower tiers and have since become Edinburgh’s third club. Their promotion from the Lowland League in 2016 made them the first outfit to achieve the feat since the expansion of the Scottish pyramid, which has since paved the way for plenty more. After five years of stability in League Two, promotion to League One was achieved in May 2022 after a dramatic victory over Annan Athletic.
Today, I get to experience the first competitive match played at the new Meadowbank. After years of ground-sharing with Spartans at Ainslie Park, Edinburgh are home. Arbroath are today’s visitors for a Premier Sports Cup group stage tie. Exciting new times await, and I’m buzzing to be a tiny part of these fresh beginnings.
This fixture signifies the return of Edinburgh to Meadowbank Stadium. The club had used the old Commonwealth Games site from 1996 and temporarily vacated in 2017 to allow reconstruction to take place. I’d visited Meadowbank in 2016 to watch Edinburgh take a huge step towards promotion from the Lowland League. The old grandstand, the used up running track and legendary jumbo-screen scoreboard are very memorable. It had a weird and wonderful continental vibe.
Today, Meadowbank looks and feels different. The running track still exists. Of course, it is a multi-purpose facility used for athletics. The grandstand that once stood now exists in a much smaller frame. A 500 capacity three row stand runs parallel to the entire pitch. It looks fresh and feels very similar to East Kilbride’s. Naturally, there will be complaints that it is too far away for the pitch and does not give the perfect vantage point. While I am inclined to agree, it genuinely was not anywhere near as rough as a I thought it would be. Sat in the middle row, I felt I could comfortably see the entire playing surface. Other viewpoints are to be created on the opposite side in the very near future, quenching the thirst of those who want it.
The ground also provided a superb food van, where very friendly staff offered a wonderful variety of food and drink. Usually, refreshments go relatively quickly at the football and close after half-time. This one stayed open the entire time and had plenty to choose from at the game’s conclusion.
Overall, I would suggest patience is the name of the game here. After all, the facility is brand new, has plenty of room to grow and will eventually serve as an important community sports hub for the capital. It is nowhere near the finished picture, but as far as test-events go, this one was pretty strong. I look forward to returning when further work has been completed. 2.5/5
Edinburgh’s return to Meadowbank brought a sold-out crowd, with punters desperate to see their local club return to the ground with many precious memories. There is no doubt it is a family friendly atmosphere, with plenty of children turning out in the glorious sunshine and the mingling of supporters. A plethora of Arbroath fans travelled from Angus to watch their team and made themselves heard in key moments of the game. In terms of a traditional football atmosphere, it was quiet. This is by no means a negative in the grand scheme, but a more energetic energy has always been my personal preference. 2/5.
Quality of the Match
For the opening ten minutes, the teams sized each other up with neither pushing too hard. The first opportunity fell to Edinburgh key man Innes Murray. The creative midfielder is a firm fan favourite for the capital side, but his initial strike from 20 yards rolled wide of Derek Gaston’s goal.
The visitors created their first chance soon after. Some intricate one-touch football pushed Arbroath to the edge of the area, with Liam Donnelly’s curling effort being held easily by Sam Ramsbottom.
It felt fitting for Edinburgh to score the first goal of Meadowbank’s new era. It came in spectacular fashion after some good midfield work from Innes Murray. His touch and lob to marauding left-back Callum Crane was caught perfectly on the volley. The ex-Hibs youngster’s strike flew past Gaston to give Edinburgh the advantage.
It could and probably should have been two a short while after. With Edinburgh having the best of the forward play, a corner to the front post missed everyone and met Liam Fontaine’s right boot. The experienced centre-back swung at the ball from 6 yards out, but his effort trickled wide. A missed opportunity.
Arbroath pulled themselves into the game and earned their reward. Some excellent build up play saw Nicky Low find teammate Michael McKenna on the break. Goal scorer Callum Crane brought the Lichties’ man down inside the box, giving referee Gavin Duncan no option. Low stepped up and fired the penalty down the middle. Game on.
Edinburgh responded almost instantly. More good work from the Citizens midfield found Ryan Shanley in the visiting box. He twisted well and unleashed what seemed a goal bound strike. A handy deflection saw the ball fly just over the bar and out for the corner, ending the half’s drama.
Half Time: FC Edinburgh 1-1 Arbroath
The second half began similarly to the first. An excellent run forward by Edinburgh right back Ciaran Brian brought his team up the field. His low cross found Innes Murray in the box but the midfielder’s stretched effort from the penalty spot spun wide.
It was time for the goalkeepers to show their worth. Firstly, a well worked move found the ever-present Murray once more. His powerful strike was sent central but was good enough to force Gaston into an acrobatic tip over the bar. Two minutes later, a pinpoint strike by the impressive Nicky Low was met expertly by Ramsbottom. At full stretch, the Edinburgh goalkeeper pushed the ball over to keep the scores level.
Arbroath substitute Daniel Fosu was next to go close. After a succession of brave blocks, the ball was cut across box to find the big striker fifteen yards out. His powerful strike pummelled the bar and looked a missed opportunity. A corner was given though, with credit going to Ramsbottom for another excellent save.
The visitors did get their breakthrough. Nicky Low’s expert cross to the back post was met first time by Arbroath legend Bobby Linn. The striker’s controlled and purposeful effort flew into the far corner, much to the delight of the travelling Lichties. It was a very aesthetically pleasing finish.
Arbroath took the game by the scruff of the neck and ended the game as contest in style. Once again, Bobby Linn providing the goods. The striker cut inside from twenty-five yards and unleashed an unstoppable strike into Ramsbottom’s top corner. After his penalty miss in the play-offs last season, he is back to showing his undeniable talent so far this year.
Edinburgh fizzled out but did have one final chance. A powerful run up the left by Kieran MacDonald found teammate John Robertson. He jinked past two Arbroath defenders before firing over from a tight angle.
Full Time: FC Edinburgh 1-3 Arbroath
Edinburgh’s return to Meadowbank may not have ended in fairy-tale, but there are certainly plenty of positives to take from today’s match. For much of the match, they played toe-to-toe with a club inches away from playing Premiership football this season. They have the buildings of a successful team, with a healthy mix of youth and experience. This is well documented buy the centre-back pairing of Liam Fontaine and Jack Brydon. A Scottish Cup winning legend with Hibernian, he could be seen talking the on-loan Hibs youth player through the game. Brydon is incredibly talented himself and could prove to be key in his second spell with Edinburgh. The capital club will now aim for a successful League One campaign: the first in the club’s history. After today’s showing, I am confident they’ll provide plenty of problems for those challenging at the top.
Arbroath will be pleased with this result. After going a goal down, Dick Campbell’s side were unphased and played football how they knew they could. They adapted, passed the ball well and got the breaks they deserved. Bobby Linn will get the plaudits for his incredible strikes, but the Lichties midfield controlled the game for most of the contest. Michael McKenna showed his worth with a dominant display and Nicky Low proved to be an incredibly important playmaker. I can see Arbroath pushing for the play-offs once more, but I’m sure Dick Campbell will be happy with avoiding relegation!
Overall, I saw a very competitive game between two sides looking to impress. They both did in their own way. As an experience, I witnessed some excellent football, three wonderful goals and a genuinely interesting matchup. It scores a worthy 3.5/5.
I paid £12 for this Premier Sports Group Stage tie and felt it was worth every penny. To be a very small part of history for FC Edinburgh’s return to Meadowbank was a genuine pleasure. The food and drink were also reasonably priced for League One level. No complaints from me. 5/5.
The first club to be placed in the TSFA League Table for Season 2 scores a worthy 12.5/20. I enjoyed my visit back at Meadowbank and can appreciate the future work to be done. I’ll make sure to return to see the changes in action. Do yourself a favour and join me in their journey.