Adventures – 2022/23

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.

Facilities

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.

“Two pints…”

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.

Atmosphere

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.

Pricing

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.

Final Score

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.

– Connor

*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.   

Facilities

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.

Atmosphere

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.

Pricing

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.

Final Score

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.

– Connor

New Name, Same Community – Glasgow United – 30/07/2022

Background

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!

Facilities

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.

Unused Turnstiles

Atmosphere

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.

Pricing

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.

Final Score

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.

– Connor

Probably the Best Club in the World

European Nights – Motherwell FC – 21/07/2022

Background

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.

Facilities

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.

Atmosphere

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

Sligo supporters delighted.

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.

Pricing

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.

Final Score

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.

– Connor

A New Era – FC Edinburgh – 16/07/2022

Background

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.

Facilities

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

Atmosphere

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.

Pricing

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.

Final Score

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.

– Connor