Monday, 28 February 2011

Dat Thirty Six: Kilmarnock (Rugby Park)

Kilmarnock v St.Mirren
Saturday 26th February
Scottish Premier League
Saturday morning yet again comes around too quickly.
My friend Steve, him of the Falkirk blog, flew into town last night. He's here to watch the egg chucking at Murrayfield on Sunday when Scotland take on Ireland. I offered him the chance to come with us to Kilmarnock today but he's going to meet up with friends to watch the England v France game in a pub. We sat up till the early hours and it's fair to say that neither of us were feeling our sharpest this morning.
I've got to be at my dads for 12.15pm. I drop Steve off at the end of Rose Street at mid-day and wish him luck for the day ahead. For the second week in a row I surprise my parents by turning up ahead of schedule.
Although the Aberdeen / Hearts commentary is on the radio I decide that it shall be Tam & Stuart who entertain us on the journey through to Kimarnock.
My sister, Isla, used to be a Kilmarnock season ticket holder and she's decided that today will be the day she makes her mark on this adventure. She's driven down from Stirling and parks up behind my dad's car a few streets from the ground.
We walk over to the ground just before 2.30pm to make sure we've time to find seats for the three of us. My dad has a Season ticket and as such has his own designated seat; but today he's moving so he can sit with his children, but only if we can find three unreserved seats at the end of a row as the seating is tight to say the least at Rugby Park.
I insist Isla joins our dad for the pre-match photo and she reluctantly agrees. We then make our way to the turnstiles and for the second time this season I'm handed a free ticket. A teenage boy asks me just as I get my wallet out if I need a ticket for today's game. Yes, I reply. He then sticks a ticket in my hand and explains that he's got a spare ticket going in his book and better it gets used than not. I ask if he wants some money, but with a shake of the head he dismisses this idea.
My dad and sister can't believe that yet again I've managed to get to the football free of charge. I offer Isla a tenner so we can at least go halves but even she won't take my money.
Now that we've found seats I'm off to get the pies in. Isla refuses to let me buy her a pie, apparently they give her 'the boak'.
I've heard all season long about the Killie Pie; the prizes it's won, who makes them, blah blah blah. It's disappointing to find out that the Killie Pie is in fact a steak pie and therefore ineligible in our competition.
It's even more disappointing for me when the pie I get doesn't live up to the hype. Mine has a soggy bottom. I turn to my dad and tell him this is a seven tops. Rubbish, he cries this is easily an eight, it's not quite an Albion Rovers effort but it's no far off. Apparently, his pie has the perfect crust.
The game kicks off.
Kilmarnock are the first on the attack and both Bryson and Eremenko have their shots blocked by Paisley sides defence.
Off the ball Pascali and Higdon have a wee spat that ends up with them both getting a lecture from the referee.
McGregor picks the ball up on the edge of his own box and runs up field. He gets all the way to the edge of the Kilmarnock box before he's closed down and he sends a shot just wide. My dad is raging at the time and space given to the player.
Twelve minutes in and Kilmarnock go one up. Eremenko plays a great ball down the left to let William Gros run on to. Gros takes one touch and smashes it in off the near side post and beyond the dive of Paul Gallacher in goal. My dad is on his feet whooping and cheering before the ball hits the back of the net.
Hugh Murray is the first player in to the book when he gets a deserved yellow for a swipe at Eremenko.
Kilmarnock are well on top of this game and they play some great passing football. Every time the keeper has the ball it's played out to a defender, and they very rarely play the long ball tactics.
Half an hour gone and it's two nil to the home side. Gros turns provider for Eremenko with a ball to the midfielder on the right hand edge of the box. Eremenko caught the ball on the half volley and his shot nestled in the bottom corner shortly after. The away fans will probably feel that Gallacher should have saved it.
Two goals in front and still hardly a peep from the home fans. Apart from the five or six lads near us, there doesn't seem to be too much singing going on at the game today.
It's all Kilmarnock so far, the away side are yet to have a shot on target.
Nothing much else happens until the end of the half. Taouil manages to infuriate my father by taking one touch too many before releasing the ball.
Wright and Pascali become the second and third names in to the referees book.
Half time comes and my dad nips off for another pie, I'm still feeling the effects of last night so decide against a second.
At Kilmarnock they have a novel way of rewarding the winner of the half time draw. Not only do they win a £200 cash prize but they also get to come on to the pitch and try the crossbar challenge, if I'd known that I'd have bought a few tickets. Today's winner decided to let one of the Kilmarnock youth team take the shot for him, a decision he soon regrets as the young fella manages only to send a daisy cutter goal wards.
My dad is then surprised to hear the stadium announcer say 'We at Kilmarnock would like to wish a Happy 70th Birthday to David Pattison'. His response? You're only three weeks late. Typical father eh, never happy. Only joking dad.
The second half starts and first thing my dad notices is that Eremenko has changed his boots from orange to white.
St. Mirren replaced Goodwin with McLean at half time and the substitute nearly got his team back on lebel terms with a long range effort that came back off the post with Anssi Jaakola in goal well beaten. Unfortunately for Saints the linesman flagged Craig Bryson offside as he went to tap in the rebound.
St. Mirren are giving it a good go at the start of the half.
Higdon finds himself a little unlucky when near the hour mark he becomes the next player in to the book. I didn't see much in the challenge and the Saints fans give the ref a quick burst of You don't know what you're doing!!
Moments later and the impressive Eremenko had the chance to kill the game off but instead of attacking a Hay cross in to the box he waited for the ball to land and Travner was able to nick the ball off his toes and boot it clear.
Up the other end of the park and a Travner corner was met by the head of McGregor and if not for a goaline clearance by Craig Bryson, St. Mirren would have drawn level.
Eremenko then somehow escaped a red card and unbelievably he didn't even get a yellow for a terrible two footed lunge on Murray. It was a terrible challenge that had the whole of the away bench on their feet and Isla had to remind me that I was sitting in the home end as I was almost on my feet too.
Gros left the park to loud applause with five minutes to go and the home fans must be thinking that this eighteen year, a graduate of Didier Agathe's Football Academy, can fill some of the void left by Conor Sammon's departure.
The final whistle goes.
Kilmarnock deserve the three points but the second forty five minutes have been torturous. A fact agreed by both father and sister.
Next week we're off to see if Neil Lennon can behave himself for a full ninety minutes.
The Statistics
Ticket: Adult: £20 Concession £ 14. My dad has a Season ticket and that cost him £165
Programme: £2.50
Attendance: 5,243
Pie: £1.60
Pie Marks: A disputed 8 / 10
Mileage: 141 miles
Final Score: Kilmarnock 2 v St. Mirren 0
Man of the Match: Dad - Mohamadou Sissoko (Kilmarnock), Isla - William Gros (Kilmarnock), Me - Mohamadou Sissoko (Kilmarnock)
Fascinating Fact of the Day: Kilmarnock are the only British side to overcome a four goal deficit to win a European tie. On September 22nd 1964 they played Eintracht Frankfurt in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup and found themselves three goals down from the first leg. The German side scored two minutes into the second leg to go four up. Goals from Hamilton, Mcllroy, McFadzean & McInally brought it back to four each. With seconds to go Ronnie Hamilton scored his second & Kilmarnocks fifth. This come back is even more impressive when you find out that this was the very first tie Kilmarnock played in Europe. My dad was at the game. (Editor's note: I think that your uncle Raymond was at the game too...also, worth noting that Eintracht Frankfurt had been European Cup finalists three years earlier!)
Next Game: Parkhead (Celtic)

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Day Thirty Five: Stirling Albion (Doubletree Dunblane Stadium)

Stirling Albion v Dundee
Saturday 19th February
Scottish Division 1

Settle in, this is almost novel length.

The alarm goes off far too early.

It was a late night. Emma & I invited our friend Paul over for his dinner and before we knew it it was 2.15am and I had to be up for 8am as we had to be in Stirling for 10.30am.

You'll have seen it was my old man's birthday earlier this month and one of his presents was a family photography session. Strange the things you ask for as you get older.

I was a wee bit dusty this morning and my decision to forgo breakfast for an extra twenty minutes or so in bed was a mistake as I took me even longer than normal to feel awake. Emma & I took only an hour or so to get from flat to photo studio and unbelievably we weren't the last to arrive. My sister was already there with her husband, Alan and their two boys, Boyd and Max.

When the rest of the clan arrived we headed into the studio for our time in front of the camera. I'm hoping the photographer has a good knowledge of photo shop that's all I'm saying.

After the photo session we've got just enough time to nip back to my sister's house in Stirling for a quick clothes change before heading off to the Doubletree Dunblane Stadium. Today my dad and I are being taken for the full hospitality treatment at the Stirling Albion v Dundee game by my brother-in-law Alan.

Alan works for Prudential and they sponsor the home side; as such they have access to three tickets for each home game. He won't let on how much he's paid for today or accept any money from us as payment. He's a good lad Alan, so much so I've managed to get beyond the fact he's a Rangers fan. My dad and I have done well from this year from Alan and Isla. Isla bought us the tickets for the Rangers v Manchester United Champions League game earlier this season. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank them for their generosity.

We're dropped off at the ground by my sister and Alan shows us the pitches were Boyd trains every Tuesday with the Young Reds.

Disappointingly we couldn't find a sign showing that this was Stirling Albion's home ground and were therefore unable to take the usual photo. Hopefully we'll get something later on.

Alan then led us into the reception area where we are greeted by Steven Leiper, one of the Club Executives, who used to be Alan's boss at The Prudential. Steven directs us up the stairs towards the Board Room. The Board Room at Stirling is no bigger than your average lounge but it's walls are covered in memorabilia, photo's of Stirling teams from the past thirty or so years adorn most of the space but there is a small section given over to pendants from various clubs to have played at Stirling over the years. In the corner of the room beside the drinks trolley is a small trophy case. It's mostly full of glasses but on the top the trophies picked up over the years.

We're met in the room by David McFarlane, another member of the Club Executive Team, who asks us if we would like a drink, Alan and I plump for a Budweiser whilst my dad settles for a diet coke. David then asks us if we'd like to buy a book of half time draw tickets. A book, not a ticket. Still for a fiver I'll take the opportunity, my numbers might come up as it should be a big crowd today.

Since going into administration in October, Dundee are unbeaten and if they hadn't been deducted 25 points they would be top of the table and they'll no doubt bring a big crowd with them today. David tells us that they've been informed by Dundee that they should be bringing 1000 fans with them today. He goes on to inform us that it's been 37 years since Stirling last beat Dundee.

It's not to long before we're taken along to our suite for the afternoon and asked if any further drinks are required. Alan and I take another Bud, well you might as well make the most of these things eh? As we take our seats we're each handed a free programme and team sheet for the match. The programme was in fact a double issue as it covered Tuesday's game with Morton as well. A quick look at the programme informs me that Brian Winter is the referee today. There goes any chance of a decent game.

Next in to speak to us is Paul Goodwin and he gives a potted history of Stirling Albion. For many years the finance of a major shareholder supported Stirling Albion. Back in May 2009 a group of supporters got together to form the group 'Buy Stirling Albion' with the aim of raising enough money in the local community to buy out the single shareholder. The campaign lasted over a year and they got some high profile support from the likes of Andy Murray and Ronaldo but the real success came from the sale of £40 shares in the club. One person could only buy one share and this meant that not one person could be in the majority.

In July 2010 it was announced that they had raised the required sum and the Stirling Albion Supporters Trust bought the club. Each member of the Trust is eligible to become a member of the board and influence decisions. Stirling Albion became the first side in Scotland to be owned 100% by its supporters.

Immediate decisions had to be made by the Trust to keep the club afloat in these hard financial times and the decision was made to cut £100,000 from the operating budget for this season.

In our suite there are several others and a couple of them are from Dundee FC. The banter flows quickly after Alan points out the odyssey my dad and I are on. The boys from Dundee want to know how we rated them and their pie.

Lunch is then served and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't lovely. Lentil Soup to start, followed by a huge portion of steak pie with all the trimmings and chocolate gateaux with cream to finish.

Stirling Albion manager Jocky Scott is introduced to the room and he gives us a brief talk on his thoughts on today's game, his plans are for the side and how he's worked his players hard all week in the run up to the game but once his players stepped over the line there was little other than a wee bit tinkering he could do for them. He talks about the great run Dundee are on and how he'd love it if his side brought that run to an end. Jocky was sacked by Dundee last season whilst the Tayside club were top of Division One.

We've just got time before kick off to visit the Club shop so my dad can buy a pin badge for his bonnet. I'm not sure what the figure is up to now but he must have bought at least twenty or so.

Making our way back upstairs we're ushered outside to our seat just in time to hear the stadium announcer say 'Welcome to Alan Ferrol from Prudential and his guests Arnold & David Pattison. Arnold and David are visiting every home ground in Scotland this season and are even writing a blog about it. See what they have to say about today's game at'. Nae pressure there then.

As we make our way into our seats we notice they're padded and have arm rests. I'm delighted as I've had a sore back since the Dundee United game three weeks ago. Looking across to the far side of the ground we can see that Dundee have filled the opposite stand and the small terracing area behind the goal. They're a right nosy bunch too.

Stirling had the first chance when from a corner Gordon Smith flicked a header towards the back post but Nicky Riley had plenty of time to clear it off the line. Ten minutes in, Greg McDonald crumbles to the ground with no-one near him. His pain is obvious to all and after a few minutes he's stretchered off and straight down the tunnel. Jocky Scott sent on substitute Sean Walsh and changed the formation to a 4-4-2.

It was all of sixteen minutes before Brian Winter gave his first card of the day, a yellow, for Dundee's Craig McKeown. The ref is having one another of his stop start type of games, blowing his whistle for the slightest of touches.

Dundee took the lead ten minutes before the end of the half. Forsyth played a great first time ball down the wing to Lockwood, who used his pace to get to the byline and send over a great cross. Sean Higgins was all alone to power a header past Scott Chritie in goal.

Those of a Stirling persuasion in the Directors box curse the fact that the keeper didn't come out and claim the ball before the striker. The Dundee contingent can't believe that Higgins, the smallest man on the park has scored with a header.

Straight from the kick off Dundee went on the attack again and Christie does well to stop O'Neil's rocket from 25 yards. The away fans, who to be honest have not stopped singing since before kick-off are having a great time behind the goal and there is a small section who seem to have been doing 'the bouncy' for about the last half hour.

Five minutes before the break, Borris is chopped down on the edge of the box by Weston. The foul is awarded and Weston booked. Chris Aitken hits a great free kick around the wall and it looks set for the corner until Rab Douglas makes a brilliant one handed save to deny him the equaliser.

The half time whistle goes and we're whisked back inside out of the cold.

Earlier in the week when my dad phoned to tell me that we were getting the hospitality treatment at Stirling one of the first things I ask is - what about the half time pie?. My dad laughs as he tells me he asked Alan exactly the same question. Alan assured him that we would be allowed to nip out and get one. Plenty of time though I'm taking the opportunity of a warm cup of tea in a hot room with the half time scores on the box.

In the room we're pleasantly surprised to see that there are scotch pies on offer anyway. Soon as my dad takes a bite of his the room ask what the thinks of it. Even though we're guests of the club it's good to hear my dad tell it like is - the crust is too dry but it has a good filling though. It's a seven out of ten he announces. This leads to questions over where has been the worst, best etc. Few are surprised to hear that the Rangers pie scored poorly, Aberdeen so highly and especially that there near neighbours Dundee United are, along with Livingston, the most expensive.

Looking up at the half time scores I notice Aberdeen are beating Kilmarnock two nil. My dad comes out with his usual excuse that the referee must be cheating his side.

We wait as long as possible in the warmth before venturing back outside for the second half.

Stirling start the second half brightly and a cross into the Dundee box is flicked on towards the back post but unfortunately its just beyond the attacker at the back post. Moments later a lovely free kick is floated into the box by Borris, all it needed was a faint touch to deflect it past the keeper but no one took the chance to get on the end of it.

Dundee fought back and an O'Donnell corner was met by Forsyth and his header was just the wrong side of the post.

Stirling went close again on the hour mark when Smith played a great reverse ball to the feet of Mullan who cut back on to his left and took a shot, which went just over. Sean Welsh is next to try his luck with a shot that had Douglas scrambling to tip it round for a corner.

With twenty five minutes to go Dundee's right back Gary Irvine made a crude two footed challenge on the Stirling captain Ross Forysth. It was a poor tackle and referee Winter made the correct decision reaching for the red card.

There's another flash point ten minutes later when Rab Douglas totally over reacted to a sliding challenge from Doyle and it looks like things could boil over. Doyle had every right to go for the ball and from where we were sitting it looked like he tried to pull out of the challenge when he realised the keeper would get to it first. The referee books them both and Weston for getting involved.

Stephen Stirling then has an effort which Douglas does well to save. That's four or five great saves from the Dundee keeper and he's kept his side in this.

Stirlings Scott Buist becomes the seventh player booked ten minutes before full time with a professional foul on Riley as he aimed to race clear.

Three minutes before the final whistle Borris almost even things up but his header from twelve yards went agonisingly wide.

At the final whistle the Dundee fans were jubilant, they'd rode their luck after the sending off and had Douglas to thank for some wonderful saves but they were leaving with the unbeaten run intact and with an amazing 31 out of 33 possible points.

For the record Brian Winter booked seven and sent off one.

Normally that would be us off to the car for the drive home but not today; today we're heading back to the suite for a beverage, Final Score and a chat with the fellas. The Stirling boys are downbeat and resigned to the fact that they are calling out for a goal scorer. For all their possession in the last twenty minutes they lacked that final pass or creative decision. They talk about how their a better side under Jocky Scott and how they hope for more luck and points from the remaining games. The Dundee boys are thankful for the three points and look forward to the trip to Raith on Tuesday although they are critical of the Irvine challenge.

Watching the scores come through on the box I'm delighted to point out the final score at Pittodrie to my dad. Five nil to Aberdeen. First time we've won by five goals in eighteen years. He reckons the ref must have sent off the whole Kilmarnock team.

It's at this point a young fella in a Stirling Albion tracksuit comes in asking if there is an Alan Ferrol in the room. He introduces himself, Jason, and asks if we want to go down on to the pitch to get our photos taken. He's been informed about our blog and wants to offer us the opportunity for some pitch-side photos. We walk past the Sky TV reporter and camera man as well as a hoard of journalists waiting to interview the two managers. Jason bundles folks out the way to get a photo of us in the tunnel, he then walks us onto the pitch for pictures in the goal mouth and with the stand behind us. We're then taken inside towards the dressing rooms for further photos before being taken back upstairs. I made the mistake of letting Jason take all the photos on our little camera and am now informed that I must be sure to forward on the best ones for the next home programme with a section of the blog to go with it.

As days out go this has got to be one of the best of the trip so far. The facilities have been top class, we've been looked after from start to finish, the food was great, the game enjoyable and the staff have been attentive and entertaining.

Alan, thanks again for taking care of us today and anytime the tickets are available and you fancy coming again I'll be up for it.

We took so many photos today that I'll stick them up on a separate post.

The Statistics

Ticket: For my dad and I it was free today. Thanks again to Alan. Normal price - Adult £16 Concession £11
Programme: Free. Normal price £2.50
Attendance: 1,990
Pie: Free. Normal price £1.95
Pie Marks: 7 / 10
Mileage: 64 miles
Final Score: Stirling Albion 0 v Dundee 1
Man of the Match: Dad - Sean Higgins (Dundee), Alan - Stephen O'Donnell (Dundee), Me - Craig Forsyth (Dundee)
Fascinating Fact of the Day: Stirling Albion were the first British team to play in Japan. In 1966 they played the national side in a friendly and won 3 - 1.

Next game: Rugby Park (Kilmarnock)

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Day Thirty Four: Falkirk (Falkirk Stadium)

Falkirk v Greenock Morton
Saturday 12th February
Scottish Division 1
I can't believe we're finally going to make it to see Falkirk at home. We were planning on coming here in December but the game was called off due to the wintry conditions and then we planned to try again in early January but I was unwell with the flu for a couple of games. Watching the rain lash down in Edinburgh on Friday night I wasn't so sure we'd make it this time.

We've seen both these sides on a few occasions this season. I'll always remember the brilliant you're not in fu*king Kansas now Dorothy! heckle from the Dumbarton v Morton game in July. We also saw them smash seven past Stranraer the week later and they gave Dundee a good game at home in December. Falkirk have not been as entertaining. All we got at the end of a long drive to Dingwall was a dull one nil victory to the away side and when we saw them get beat from Partick in the Scottish Cup all we all got was the cold. Here's hoping it's the same Morton side and a much improved Falkirk on show today.

Emma's kindly offered to drop me off at my dads house as she's off to her mothers house for the afternoon. I arrive at my dads with plenty of time to spare and I'm just in the door when my mother offers me a cup of tea and biscuit. Cheers mum. She's not slow on giving me a clip round the ear however for having the nerve to take on of the plain chocolate digestive biscuits from the tin. Turns out these are special biscuits only for consumption by her two year old grandson (my nephew) Max. He's two year old and already she's buying him his own biscuits.

My dad and I leave the house just after 1pm for the drive over to Falkirk. My dad wants to make sure he can get somewhere close to the ground to park. With no traffic and the dulcet tones of Tam & Stuart in the background the drive over takes no time at all and we find said parking space by 2pm. It's still a wee bit cold outside so we enjoy the warmth of the car until twenty past.

On the wander over we pass a take the opportunity to go for something a little bit different with the pre match photo. There is a huge flooded grassy area about 500 yards from the ground, we've passed it on our way to Stenny & The 'Shire in the last month or so. The first time was in deepest winter and it was no more then a field covered in snow, the second time it was a huge ice rink and now it's practically a Loch. It's even got three resident swans!

Earlier in the week Steve, a friend of mine from my travels, called to say he was up in Scotland for a wedding and would be here for a week or so and could we meet up. It was a delight to welcome him and his friend Tom to our house on Thursday night. I first met Steve in Australia six or seven years ago when we stayed at the Nimbin Rox YHA. When him and Tom were leaving I happened to mention the Falkirk game and if they were up for it. Turns out Tom lives just up the road from Falkirk near Airth Castle.

We meet up with the two of them just outside the ground and after I've introduced them to my dad we make our way to the Club shop to buy our tickets, Falkirk have taken the automated turnstiles approach with their new ground. We couldn't get four seats together but feel quietly confident that the game won't be a sell out and we'll manage just fine.

We find four seats, two of which are reserved for season ticket holders and hope for the best. I leave Steve and Tom with my dad and nip off for the pre match pie. When I get to the booth I notice a pie is £1.90, another extortionate price, I buy two . The young fella senses something isn't quite right and then offers his apology for the price but goes ahead and takes my money

The pie itself merits a pass mark from my dad although he takes points off for its greasy bottom and dry crust offering.

Just before the teams run out we are entertained by The Falkirk Vixens, cheerleaders to you and me. The perform a routine set to Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Two Tribes and then disappear back up the tunnel to retrieve their pom poms before returning to welcome the two sides on to the pitch.

The game kick's off and it's fairly dire for the opening ten minutes until a horror back pass by Morton player Darren Young played in Falkirk's Carl Finnegan. He had time and space to pick his shot but instead he smashed a shot high over the bar. The home fans are raging and one boy behind yells that his granny could have scored that.

Marc Smith became the first player to be booked after a wild lunge at Falkirk's Twaddle.

It was a further ten minutes before the next shot on goal and this time it was a weak effort from 25 yards which the Morton keeper Colin Stewart somehow managed to fumble round the post for a corner. He almost managed to look like an English international keeper there.

It was more than half way through the first forty five minutes before Morton had their first goal mouth action but his volley sailed well over. The chances came thick and fast for Morton as Olejnik tipped a Monti free kick past the post and then got down well to save from a Weatherston free kick.

The home fans grew restless and the fella behind us had the worst language I've heard on the journey so far. I swear every second word was fu*king. He sounded like he was in his 60's at least but when I turned around he was maybe a year or two younger than me. All that swearing has aged his voice thirty odd years.

Falkirks winger Compton skipped pass two defenders and floated a great ball into the middle, where from five yards out, Finnegan wasted another glorious effort by heading wide five minutes before the break.

On the stroke of half time Allan Jenkins tried an sideways scissor kick from a flicked on corner and Olejnik managed to push it past the post.

Half time came and went with Tom & I making another vist to the refreshment booth. I went with the Scotch pie, whilst Tom tried the steak variety.

In the opening minutes of the second half Moutinho hit a shot into the ground that bounced up, hit the crossbar and went over. A flurry of corners were won by the home side but they still couldn't find the break through.

Ryan Flynn came into the game more and more and the tricky winger tore down the left wing before hitting a great cross into the box, unfortuantely there were no Falkirk strikers willing to attack the ball and it bounced harmlessly along the six yard bos to safety.

Compton went closest for Falkirk after skipping in from the right wing on his left foot, he beat two defenders before firing a shot at goal that Stewart did well to tip past the post.

With twenty or so minutes Greenock pressed the self destruct button.

Firstly Monti clattered into Compton in what was a really rash challenge. The Falkirk players were raging and ran towards the Morton player, his team mates responded by rushing at the Falkirk players. It eventually took an intervention by both linesman to bring things under control. The outcome of this was that Monti was shown a straight red card by referee David Somers and Mark Millar of Falkirk was shown a yellow.

Two minutes later and Morton were reduced to nine men when Marc Smyth was shown a second yellow after another crude challenge.

Surely now Falkirk would press home their advantage. Fans all around us were screaming at Elvis, the Falkirk manager, to switch things up and throw on more attackers. Pressley was unmoved.

Falkirk's play was all too narrow and winger Compton found himself lost and all alone on the touch line. The whole crowd could see he was the man to play in but more often than not he was left to spectate rather than participate in the action.

Pressley threw on Marc Stewart with eleven minutes left. He'll claim this was an inspired moment of managerial know-how as Stewart scored the opening goal with almost his first touch of the ball. Compton sent a corner into the box and at the back post Stewart was unmarked to side foot it in from six yards.

This goal may just have saved Pressley. Moments before the fans beside us had started to shout for the return of Yogi Hughes to the managerial hot spot.

The excitement wasn't over yet though as referee Somers had his red card out again in the final minutes when Mark Millar received his second yellow card for an unbelievably stupid foul. Deep inside the opposition half he blantly body checked a Morton player and left the ref with no other option. The fans beside us hurl abuse at Millar as he makes his way off the pitch. The sweary boy beside us might just explode with rage as he screams at him for being so bloody stupid.

Luckily for him Falkirk emerge victorious and move nearer the top of the table.

The game is summed up brilliantly by a Falkirk fan sat behind us as he states: Three sending offs, seven bookings and absolutely nae football played.

Falkirk are now only seven points off the top spot with a game in hand. I for one will be wishing that Raith or Dunfermline manage to stay ahead on the final day so that the home side stay in Division 1 as they don't deserve to get promoted on this or any of the performances we've seen this season.

Next week my dad and I will be guests of Stirling Albion Football Club and we will be sampling the pre match hospitality on show with my brother-in-law, Alan, before settling down to watch them hump Dundee. Cannae wait.

The Statistics

Ticket: £16 Adult, £12-25 Concession
Programme: £2.50
Attendance: 3,636
Pie: £1.90
Pie Marks: 7 /10
Mileage: 34 miles
Final Score: Falkirk 1 v Greenock Morton 0
Man of the Match: Dad - Darren Young (Greenock Morton) Me - Jack Compton (Falkirk)
Fascinating Fact of the Day: Falkirk's stadium is situated just the right side of the Grangemouth Blast Zone.
Next Game: Forthbank (Stirling Albion)

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Day Thirty Three: Clyde (Broadwood Stadium)

Clyde v Annan Athletic
Saturday 5th February
Scottish Division 3

It's a big day today not only will this take us down to single figures on the grounds left to visit but I've also to try and keep schtum on the surprise 70th birthday party being thrown for my dad after the game.

Emma drops me off at my folks house early doors as she's got to rush back as her old boy is heading to ours with his tool belt to fix a few things in the flat. Cheers Alan.

We make the drive over to Cumbernauld and enjoy the On the Ball show on BBC Radio Scotland. This weeks question is What type of pet do personalities in Scottish football have? The best answer we heard was Derek Riordhan has a pet seal, as neither of them like clubs.

We pull in to park at the stadium just before 2pm. We're informed that you can't park in the car park on match day. My dad and I can't quite figure this out, why have a car park that you can't park in. Anyway we're redirected to another car park on the other side of the ground. When we get there we're charged £2 for the privilege, although this includes a free entry into the half time draw.

Clyde sacked their Head Coach in mid week as a run of 2 wins in 14 matches left them twelve points adrift at the bottom of Division 3. They'll be hoping that Assistant Head Coach Gordon Wylde will have the winning touch today.

We make our way into the ground after the pre-match photo and trip to the club shop so my dad can buy his pin badge. We decide to buy a pie before we take our seat in the hope that we can't possibly have a third dud pie in three matches. First of all I'm pleased to discover that we're not having to pay an over inflated £2 like we have at the last two grounds. Secondly it actually tastes as it should unlike the horror show from Livingston.

We take our seat almost on the half way line and tuck in. It's a massive step forward from mid-week but still only a six out of ten according to my dad.

The game kicks off and the first five or so minutes are a non event with both teams cancelling the other out. The first effort on goal comes from a free kick, it must be a full thirty five yard effort from Annan's Bryan Gilfillan but it's straight down the throat of the keeper.

There is more noise coming from the pitch than there is from the stand and with all of us sitting on the one side of the stand it's difficult to see if there are any away fans at the game.

The game is being played at a pedestrian pace and it's fifteen minutes before we get another effort on goal but it's a weak effort from an Annan Athletic.

The first goal is a horror show for the Clyde fans. First of all the keeper doesn't let his defender know to leave the cross as there is no danger, then the right back - trialist Gary Brown from Kilmarnock - knocks it back toward the goal. It's a poor touch but one the keeper J C Hutchinson should have tipped over the bar. Instead he only managed to push it up in the air, he then dropped it as it came back down right at the feet of Sean O'Connor who, from one yard out, could not miss.

According to a Clyde fan behind us the 'keeper is a fucking dumpling!'

Clyde's left back Neil McGowan tried his luck from just outside the box but his left foot drive is deflected over the bar.

Thirty five minutes in and Hutchinson made small amends for earlier with a brave diving save at the feet of David Cox.

Minutes later Cox fell over under a very light challenge in the box and takes his time getting up, a fan in the stand screams out What's wrong big fella, have you ripped your tights?'.

It takes until just before half time for Clyde to get their first shot on target but McCusker sees his shot saved easily.

At half time I venture down for another pie and whilst I'm down there I hear the half time draw results. If we'd been one car earlier into the car park I would know be the proud owner of signed Clyde football.

The second half starts.

Five minutes into the second half and we witness the miss of the season from ex-Clyde player Iain Harty. Good work on the right wing by Cox leads to a delicious ball across the six yard box, Harty finds himself all alone with an empty net in front of him and he somehow hit it over the bar.

Clyde start to play with a little more purpose and direction and it's the trialist Brown who makes a succession of long runs with the ball into the oppositions half. There is little end product however.

McCusker hits a left foot free kick around the wall but into the side netting ten minutes into the half.

The linesman makes friends with the home fans when flagging for a soft challenge on an Annan player. A boy behind us shouts You're going to cost us the title linesman. It's good to see even down at the bottom of the league that humour still exists.

With twenty five minutes left to play Harty makes up for his previous miss when he scores his sides second. His right foot shot is blocked on the edge of the box, but he is first to the rebound and he strokes a great left foot shot into the bottom corner.

Gilfillan should have made it three minutes later when after a series of passes he found himself in space inside the box but the keeper rushed out to save with his feet.

At this point a bloke behind us comments that he's glad there isn't relegation from Division 3 other wise they would be a shoe in for it.

The remaining minutes peter out and when the final whistle comes my dad and I agree that Clyde deserve to be in the position they are as they are the worst side we've seen this season.

So after seven months we're down to the final nine grounds to visit. Next stop Falkirk a week on Saturday.

The Statistics
Ticket: Adult £10, Concession £5
Programme: £2.50
Attendance: 568
Pie: £1.50
Pie Marks: 6/10
Mileage: 72 miles
Final Score: Clyde 0 v Annan Athletic 2
Man of the Match: Dad - Iain Harty (Annan Athletic) Me - Chris Jardine (Annan Athletic)
Fascinating Fact of the Day: The Clyde View, matchday programme, won the Scottish Divisional Programme of the Year award every year between season 91/92 & 06/07.
Next Game: Falkirk

Programme: £2

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Day Thirty Two: Livingston (Braidwood Motor Company Stadium)

Livingston v Brechin City
Tuesday 1st February
Scottish Division 2
For the first time this season we are being chauffeured to the ground. There is no free parking at the Livingston ground, the name of which rolls off the tongue - Braidwood Motor Company Stadium. They do offer parking but they charge you £5 for the privilege. As a result of this my dad has kindly asked if Emma would be willing to drive us out to the ground and perhaps invite herself round to her friend Susie's. Luckily for my dad and I Susie is free and more than happy to have a guest round for dinner.

I pick Emma up from work in our trusty little motor and we make our way over to Cramond to pick my dad up at 6.30pm. I find it more than a little amusing when we pull up on time and find that my dad isn't quite ready.

We're off to witness a top of the table clash between League 2's Livingston and Brechin City. Should be a good game as Livingston are unbeaten at home this season and Brechin City are unbeaten away from home during the same time. If Brechin win they'll join their opponents at the top of the table. If the home side win then they'll go six points clear.

Emma drops us off near the ground about 7.15pm and we make our way over to the club shop. My dad buys a Livingston FC pin badge to add to his growing collection of League side pin badges and I pick up tonight's team sheet. We nip outside and it's my turn for the pre-match photo.

We make our way into the ground and I head straight for the refreshment stand for our Scotch pie dinner. Looking up at the prices I can't believe that for the second game in a row I'm going to have to fork out £2.00 per pie. It better be up too, if not better than the Tannadice effort.
When the girl behind the counter hands me our pies I can tell straight away that I've just wasted £4. They both look bone dry.

We take our seats before we tuck in. It's a nice wee stadium, all seated and all decked out in Livinstone yellow.

Back to the pie and we can safely say that it is by far the worst yet. It is rock bloody solid, hard enough to have your teeth out. It has very very little filling and is bloody roasting. Check the photo out above for evidence of how poor it is.
It's difficult to see if there are any Brechin fans in tonight as all the supporters are sat on the same side on the ground. Even if we could see them we couldn't hear them over the tannoy, which must be turned up to eleven, and the boy up the back banging his big bloody drum. The games not even started yet mate, shut the hell up!

Livingston kick off and they're in to their stride pretty quickly, they stroke the ball about well and are keen to get the ball out to their wingers.

The first chance falls to Livingston when from a free kick, Kenny 'the doctor' Deuchar sends a weak header goal wards which is easily saved by the Brechin keeper Nelson.

Brechin's Janczyk is got dozing on the ball and Iain Russell nicks the ball off him in midfield ten minutes in. He takes a few strides forward and then unleashes a shot which is just over, if it had been on target Nelson wouldn't have got anywhere near it.

Brechin's centre forward Rory McAllister is putting himself about a bit and he reacts in child like fashion when a decision goes against. He charges at the linesman , gets right up in his face and bawls at him. The home fans are raging and think he must get a card for such petulance and are disappointed to see him only get a talking to.

Brechin's first chance game after seventeen minutes when a Cook cross was headed by McAllister but it was easily saved by Bulloch. A quick free kick four minutes later by Janczyk almost catches the home side out but McKenna blasted wide.

After a period of pressure Brechin kick the ball out to safety and as the home player went to pick the ball up the Brechin manager, Jim Weir, boots the ball into the stand to prevent the quick through in. Again the home fans are livid when the referee just gives him a talking to.

Twenty five minutes in and Livingston score a brilliant goal. Iain Russell picked off a poor Cook pass about thirty yards from goal, looks up takes one step and smashes an unstoppable shot which sails over Nelson and in to the top corner.

McAllister does nothing to change the way the home fans feel about him when he throws himself to the floor under the merest of touches.

Brechin think they've equalised ten minutes before half time when they score with a header from a corner but joy is short lived as the referee blows for a push on a defender inside the six yard box.

Russell nearly doubles the Lions lead on the five minutes before the break. Great work on the wing by Bobby Barr leads to the ball being played into the box and it's only an amazing blocking tackle by McLean prevents the second goal.

A boy behind us shouts It's just like watching Brazil!

Referee Richmond makes a series of strange decisions in the final few minutes before half time and my dad reckons he must of been to the Brian Winter School of Refereeing.

At half time I ask my dad to nip down and get us two more pies, he looks at me like I'm mental and asks are you sure you really want to put yourself through that again? I'm willing to give them a second chance, surely they can't sell me two rock solid pies in one evening. They bloody well did the bastards! In fact this one is even worse than the first!

The second half starts and Brechin's Redman has himself a good run on goal but his shot is well wild.
Up in the other end of the park and Deuchar plays a great headed pass in to Russell and he must score, instead he balloons it well over the bar. That's been the easiest chance of the game so far.
Every time the home side have the ball they look threatening and the pace of their two wingers is put to use often. This pace is shown when Russell makes a lightening quick break when a Brechin corner is cleared. He races the full length of the park but he holds on to the ball just that bit too long before trying to play Barr in and the chance is gone.

The Livi fans in the corner are in full voice shouting Forza Livi and continue to wind up McAllister with a burst of 'number 9, number 9, number 9, wank, wank, wank'. It was quite amusing really.

Livingston are in complete control of this game but are still only the one goal up with half an hour to go. A Barr corner is headed on goal by Deuchar and Nelson pushed the ball away, the ball breaks to the edge of the box and a second cross in to the box is headed goal wards by Watson and again Nelson makes the save.

McAllister then finds himself blocked on two occasions both times look like a foul but nothing is given, he reacts by having another childish strop and again the home fans are screaming for a card. Moments later McAllister's frustration gets the better of him when he throws his marker to the ground and this time the referee does reach for his pocket for a yellow card. And then a red. I'm a little surprised but my dad tells me that he was in fact booked earlier in the game.

There are still twenty minutes left.

Brechin's Archdeacon tries a cheeky wee lob from the edge of the area but Bulloch gets back to tip it over for a corner.

Livingston substitute Robbie Winters, ex-Aberdeen, plays a good one two with Russell but he mis-kicks his shot straight at the keeper.

With nine minutes left Brechin are reduced to nine men when McLauchlan is sent off for a professional foul on Barr. The wee left winger was away, McLauchlan was the last man and he had to go for his blatant trip.

You would have thought that Brechin's chances of getting anything from the game would have evaporated with this decision but three minutes from time they send a free kick into the heart of the home penalty box and Hill manages to get his head to the ball. Unfortunately he can do nothing more than flick the ball just wide of the target.

In the last of the ninety minutes Winters latches on to another Barr cross and chips the ball over the keeper into the bottom corner. The second goal is well deserved as the home side have been the better side all evening. The home fans celebrate with a burst of 'We're too good for this division'.

The final whistle goes. All in all it's been an entertaining game of football, the home fans have enjoyed themselves and I'll know never to order a Scotch Pie here ever again.

The Statistics
Ticket: £12 Adult, £6 Concession
Programme: £1.00
Attendance: 847
Pie: £2.00
Pie Marks: 4 / 10 - worst yet!
Final Score: Livingston 1 v Brechin City 0
Fascinating Fact of the Day: Livingston were originally called Ferranti Thistle, a works team from the Ferranti Engineering Company and played in the East of Scotland League. When they won admission to the senior leagues, strict rules on advertising meant they had to change their name. Meadowbank Thistle was chosen. They played under this guise until 1994-95 when their Chairman decided the club had to move to Livingston to combat financial difficulties and the name was changed once again.

Next Game: Broadwood Stadium (Clyde)