Auchinleck Talbot 2 vs. 1 Clydebank
Scottish Junior Cup Final
Sunday 31st May 2009, Kick-Off 3pm
Rugby Park, Kilmarnock
When I set out on this daft journey to go to 50 football matches last summer, I did not think for a minute that number 50 would see Clydebank in a national cup final.
The town is somewhat abuzz with excitement. The Clydebank Post has a 12 page pull-out this week. The highlight of the section is the cut-out Stefan Gonet face mask.
In the Daily Record, writer and Clydebank supporter Paul Jain has been providing some features on the club. There is this one on Clydebank chairman Gordon Robertson. As well as a feature on current Bankie and ex-Toulouse man Iain Anderson. There has also been Chris Mackie’s cup final diary. There’s a good article in The Scotsman too.
Instead of travelling by myself on the train, I decided to book a seat on one of the 40 buses leaving from Clydebank Town Hall.
It’s a glorious day. The weekend has seen the best couple of days weather in the west of Scotland so far this year.
I’m down at the Town Hall at about 11.25am. There’s already a small crowd assembled outside. I go and sit in Solidarity Square and watch the numbers slowly build. Cars toot their horns as they go past and the sense of occasion is building.
After hanging around for a bit I go inside to pay for my ticket onto the bus. There’s talk around the desk of “What happens if someone’s name’s not down?” which worries me slightly, but my name is on the list so no problems there.
There’s also a stall in the Town Hall where you can buy some cup final and general Clydebank merchandise. I opt for the cheapest and smallest item there – a tasteful cup final pin badge.
By five past twelve I’m on one of the first buses getting ready to leave. One of my mum’s neighbours takes the seat next to me. Despite knowing me for over 30 years, he appears to have no clue who I am.
I’m obviously on a pretty placid bus. There’s no singing, no rowdiness of any kind and very little chat.
We arrive in Kilmarnock at around 1.15pm. The ground is a short walk from where the bus parks. When we get to the ground the gates are shut. So I wander around a bit, first of all having a look in the Kilmarnock club shop. Then i go in to the adjacent Park Hotel for a Diet Coke.
Several hundred Auchinleck and Clydebank fans are milling around the ground and in the bars within the stadium.
Queues are now building outside some of the gates. I would have a moan here about how come they gates weren’t opened earlier when Kilmarnock FC should have known full well fans would be here more than an hour ahead of kick off. However, it’s no big deal really as even although there are queues there’s no real need as there are enough gates to accomodate all of us quite quickly.
I meet some more of my mum’s neighbours (ones who do recognise me this time) in the queue. They were regulars at Clydebank when the team was a senior side. This is the first time they’ve come to see them as a junior team.
There’s quite a lot of people here today I suspect have never seen Clydebank as a junior side. I spot several folk I haven’t seen since school, some of whom always professed to have no interest in football. Cup Final Fever.
There are also several generations of Clydebank tops on display. I spot someone in a yellow and purple vertical striped away top I forgot even existed.
Once inside the ground I head for the pie stall and plump for the legendary Killie Pie. It tastes quite nice and by no means ‘Stinking’ like a few of the boys on the bus were saying.
Of the two stands allocated to Clydebank supporters I’m in the West Stand. This one is completely in the shade, while the stand behind the goal allows the fans there to bask in the glorious sunshine. Because we have the run of the place I opt for a nice padded seat with arm rests. With such a day however, the heat this set-up generates isn’t really beneficial.
Nutz the Kilmarnock mascot is in action today and he has his work cut out. Cos he’s supposed to be neutral he’s having to pose with fans of both sets of clubs, gee up two lots of supporters and dance around to the names of two team line-ups. Hope he was on double-time.
The Auchinleck fans seem to be all in their club colours as their end is swathed in gold and black.
With all the excitement of the day, it’s easy to forget that there’s actually a game of football to be played.
Clydebank start very well forcing four corners in the opening eight minutes. We also seem to be playing the ball back to Stefan Gonet in goal an awful lot.
There’s a couple of decent half-chances that Bankies fail to snap up. The best being when Charlie Hobbs slides in on a Chris Mackie cross in the six-yard box, but just fails to connect.
Auchinleck get a bit more of a grip on proceedings as the first half develops, Gonet getting a fingertip to turn a shot over the bar. But it’s nil-nil as we go in for half-time.
It feels like it’s going to be a nervy 45 minutes when the sides come out for the second half and to be honest it does seem like it’ll be ‘next goal the winner’.
All season I’ve listened to fans scream at referees for supposed bias when I couldn’t see any. Maybe it’s because today I’m not a neutral, but I notice the ref making two or three blunders. He misses a blatant Talbot handball, then later when Chris Mackie appears to be fouled, the ref awards against the Clydebank forward. He lets another couple of spicy Talbot challenges go unpunished as well. To be fair to the ref he does want to let the play go on a lot, which is always good to see, and I don’t think there’s a single booking during the entire 90 minutes.
Chris Mackie is played through in 58 minutes and he unleashes a rasping shot which Adam Strain in the Talbot goal is equal to.
It’s Auchinleck who take the lead in the 60th minute. Craig Pettigrew crossed for McIlroy to nod in at the back post.
The Talbot fans had been pretty quiet up until this point, but now they were in raptures. When play resumes they start their first song of the day.
Seven minutes later Clydebank are level. A great break away by Charlie Hobbs sees him fire in an in-perfect cross onto the head of the on rushing Chris Mackie who heads the ball straight down the middle into the Talbot goal.
The Bankies fans have something to shout about. The team deserved a goal for the work they put in.
The Talbot fans go quiet once again as the Clydebank support get more vocal.
Less than ten minutes later Talbot are back in front. A tame shot from just inside the box trickles slowly in at the far post. The Gold and Black sections of the ground errupt once more.
They may have came here in decent numbers and got decked out in the club colours, but ‘You only sing when you’re winning’ was never more aptly applied than to the Talbot fans today.
Clydebank keep fighting to get back into it and the best chance comes in the third minute of injury time. Mark Hailstones leads the chase for a long ball. He races into the area under pressure from a defender. He beats the onrushing keeper to the ball and gets his shot in, only to see it sail over the bar. Hailstones, like all of us in the stands, sinks as he realises that’s the last chance gone to save the final.
Having seen him play a few times this season I really like Mark Hailstones. Happy to take on defenders he reminds me a wee bit of the Bankies players I grew up watching like Gerry McCabe and Gerry Ronald.
The final whistle sounds just seconds after that shot. Talbot have won their record eighth Junior Cup.
It can’t really be grudged. I don’t think there was much between the teams, but Auchinleck just shaded it on the day.
Myself and most of the Clydebank support stay behind to see them lift the trophy.
On the way back to the bus I meet my nephew who’s a Rangers fan, but was persuaded to come along by some of his mates.
On the bus back to Clydebank I’m sat in the second row of seats. There’s a group of five old guys sat in the rows of 2 & 3 behind the female driver. On the road out of Kilmarnock the old guys attempt to mack her with trivia about Al Jolson.
“He was the first singer to sell a million records, Lesley.”
“You know what his real name was? It was Asa Yoelson.”
“He was a rabbi you know. You having a few drinks the night Lesley? Going out into the garden? A few scooby snacks?”
One of them takes some time out by reading every sign for Glasgow we pass. “Glasgow 18 miles…Glasgow 16 miles…Glasgow 12 miles…”
Clydebank took 3766 fans to this final. Remarkable. Hopefully a lot more of them will attend the odd league game every now and again.
It’s back to league business for Clydebank and there is now the chance that the side could land an unexpected place in the promotion play-off. If they win their last three league games Bankies will land a play-off with Glenafton Athletic.
As for me, I’ve reached the fifty games mark, but the season isn’t quite over. The junior fixture list still has a few weeks left, and while my evenings are tied up for just over a week, I’ll hopefully get along to a few more games before season 2008/09 finally comes to an end.
There are more photographs of the day here. There is a match report in The Scotsman.
Auchinleck Talbot: Strain, Latta, McVey, Pettigrew, Collins, Spence (White 78), Young, Slavin, McIlroy (Mallan 72), Gillies, Davidson.
Scorers: McIlroy (60), Davidson (76)
Clydebank: Gonet, Lynn, Soutar, McInnes, Allum, Smith (Rushford 46), Blair (Anderson 62), J. Jack (Selkirk 78), Hailstones, Hobbs, Mackie.
Scorer: Mackie (67)
Referee: John Beaton (Motherwell)